Successful Production in a Volatile Environment

Production 2022 / 2023

If there were an initiative to choose the production word of the year, the current winner would probably be: adaptability. Flexibility combined with a high level of resilience is increasingly becoming a basic requirement for economic existence for manufacturing companies. Without it, not only crisis situations but also everyday customer expectations can hardly be managed. In this context, digitalization and networking are becoming indispensable keys to success. 

Volatility is the hallmark of our time. While at the beginning of 2020 it was still believed that the greatest transformation task for the manufacturing industry in the coming years would result from climate change, since then a series of international crises have called decades of production certainties into question. Established supply chains are tottering, sales markets and location conditions are changing radically. At the same time, companies are struggling with long-known difficulties such as the growing shortage of skilled workers and fierce international competition, which are exacerbating cost and time pressures. All these factors are forcing industry to rethink its methods, processes and technologies. 

Production world in upheaval

The challenges that require innovative solutions are manifold. Material shortages, a symptom of the COVID 19 crisis, could become a permanent issue. High energy costs have long been a problem, especially in Germany. The global political situation put them at the top of the agenda in business in early 2022. In addition, regulatory requirements have come up, in the interests of safety standards or to combat climate change, but also in the context of regionalization efforts and autocracies. Last but not least, demographic change and the resulting threat of a loss of knowledge are putting a strain on companies. 

At the same time, customer expectations and the goals that companies set themselves are changing. Individualized customer needs are leading to highly differentiated product portfolios, in some cases down to batch size 1. Such dynamics call for flexibility – and recipes for success that will attract imitators. Staying one step ahead of the competition is becoming a matter of existence. As a result, companies are not only looking at solutions for agility, but also at the following questions, among others: How can we operate and maintain similar machine parks at globally distributed locations? How do we guarantee the same quality at these locations with differently skilled workers? How do we protect our know-how? And how do we become sustainable in all of this?  

Digitally integrated production increases competitiveness

More and more companies are tackling these challenges with digital methods. This way, a concept is arriving in practice that has been postulated as Industry 4.0 and that we at Fraunhofer IPK call digitally integrated production: A production world is emerging in which all the resources involved – people as well as individual or networked systems – collect data, communicate their status and coordinate tasks interactively. This supports flexibility and makes the associated complexity manageable. Companies adapt to constantly changing requirements with foresight. Consistent quality can be more reliably assured as mechanical manufacturing companies transform into high-tech enterprises.

R&D Trends 2022 / 2023

Several close industrial partners of our institute have taken the time to share their assessments of methodological and technological innovation challenges in the manufacturing sector with us. From the discussions, we have derived five priority topics that concern companies across all industries and on which we will focus our research in the coming years: 

  • Data management, networking and analysis
  • Manufacturing systems and production control
  • Intelligent mechatronic systems technology
  • Knowledge and assistance in production
  • Sustainability and environmental compatibility

With concepts, technologies and solutions for these areas, we want to help increase the competitiveness of our customers and partners. With our current research and development projects, we are excellently prepared to do just this. The R&D highlights we present in each trend topic underline our proximity to the solutions that are currently reaching and changing industry, and to the innovation tasks that companies will face next. 

Our key topics for production

From the discussions with our partners, we have derived five priority topics that concern companies across all industries and on which we will focus our research in the coming years:


R&D Trends 2022 / 2023

Data Management, Networking and Analysis


R&D Trends 2022 / 2023

Manufacturing systems and production control


R&D Trends 2022 / 2023

Intelligent Mechatronic Systems Technology


R&D Trends 2022 / 2023

Knowledge and assistance in production


R&D Trends 2022 / 2023

Sustainability and Environmental Compatibility