When the best minds go
Before the jobs are lost, the companies lose the leading minds for development, production and management. At present a migration of such experts from the USA and from Germany can be observed. Is it seen and understood as a warning?
In the US, over a decade, thousands of jobs have been lost in industry. Investors have put their money where they could make the highest profit: the new Internet industry and its business with the data. The result was a very one-sided and unprecedented success story in Silicon Valley and on the east coast. And a profound division of the society into super riches and beggars, a massive impoverishment and mass unemployment, and work, of which many millions can no longer live.
In these decades, Germany has been very successful in the use of IT for a broad automation of the industry. The importance of industry to the economy was maintained at a high level. Industrie 4.0 is to bring a further boost in effectiveness and productivity. But the future is not the autonomous production of high quality products Made in Germany. The future is the business with connected products as the basis of intelligent services.
An article in the ZEIT of February 2 titled "Sie setzen ein Volk unter Strom" summarizes the example of the automobile industry. "I could not imagine spending ten years in the old world and seeing how a new world emerges elsewhere." This is what the promoted mechanical engineer Carsten Breitfeld from Lower Saxony says. He has made his career for 20 years at BMW. Most recently, he was responsible for the hybrid sports car i8 (picture of the i8 chassis, source BMW).
Now he is the top developer at FMC, the Future Mobility Corporation, just established in Shenzhen, southern China. Co-founder is Daniel Kirchert from Bavaria. The start-up has, according to ZEIT, "bought some of the smartest and most ambitious" heads, top developers of BMW, Daimler, Google and Tesla. The chief designer of the electric drive and the senior product manager switched from BMW's e-car project. From Mercedes and Google two specialists for autonomous cars. From Tesla Marc Duchesne, who was responsible for the global supply chain.
In addition to the industrial strategy 'Made in China 2025' which means money and support from the government, the Chinese Internet giant Tencent and the Chinese car dealer Harmony, two of the most powerful corporations in the People's Republic, are behind FMC.
Carsten Breitfeld is also quoted with this sentence: "A typewriter company cannot invent a computer." Top developers from the best companies in the Internet and electrical industry in the USA and from the German automotive industry go to China. That's where a very far-sighted industrial strategy of the government and a huge demand for rapid improvement of the environmental conditions in cities meet with e-mobility. In three years, according to the Beijing guidelines, 5 million cars with an alternative drive are to be driving without emissions on Chinese roads. As early as 2016 500,000 were sold, in Germany about 25,000.
The three world leading industry nations are at a crossroad. The US must make the Internet a good thing for the masses, not only for the corporations of Silicon Valley. To do so, they need a modern, digitalized industry to build many, many connected things for smart services. China has to come from cheap mass production to the development and production of high-quality high-tech products and is worldwide with a lot of money looking for companies and heads. Germany must quickly understand that the change from the global leader in hardware to the leading provider of engineering and technology for the Internet of Things is not a sure-fire success, and that further rationalization of the production does not help.
To stay with the example of the car: the future of the connected, emission-free vehicle has long since begun and is not stopped by either Trump or Industrie 4.0. In order to have the best jobs, one needs the best minds with the best ideas. Neither with the introduction of the US walling-off nor with the fear of the digital future in Germany are these heads to be held. Or even to win from all over the world.