A total of 4,500 employees work at the Airbus premises next to Bremen airport. The vast site also houses the space division of Airbus Defence and Space and their subsidiary supplier Premium Aerotec.
Even from the office of site manager Dr André Walter, it’s difficult to judge the sheer scale of the work that takes place here. For many companies, the future of digital manufacturing is just as difficult to predict. Yet for Walter, the course is perfectly clear – only the businesses that get ready for digitalisation today can be successful in the future.
Mr. Walter, what is the significance of digitalisation at Airbus?
Walter: For us, it’s not about implementing digital technologies for their own sake. Our manufacturing processes at Airbus already yield a wealth of data. The main question is whether we are making comprehensive use of this data at the moment. And are we using it in a networked fashion? With Industry 4.0 you have to ask yourself: “Is there a smart way of linking my data to improve the manufacturing process?” And this in turn only makes sense if the processes behind it are integrated as well. In our view, Industry 4.0, or digitalisation, means making work easier for employees and increasing efficiency.
What specific measures is the Airbus site in Bremen taking to increase production efficiency and reduce costs through digitalisation?
We have introduced a mixed model assembly line for wing manufacturing, after asking ourselves what would be the best way to manufacture wings for both the A330 and A350 on the same production line. Using this kind of manufacturing process, both sets of wings go through the same production chain. This can lead to significant organisational challenges, particularly with regard to components from different generations of products – the A350 was introduced only very recently, whereas the A330 has already been on the market for quite some time. We can only make this work if we are able to digitally monitor the manufacturing process. Low production cycle times place different kinds of demands on a digital factory than high production quantities – as is the case in the automotive industry, for example, where small, repetitive movements can be more easily carried out by robots.
How does Airbus approach this challenge?
Inevitably, we have to create synergies between man and machine. That’s why we’re looking into cobots – robots that work with and alongside human employees, both sharing the same workspace. Many of our areas require elaborate procedures that a robot would never be able to carry out alone. The kind of traditional assembly line production that you see in the automotive industry is virtually impossible for us.
How definite are the plans to introduce cobots?
We’re still in the trial phase. We aren’t using any at our Bremen site yet, but we are working closely with research institutes in Bremen to look at how they could be introduced. I don’t like the idea of immediately introducing new technologies to the site without thoroughly examining their benefits first. If we bring a new device into the factory and the employees don’t have the first clue what to do with it, then it won’t be of much help to us.
One technological development that demonstrates Airbus’ pioneering spirit is the use of Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM). This 3D printing technique is used to create workpieces out of metal powder, and some of the first components it has produced are already in the air. What potential does Airbus see in this technology?
We are very interested in the technological applications of ALM. It enables you to quickly manufacture workpieces that are needed in small quantities – if you find that an individual component is missing during assembly, for example. ALM also provides a completely new way of designing components with great optimisation potential. How close is Airbus to implementing 3D printing in everyday operations? At the moment, 3D printing is only worthwhile when it comes to producing special parts. The technology would have to be more firmly established, the machines much faster and the powder significantly cheaper.
You’ve mentioned mixed model lines, cobots and 3D printing. Can you tell us about the innovation process that has led to these developments at Airbus?
Our manufacturing engineering unit, which acts an interface between development and production, has prepared us for the industrialisation of these technologies. The unit works closely with our information technology services, collaborating intensively on matters of automation and digitalisation. We also launched the ALM plateau* in Bremen in October 2015, where we are working with other companies to examine the various ways of using 3D printing technology. We are also working with Bremen-based partners such as the University of Bremen, the University of Applied Sciences, Jacobs University and other establishments in the area.
*Airbus uses the term ‘plateau’ to refer to a collaborative workspace for teams comprising members of multiple departments.
Airbus works closely with its partners here in Bremen. How well placed is the area with regard to new manufacturing technologies and digital, networked factories?
There are many outstanding research institutes and universities here, whose expertise we have to draw upon if we wish to bring Bremen’s network even further into the digital age. We can already see a community gradually developing as a result of this. Some studies say that up to half of all jobs could ultimately disappear as a result of digitalisation.
How realistic are these concerns?
Employees can be mistrustful of new technologies. However, we believe that the adoption of digital technologies empowers workers, enabling them to carry out their tasks better and more easily, more productively, and more ergonomically. It’s a fully integrated approach that can only be implemented when everyone is on board. Our first priority is to ensure that each individual worker is trained in line with the new working requirements. Businesses that address the issue of digitalisation head on can even expect to create more jobs – which means we have to start thinking now about how to secure the specialists we will need.
Which strategies does Airbus use to attract highly qualified specialists on a long-term basis?
Besides training the employees we already have, we have to ensure that the topic of digitalisation is explored in universities and in apprenticeships. Yet it’s always important to think about how we can make new technologies more user-friendly as well. Today we all use smartphones – why shouldn’t we be able to control a robot through an app as well? We have to react quicker, continually taking on board new developments and adapting accordingly. We are already talking to universities about such matters, and Bremen’s diverse range of higher education institutions offers the ideal opportunity for this.
Mr. Walter thank you for the interview.
You can find out more about the Bremen aerospace cluster from Dr Barbara Cembella, cluster manager for the space sector, T +49 (0)421 9600 340, firstname.lastname@example.org.
In January 2018, WFB Wirtschaftsförderung Bremen GmbH opened an office in Ho Chi Minh City. Bremen was the first federal state with its own representative office in Vietnam. Manuel Kühn, WFB Project Manager International Settlement, explains in an interview why this proved to be a really good idea.
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Bremen is Germany’s sixth-largest industrial hub in terms of revenue. Whether the sector is aerospace, food, automotive, shipping or steel production, Bremen has always been a major player.
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Every year, the movers and shakers of the space industry gather at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC). From 1 to 5 October, it will be Bremen’s turn to host the event. A team from the Center of Applied Space Technology and ...
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Airbus is a global trailblazer in the field of 3D printing, and the aerospace company has established a technology centre for this new production method in Bremen. This is one of many reasons why the Hanseatic city has become a hub for 3D printing in Europe.
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Our city centre is evolving. Bremen is creating affordable and desirable residential areas, offices and retail space. The city is set to get a more modern look thanks to projects near the main train station, in new districts and right by the river.
Disposable plastic cutlery is a cheap and practical solution for barbecues or children’s birthday parties. But this wasteful use of resources is a big problem for the environment. BlumBio Solutions has proven that there is an eco-friendly alternative.
Good ideas may be rare, but imitators are easy to find. Which makes it all the more important to secure patents for new inventions. Bremen-based InnoWi helps companies and the research community to register new patents, and is also on hand to provide advice and access to funding.
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Stathis Stasinopoulos built his first bike so that he could get to and from work in Athens more easily. At the time, he could not have imagined that his idea would see him set up his own business in Bremen. We visited the entrepreneurial engineer in his new workshop in the north of Bremen.
Fish fingers have been made in Bremerhaven for almost 60 years. Over this period, they have withstood all food trends and are more popular today than ever before. On average, each German consumer eats 24 of them a year. And they were probably made in Bremerhaven, the fish finger capital.
The exploration of celestial bodies, such as Mars, Mercury and the moon, requires detailed geological maps. An international research project is now laying the foundations for this. Bremen-based geologist Dr Angelo Pio Rossi is one of the initiators of the data project.
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The depths of the ocean remain one of the last great mysteries on Earth. What is the precise composition of the seafloor? What flora and fauna inhabit it? Where has the delicate balance of the ecosystem been seriously disrupted? We still don’t have complete answers to any of these questions, but four young scientists from Bremen are aiming to change that.
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Bremen is known in China as one of the world’s major ports. But that’s just one of the factors attracting Chinese companies to our Hanseatic city.
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Even Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible would find it difficult to break into this data centre. Metre-thick concrete walls are just one of the many security measures protecting this bunker.
On the south side of the Europahafen, it’s full steam ahead for a new urban development showpiece – the Überseeinsel peninsula. Formerly the business premises of Kellogg’s, this 15-hectare pocket of land now has investment backing from Europa Immobilien GmbH, represented by Dr Klaus Meier. In our interview, he talks about opportunities, challenges, and visions for the future for the Überseeinsel.
Unloading shipping containers requires manual work, which is pretty unusual in the automated and digitalised world of logistics. But a Bremen-based research project aims to change all this with its IRiS robot.
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Space is not just a man’s business. The global network Women in Aerospace (WIA) aims to increase women’s leadership opportunities and visibility in the space industry – also in Bremen. An interview with Antonella Sgambati und Michela Cantisani, coordinators of WIA Bremen.
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Artificial intelligence isn’t just a matter of computer programming. It’s a challenging question: how can a robot successfully deal with real, unpredictable surroundings? For 30 years, solutions to this problem have been developed at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). This Bremen-based facility has been so successful that its employees are now founding their own company.
In April 2018, Team Beverage AG moved its headquarters from Wildeshausen in Lower Saxony to Bremen. The company provides services to the drinks industry in wholesale, retail and the catering and convenience sectors. Now, its success story is set to continue at Bremen Airport-Stadt with the relocation of its head office and 90 or so employees.
Huong Thi Hoang is the new voice of Bremen’s economic development agency in Vietnam. The country has one of the world’s fastest growing economies and is extremely popular with international investors. Now, Hoang visited Bremen for the first time – and had a big surprise right on her first day.
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Home to 19,500 on-campus students, several research institutes and high-tech companies, parks, hotels, restaurants, cafés and the Universum Bremen science centre, the technology park in Bremen is one of Germany’s most successful. So what is the secret behind its 30 years of success?
In December 2014, ORTEC GmbH moved from Lower Saxony to Bremen. The software specialist hoped to strengthen its market position by moving to the city’s Überseestadt district. Around three and a half years later, we got in touch with the company again to ask whether the move has been a success.
The colours of the local football team are not the only thing that's green about Bremen, as you'll see when you take a stroll around its parks and open spaces. A look at the statistics shows that Bremen is not only Germany's tenth-largest city, it is also its third-greenest, offering plenty of space to enjoy nature.
Chinese honey has come a long way – and in January 2018, ten containers full arrived in Bremerhaven from China. But is it actually organic? It certainly is – Lin Zhao, managing director of Dewin, works closely with laboratories in Bremen to confirm the quality of his honey. The proximity to these laboratories was a deciding factor in his choice of location for his business.
Wind energy, geophysics, translation, design and communication – we portray five diverse women, who have successful careers and shared their fascinating stories with us. What is their industry and working life like? What motivates them? Why Bremen?
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One day, astronauts will live and carry out research on the moon – and even a colony on Mars is no longer the distant utopian dream it once was. But how will people be able to live in an extraterrestrial environment? The Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) at the University of Bremen is working on a solution.
You are or want to become self-employed – but you do not know where to start? In this video, we show you how the Unternehmensservice Bremen helps you to deal with official approval procedures, forms and funding.
When it comes to Brexit it’s not about a hard-fought international contest to attract relocating businesses; it’s about coming together to manage the change, says Andreas Gerber of Bremeninvest in our interview.
Bremeninvest has announced the opening of a representative office in Ho Chi Minh City in the hope of pushing up trade cooperation in Vietnam. The agency operates as a link between the German state of Bremen and Vietnam in two-way trade and business activities.
Fatih Özdemir has furniture made in Turkey and sells it to customers mainly in Africa and the Middle East. In theory, he could run his business from anywhere in the world, but there are good reasons why he chose to relocate to Bremen and found Brefeo Hanse GmbH.
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Vibrant, open-minded and cosmopolitan – according to a recent survey, Bremen is one of the most popular destinations for foreign investors. Here are just some of the companies that have relocated to Bremen in 2017.
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Dr Zareer Dadachanji was not going to wait around for Brexit to happen, and has held a German passport since the beginning of the year. He firmly believes that Brexit has no plus points. He and his wife have chosen to locate their new business – Model Quant Solutions – in Bremen, despite the fact that the company’s customers are mainly based in the UK.
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You rarely get the opportunity to try out musical instruments when you buy them online. Bremen-based start-up TonePedia has developed a piece of software that allows musicians to properly compare guitars, bass guitars, amplifiers and effect products online. This saves time and reduces the number of returns and the associated cost.
Quinoa is already very popular, but hardly anyone in Europe is familiar with purple corn powder. Peruvian Alejandro Leon has founded a company in Bremen, Albrecht und R GmbH, through which he imports and export fruits and vegetables from South America, and he is a firm believer in the health benefits of eating purple corn.
Space technologies have advanced greatly in recent years, leading to increasing demands from the business and research sectors. To meet these requirements, Bremen University now offers unique master’s degrees in Space Engineering and Space Sciences and Technologies.
Buoyant mood thanks to record take-up rate, encouraging market trends and strong occupancy levels. The 2017 Bremen property market report shows once again that the city is an attractive location for investors and developers.
Formula Student is a world-wide competition for self-built racing cars, with the season’s final race held at Hockenheim. A Bremen-based team has been taking part in the competition with an electric racing car since 2013, and their ambitious goal is to break into the top ten.
If astronauts want to get all the way to Mars one day, they’ll need food supplies for the journey. Part of the solution could be to grow their own grains and bake bread themselves. Bremen start-up Bake in Space is on the verge of making this vision a reality.
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Stathis Stasinopoulos was unable to find the perfect folding bicycle for his commute to work across Athens. So he developed his own. The bike, called ‘Folding Project’, is lightweight and comfortable and folds up in five seconds. This has given Stasinopoulos an unexpected new direction in life.
The research alliance ROBEX is sending robots up active volcanoes and down into the deepest and darkest seas. Working across disciplines, the 120 scientists of the 16 institutes involved are breaking new ground on this project. They have been eagerly waiting to find out what has happened to the TRAMPER diving robot, which has been exploring the deep seas around Spitsbergen for a year. Now they are ready to bring it back.
A growing number of companies are becoming more aware of their social and environmental footprint, and are looking for ways to act with greater environmental and social responsibility. Germany’s north-west is set to become the national centre for social entrepreneurship in logistics. A new platform is under development and the first round of events is being planned to achieve this goal.
This new master’s degree at Bremerhaven University of Applied Sciences prepares students for the future and offers them excellent job prospects.
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BLG Logistics Group is a major player in logistics with 18,000 employees. It established the Digilab in Bremen as a core element of its digitalisation. The company’s premises are reminiscent of start-ups in Silicon Valley, and there are good reasons for that.
Irina Lucke has been at the helm of WAB since December 2016. We talked about her role in the german-wide trade association and the challenges that an ever-changing business and regulatory environment poses for the international wind energy industry.
In June 2016, the UK voted in favour of Brexit, and the exit negotiations are currently in progress. Which industry sectors in Bremen will be particularly hit, and what effect will Brexit have on the Hanseatic city?
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An engine under the bonnet drives the wheels – this is the configuration that has been powering cars for over a hundred years. However, wheel hub motors – i.e. motors in the hub of the wheel, not under the bonnet – promise many advantages. Electric drive systems make this possible.
The digital revolution has reached every branch of industry. Many of the technological trends associated with the Industrial Internet of Things originated in Silicon Valley. Rene van den Hoevel, managing director of the German American Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco, and Christoph Ranze, managing director of encoway GmbH and executive board member of the association bremen digitalmedia, explain why it is not only large corporations who should be looking closely at the epicentre of technological advancement.
In the space of just a few years, the maritime city of Bremerhaven has developed into a service centre for the seafaring and shipbuilding industry. At the centre of it all is the company German Dry Docks, whose managing director, Guido Försterling, has already heralded the era of ‘seafaring 4.0’.
Bionics is the application of forms and functions found in nature to technology. Marine biologist Dr Christian Hamm and his team of researchers in Bremerhaven are leading figures in this field thanks to ELiSE. They are particularly interested in the tiny, yet incredibly complex, diatoms – nature’s experts in lightweight construction.
How will Brexit affect the trading of goods between the UK and the EU? Our guest contributor Anja Markmann, who is responsible for customs and international trade law at Bremen Chamber of Commerce, explains what is likely to change from April 2019 onwards.
The multi-million-mile journey of the Ariane 5 rocket begins in Bremen, while that of Spacelab came to an end here in 1999, after 15 years of service with 22 missions to outer space. Ariane Group in Bremen is the ideal place to experience the history of space travel.
A new process has been attracting attention in the food industry. Developed by the Bremerhaven Institute for Food Technology and Bioprocess Engineering, the new method enables deep frozen fish to be defrosted in record time. And the fish tastes as fresh as the day it was caught.
For over 15 years, Jacobs University in Bremen has attracted young, talented individuals from all over the world. Students from 106 countries make up a community that contributes to academic achievement and produces graduates that are highly sought after by companies.
Fiona Moore is originally from Burton-on-Trent, near Birmingham, and now works as a freelance translator in Bremen. She fell in love with Bremen in her early twenties. That was back in 2000, but 17 years later she is still as enchanted by the city as she was on the first day. She tells us about settling in Bremen, about her family and about being fortunate to have found a home in here.
Photography studios, workshops and professional kitchens are rarely fully occupied round the clock. So why not let others share them? The german start-up Craftspace brings together providers of production spaces with entrepreneurs, small business owners and artists on a single online platform. It’s an arrangement that benefits everyone.
It’s an adventure playground for kids, an idyllic sanctuary for couples, and a quiet retreat for those looking to escape from stress – from joggers and Nordic walkers to lovers of nature and culture, the Bürgerpark in the centre of Bremen has something for everyone. For the last 150 years, this protected heritage site in the centre of Bremen has relied solely on the support of donations to keep it open and well-maintained.
GeoSea, a subsidiary of the Belgian DEME group, is helping to construct of some of the largest offshore wind farms in the German North Sea – and in Bremen, the company has found the ideal location to carry out its work.
Art, design and people with disabilities make up the fascinating focus of the work of two young designers from Bremen. Working together with employees from community-based workshops, they develop and improve on designs for handmade products – and are continually thrilled by the potential they see in their co-designers.
Companies wishing to access the European market should be careful about their choice of location. Brexit could result in significantly higher financial and tax burdens for UK-based companies. Under these circumstances, setting up a base on the continent might be a better option. Find out what challenges companies will be facing.
Environmentally friendly manufacturing and ethical standards are the principles on which the fair trade clothing sector is based. Leela Cotton, a successful German-Turkish textile company, produces clothes for children and adults that are not only stylish, but also make a positive contribution to the environment in the way they are manufactured.
Why have so many IT companies chosen to establish themselves in Bremen? We asked five key business figures and researchers from various organisations to tell us what makes the city such an attractive location for the IT sector.
3D imaging with millimetre accuracy for underwater industrial activities and deep sea exploration – company founder Jakob Schwendner has a very clear goal. The first prototype of a camera with brand new sensor technology was built in Canada and presented to industry professionals at the Ocean Business conference in Southampton, United Kingdom, in April.
The Bremen Hansalinie Industrial Estate is a successful business park that is currently undergoing expansion. Several major logistics companies have based themselves here, developing increasingly sophisticated processes that aim to optimise just-in-sequence production for the automotive industry.
Of all the states in Germany, Bremen has the highest density of major research institutions in relation to its population – a fact that also benefits those who study there. It offers a range of international education opportunities for prospective academics with strong practical relevance and research activities that span a diverse range of fields.
Weatherproof displays for transport services, and screens that don’t produce glare in bright sunlight – these are just some of the devices provided by AlfaNet Computer und Electronic Handels GmbH, a Bremen-based company founded nearly 25 years ago by Thomas Lie.
They came, they saw, they marvelled – Chinese business people in Bremen visited the Mercedes-Benz plant and were surprised to find that an automotive manufacturer with a vast robot workforce was also Bremen’s largest employer, with just under 13,000 (human) employees. But where do they all work?
Three continents, four countries, and Bremen at the centre of it all – a start-up could hardly be more international. The young entrepreneurs Ahmed Cheema and Stefan Kuzmanovski want to make sustainable manufacturing and the use of ethically sourced materials standard practice.
Lighter, more bespoke and more intricate: for companies open to new ideas in manufacturing and construction, metal parts produced by 3D printers present an economic alternative to conventional die cutting, rolling and milling. Leading the way is Materialise, a company with its own metal printing plant in Bremen.
Bremen has been twinned with the city of Dalian in north-eastern China since 1985. Find out more about the similarities and connections that the two port cities share.
Up to now, cricket has been very much a niche sport in Germany. But that is changing. In Bremen, a woman is calling the shots in this male-dominated sport – with great success. Her men’s team are the 2016 German cricket champions.
Wearables and smart glasses provide hands-free digital information. A visit at the headquarter of the global market leader for Industrial Wearable Computing, Ubimax in Bremen.
In 2016, companies invested a combined total of €229 million in the federal state of Bremen. Where do these investors hail from, how many jobs have they created, and what is their line of business? Our infographics provide an overview.
How will the UK’s impending exit from the EU affect the logistics sector? Günther Hörbst, Managing Director of the Via Bremen Foundation, on the economic links between the United Kingdom and the EU
The Chinese designer Haoyu Li combines his German design degree with Chinese business acumen. Now he is opening a design office in Bremen, with the aim of making it easier for Chinese products to enter the German market, and to bring German brands to China.
Keen to remain in Bremen? Then why not combine residency status with self-employment? Manuel Kühn from Bremeninvest’s welcome service knows all about how a start-up could allow British citizens to beat Brexit and kill two birds with one stone.
From initial idea to successful move. Andreas Gerber, who heads up the international relocation team at Bremeninvest, knows what international companies need to do to set up a business in Bremen. Here he tells us about the most important steps on the ...
BLG LOGISTICS GROUP AG & Co. KG’s AutoTerminal in Bremerhaven is a record-breaking automotive hub. Every year, the terminal handles some 2.3 million vehicles. But that’s not all.