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Prof. Gunther Reinhart, D.Eng.,

Prof. Gunther Reinhart, D.Eng., following a stint as a production manager at BMW, was called to assume the Chair for Management Science and Assembly Technology at the Technical University of Munich. In 2002 he returned to industry as a Vice-President for Technology and the Market at IWKA, a mechanical engineering company. In 2007 he once again assumed the chair at the TU of Munich and, since 2009, has also been the manager of the project group dealing with resource-efficient mechatronic processing machines at the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Shaping Technology in Augsburg. He is the president of the FOREnergy alliance, supported by the Bavarian Research Foundation, which researches concepts and solutions for the energy-flexible factory.

Copyright Photo: Prof. Gunther Reinhart, D.Eng.,

“Energy efficiency will be an integral component in Industry 4.0.”


July 2015


Prof. Gunther Reinhart, Technical University of Munich, in discussion.

What role will energy efficiency play around the world?

I prefer to talk about “energy productivity”. The topic is picking up speed all around the globe. The Scandinavian countries are the forerunners, even ahead of Germany. In China the emissions and the smog in the metropolitan areas are driving the change. Even in the USA interest is increasing. Fundamentally, the rising share of renewable energy results in greater volatility in the amount of power available over the day and across the year. This means that we also need more energy flexibility on the consumer side. An energy-flexible factory is built on three pillars: building technology including energy storage, production planning and production control systems, and the machinery proper.

How do you define energy flexibility?

It is simply a matter of avoiding peaks in consumption. We are seeing an increase in recovering braking energy from machines and feeding it to other using units. In the future, this approach will be applied to entire factories. Do all the spindles in a manufacturing line have to start at exactly the same moment or wouldn’t it be more sensible to offset their starts and in this way to smooth power consumption?

What are the initial steps?

Only those things that are being measured can be changed. The appropriate measurement gauges are now on the market and I am assuming that within the next five years all new machinery will be equipped with the appropriate measuring devices. A second step is the matter of transforming these data into knowledge.

And the practical impact?

An analysis of all the factory data relevant to energy quickly shows which measures enjoy priority – because they can be implemented with the smallest possible investment. Often it is sufficient simply to create greater transparency, since the employees are responsible for a lot. Experience shows that about 30 percent of energy consumption can be saved by changes in attitudes and behavior.

What are the technical challenges being focused on at the moment?

As far as machinery goes, we have made considerable progress in recent years and the themes with the greatest potentials have been implemented. These include converting hydraulic systems to generate output in accordance with needs – and the recuperation of brake energies in electric drives. The next challenge is developing high-performance energy storage units. Work is being done on this at laboratory scale in many venues. I am expecting a great deal from battery technology when mass production is nudged along by e-mobility. But concepts using water, compressed air, and kinetic energy are also very interesting.

What direction is the trend taking?

Energy efficiency will be an integral part of Industry 4.0. Networking beyond the boundaries of individual companies is an essential prerequisite for greater energy flexibility. In the future, production planning and production control systems will also be charged with energy management. They will exchange data on upcoming power requirements. The Smart Factory and the Smart Grid, i.e. intelligent power grids, will merge.