Aside from such benefits for individual companies – why does our society need such associations?
Because politics and society alone cannot sufficiently take care of all the details that are important for the economy. When things go bad, laws are made that lead to completely undesirable effects – because politicians can only see industry with a helicopter glance.
Do you have a handy example of this?
Clear. The inductive proximity switch, which, by the way, was invented by Pepperl + Fuchs: There are thousands of them in every automated warehouse. Because such switches build up a magnetic field, the laws repeatedly lead to the idea that proximity switches should have to be approved according to the radio frequency directive. But that is absurd because they only generate a near field. Such a law would be a disaster for industry.
The manufacturers would have to approve every single switch according to the radio frequency directive and our customers would have to follow this license. That would be extremely expensive and would put jobs at risk. As an association, you can often prevent such wrong decisions.
So this proximity switch seems to be very important in industry?
Absolutely. What Pepperl + Fuchs invented in 1958 made modern automation possible in the first place! The point was that mechanical switches wear out quickly. The inductive proximity switch is triggered without touching it, so it does not wear out and cannot corrode.
How did you get into electronics?
Since I was given an electronic kit as a child, it had happened to me. Later I studied electrical engineering and did my doctorate. It was an easy decision to make. I thought to myself: It’s fun, and you certainly don’t starve in this area.
Well, now there is a crisis … How is the industry doing?
Overall still relatively good. Because electrical engineering is the trailblazer for all innovations related to climate protection and also indispensable in many other future areas. It is our key to the future! Even if some segments are currently struggling a lot.
How competitive is German electrical engineering?
We have long since lost certain sectors such as consumer electronics to manufacturers from the Asian area. However, Asian companies are also members of the ZVEI and make their contribution to added value and growth. And we have a very strong core in Germany, for example in industrial electrical engineering and industrial electronics. In electrical automation technology, for example, we are world leaders; here we export twice as much to China as we import from there. And I’m sure we can get back on a growth path in 2021.