Andreas Huhmann, a trained physicist and strategy consultant at HARTING Foundation, is also a member of the Executive Board of the Technology Initiative SmartFactory KL. In this interview, he explains why his company, based in Espelkamp, Germany is participating in SmartFactoryKL and what role Production Level 4 has in their decision.

Why is HARTING participating in the development of the new demonstrator?

Our corporate vision statement says that we shape the future with technology for people. It makes perfect sense for us to join in this effort to construct a pioneering demonstrator. This initiative is all about the future of production, which is changing in fundamental ways. SmartFactoryKL is purposefully advancing the increased use of autonomous systems, which are so highly relevant for us and our customers, with the term Production Level 4. We have to rethink production with a focus on aspects like process robustness and sustainability even at critical times. For us, this is all represented in the new demonstrator. We are a technology group creating new possibilities through the use of key enabling technologies. These solutions are ahead of their time and the demonstrator is a bridge to the future, allowing us to test our future systems today.

A good example of our technology is the smart module plug connector: in a highly convertible manufacturing environment, these provide easy and safe management of the production stations. Such plug connectors have integrated functions and intelligent controls. They had not existed in this combination before and we can now test and evaluate their use in the demonstrator.

Why is the SmartFactory Technology Initiative important to HARTING as a (strategic) partner?

The importance of SmartFactoryKL to HARTING rests on the close linkage to the basic research being done at DFKI. SmartFactoryKL uses their results or sometimes even initiates the research. For example, we are working with DFKI in the subject of Edge computing to jointly develop AI-based services. At SmartFactoryKL we have the opportunity to test our concepts and embed them in a larger context. We measure ourselves against the best in the industry and, at the same time, can set standards that benefit all, especially, the users. The combination of partnership activities and individual project processing distinguishes the DFKI and SSmartFactoryKL tandem team.

What is HARTING’s technical involvement in the new demonstrator?

The new demonstrator builds on the success of the existing Industrie 4.0 demonstrator, the first of its kind worldwide. That means we are responsible once again for one of the manufacturing modules. The quality control station operates on our Edge device, the MICA, a future-oriented hardware and software architecture. Still, another topic is particularly important to us: the new Production Level 4 plug connector and the greater autonomy it promises are of great interest. It makes sense to equip the world’s first Production Level 4 demonstrator with these intelligent module connectors.

How does HARTING view its future cooperation with SmartFactoryKL?

SmartFactoryKL offers the chance to test, evaluate, and jointly establish standards for future technologies. These technologies point to a future at least five years distant and yet are already being implemented in the demonstrator in very realistic applications. We discuss the relevance of the solutions with partners and users. In addition, the research projects provide us with opportunities to look into the future and continuously have our finger on the pulse of current research. Such a fascinating and comprehensive view of future production is only available at SmartFactoryKL.


The HARTING Technology Group is a global supplier of connectivity products and solutions for a variety of diverse industries. Our experience in the areas of electronics, optics, and network systems in manufacturing, mechatronics, and software development allows us to create a wide range of connectors for energy and data transmission, for example, in mechanical engineering, railway technology, wind turbines, factory automation and the telecommunications sectors. HARTING also produces electro-magnetic devices for the automotive industry and is an expert for industrial applications in the form of housings, cabling, and the design of individual or integrated systems as well as automated sales systems.

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