A car assembly line with automated production
Martin Wolczyk / Adobe Firefly
2024-01-01 VDE dialog

VDI/VDE GMA: Adhesive 4.0

The Society for Measurement and Automation Technology in VDI and VDE was founded over 50 years ago. While it was once the “glue” between mechanical engineering and electrical technology, it now links a far wider range of fields.

By Martin Schmitz-Kuhl

The robot arms move as if by magic. They dance around a car that gradually takes shape as it moves from station to station. Images like this are often associated with the topic of automation. And that is precisely why Sascha Dessel would have preferred to dispense with them for this article. As managing director of the VDI/VDE Society for Measurement and Automation Technology (VDI/VDE GMA), he would rather have the entire bandwidth of his field presented. After all, while things are naturally often measured and automated in factories – think Industry 4.0 – the same also applies to traffic systems, buildings, medical technology and self-driving cars. “We’re one of the most successful and powerful drivers of innovation in Germany,” Mr. Dessel states. “The work we do for various sectors is highly diverse and involves many different disciplines.”

Like the field it covers, the GMA is changing

Prof. Michael Weyrich clarifies exactly what this means. The 56-year-old heads the Institute of Industrial Automation and Software Engineering at the University of Stuttgart. He has also been the chairman of the GMA since 2021. “We connect things that occur in mechanical, system and automotive engineering with processes in electrical and information technology,” Prof. Weyrich explains. Whereas the key issue 50 years ago, when the technical society was founded, was conventional control technology, he points out that today’s debates are dominated by issues of digitalization and, more recently, subjects like artificial intelligence, big data and virtual reality. “We’re the glue among all these topics and applications,” Prof. Weyrich declares, and confidently adds: “Without us, practically nothing is possible!”

A strong network

Prof. Dr. Michael Weyrich
Hans-Jürgen Schmitz, Martin Wolczyk / Adobe Firefly (Composing)
2024-01-01 VDE dialog

Measurement and automation technology is the key to a technological, but also sustainable future, says Prof. Dr. Michael Weyrich, chair of the VDI/VDE specialist society GMA.

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In order to be able to track all the latest developments, the GMA modified and adapted its organizational structure just last year – and not for the first time. “We’re constantly reinventing ourselves, so to speak,” Prof. Weyrich reveals. For instance, the some 1,500 active volunteers at the GMA are currently working on 53 technical committees, each of which is assigned to one of five technical areas. “Much more important than our structure itself, however, is our ability to keep rearranging it,” adds Mr. Dessel. As he points out, it wouldn’t really help anybody if the GMA’s findings never made it out of its individual technical committees. “We want to bring topics together, make connections and keep the conversation going.”

The fact that this is all being implemented as a joint project between VDE and the VDI is essentially down to historical reasons: in the 1950s and 1960s, the two organizations strengthened their cooperation in order to collaborate in areas where electrical engineering and mechanical engineering overlap. Today, Prof. Weyrich believes that many points continue to speak in favor of this arrangement: “If you have shared goals, it naturally makes sense to work on them together.” Ultimately, both organizations want to enhance technology. Both want to promote operational safety through accepted engineering rules. Both want to support the next generation. Both want to tackle social problems. According to Prof. Weyrich, all these points apply to the cooperation between VDE and the VDI, but just as much to how the various technical societies collaborate, as well. “A network like this can be a tremendous force for good!”

Martin Schmitz-Kuhl is a freelance author from Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and an editor of VDE dialog.

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