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Made in Germany

Our guest in the studio: Hilmar Schneider, IZA Director of Labor Policy

Our studio guest talks to us about trend towards hand-manufactured products.

Watch video 03:33

DW-TV: Joining us now is the Director of Labor Policy at the German Institute for the Study of Labor, the I-Z-A. Hilmar Schneider, thanks for coming in. Mr. Schneider is this a definite trend, a move from mass production to specialized manufacturing?

Hilmar Schneider: It is indeed indicating a very broad trend. Individualization of production and individualization of consumption is the answer to our technical facilities we have nowadays and it's also an expression of the wealth of our economies that we are able to afford this type of manufacturing.

DW-TV: So would you say that companies are prepared for this?

Hilmar Schneider: I think so but it seems that especially smaller companies that are more flexible are better prepared to react to these things while those big tankers, those big companies that are strictly hierarchically structures have more difficulties to react adequately to the trend.

DW-TV: How can your average firm make sustainable profits from a trend like this, as it costs a lot to individualize products?

Hilmar Schneider: Well it does, but people do no longer want standardized mass production, they want to express themselves by their consumption. So they want these products and firms can only survive if they are able to deliver. And it requires, of course, a certain type of worker. Workers need to be more entrepreneurial than they used to be, because the variety of possibilities, of opportunities that we have generated by this project is so huge that you need people that are able to guide customers through this jungle of opportunities. We need people who are able to give advice to customers and all that needs a new type of worker. Of course, you still need skills, technical skills, but there's something coming in addiction...entrepreneurial spirit.

DW-TV: Do we those people though here in Germany at a time of skills shortages?

Hilmar Schneider: We are not perfectly prepared for this, but at least we are aware of it and I think you can learn, although it's still difficult to think of it as something that you learn at school.

DW-TV: So are more and more companies setting their sights on an elite group of customers with all the money?

Hilmar Schneider: Well on the one hand of course you can have your individualized Bordeaux if you have the money to afford it. But it's much broader than that. Think of ring tones for your mobile phone or screen savers for your mobile phone, your muesli can be individualized via internet. This is for cheap money, it's something everybody can afford. So a very broad trend toward individualization.

DW-TV: So are we moving back away from industrialization?

Hilmar Schneider: No. Industrialization is still the tool that we need, but in a much more skillful manner than we are used to. It's not the same type of product for everybody, we use machines for producing individualized products for everybody.

Interview: Ben Fajzulin