Industry 4.0: the fourth industrial revolution – guide to Industrie 4.0

Industry 4.0 and the fourth industrial revolution: definition, origins, benefits, challenges, components, strategy, cyber-physical systems, building blocks and evolutions.

05 August 2017

from Staff, on Industry

The IoT (Internet of Things), the convergence of IT and OT, rapid application development, digital twin simulation models, cyber-physical systems, advanced robotics and cobots, additive manufacturing, autonomous production, consistent engineering across the entire value chain, thorough data collection and provisioning, horizontal and vertical integration, cloud computing, big data analytics, AR/VR and edge computing amidst a shift of intelligence towards the edge: these are some of the essential components of the fourth industrial revolution.

Those are quite a lot of terms and components indeed. Yet, Industry 4.0 is a rather vast vision and, increasingly, vast reality.

What makes it all the more fascinating (and at first sight complex) is that convergence of two worlds which have been disconnected thus far: Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) with the hyper-connected digital industry, the bridging of digital and physical, cyber-physical production systems and the Industrial Internet of Things as parts (and names) that describe this fourth industrial revolution.

The integration of IT and OT is far from a fact yet, although there are differences, depending on the Industry 4.0 projects. As it is still early days in the maturity journey and vision of Industry 4.0, there mainly is a focus on projects (while Industry 4.0 at a more mature level is a holistic given) and such projects can vary a lot. Projects around energy efficiency, factory energy management and HVAC (Heating, ventilation and air conditioning), for instance, bring us to an entirely different world (with different solutions, skills and standards) than, for instance, additive manufacturing, robotics or augmented reality to name a few. In the end, integration and convergence is what it will be about as specialists will continue to be needed.

Despite the vastness, terminology and many concepts, in the end Industry 4.0 is about the digital transformation in and of industrial markets, in the beginning only manufacturing, and with a big role for the Industrial IoT, as we’ll see. And just like digital transformation it requires a strategic view and staged approach.

In this overview we make ‘Industrie 4.0’, as it’s originally called, tangible and look at and beyond the technologies and processes: as always, outcomes and goals need to come first.