Woman working in a factory

The Industry 4.0 Mega Guide: 6 Commonly Asked Questions, Answered

What is Industry 4.0? | Key Terms to Know | The History of Industry 4.0 | Benefits of Industry 4.0| Examples of Industry 4.0 in Use Today| Implementing Industry 4.0 in Your Factory | Is Industry 4.0 the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Experts from around the world agree:

The manufacturing industry is undergoing a substantial change, and it’s happening as we speak.

Thanks to the emergence of cyber-physical systems, the internet of things, and cloud computing, some experts believe we are on the brink of a fourth industrial revolution.

All of these technologies fall under the umbrella of Industry 4.0, which refers to the recent trend towards automation and data exchange in manufacturing.

The transfer of information between humans and machines has enabled manufacturers to enhance and automate their systems, become more efficient, and produce less waste.

Right now, it’s critical for manufacturers to keep up with these changes in the industry, as they are bound to have a large effect on the future of production around the world.

This guide will answer 6 commonly asked questions about Industry 4.0 and get you started on your journey towards implementing it in your manufacturing processes.

So, What is Industry 4.0?


Industry 4.0 refers to the promise of connecting the digital and the physical worlds through smart factories that contain cyber-physical systems.

The term includes many different technologies, applications, and concepts which is why many people are often confused as to what exactly is included under the umbrella of “Industry 4.0”.

Here, we’ll outline some of the conceptual terms that are important to understanding Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0: 10 Key Terms to Know

  • The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of connected machinery, sensors, actuators, computers, and more that collect and share data over the internet. In an industrial context, you’ll often hear it referred to as IIoT or the Industrial Internet of Things.
  • The convergence of Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) refers to the integration of IT systems that are used for data-focused applications with OT systems that are used to monitor processes, events and more. This convergence enables more direct monitoring and gives easier access to data from these systems.
  • A digital twin is a virtual model of physical assets, processes, systems, or devices that shows both the elements and the dynamics of how these things work. Digital twins can allow for planning for the future, data analysis, system monitoring and more.
  • Integrating the computational, network, and physical processes in a system is considered a cyber-physical system. These disparate elements are all connected to each other and the internet.
  • Think of the cloud as a network of computers that work together in such a way that an outside observer would think they are a single object. Systems in the cloud appear to be running on your computer, phone, or any other computing device but are actually running over the internet on a “cloud” of computers that are sharing services with each other.
  • Big data and analytics refers to the large and complex data sets from multiple sources that are made accessible through technologies like machine learning. This data can be used to optimize manufacturing operations, predict machine failures, reduce downtime and more.
  • Additive manufacturing refers to 3D printing and 3D printed parts being used in the manufacturing process. The technology behind additive manufacturing is still being developed but will certainly be utilized by many companies in the future.
  • Interoperability allows machines, sensors, actuators, computers, robots, and humans to freely and easily pass information to each other in the smart factories that have implemented Industry 4.0 principles.
  • Artificial intelligence encompasses all computer intelligence in general. Anything from computers being able to play chess to autonomous vehicles can be considered examples of AI.
  • Machine learning is a subset of AI in which machines can be trained to take data and ‘learn’ things about it for themselves rather than coding the machine to do a task. It’s about pattern recognition – machine learning technology can allow a system to make predictions based on the patterns and data it receives.

Now that you know a few of the concepts surrounding the idea of Industry 4.0, let’s take a look at who came up with the term and how it is being developed today.

Where Did It Start? The History of Industry 4.0

Industrie 4.0
Image Source

The Origins of Industry 4.0: Hannover Fair

The term Industry 4.0 originates from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany, which was a working on project to promote the computerization of manufacturing. (That’s why you’ll often see the phrase referred to in it’s German form, Industrie 4.0.)

The phrase was used publicly for the first time in 2011 at the annual industrial technology expo, Hannover Fair, in Germany.

That year Wolfgang Wahlster, Henning Kagermann, and Wolf-Dieter Lukas presented their study Industrie 4.0: Mit dem Internet der Dinge auf dem Weg zur 4. Industriellen Revolution which translates to Industry 4.0: With the Internet of Things on the way to the 4th Industrial revolution. This project proposed the advent of a Fourth Industrial Revolution based on cyber-physical systems like the Internet of Things, advanced analytics, big data and more.

The study states, “The third industrial revolution, marked by new materials, the use of robots and centralized control systems, will be replaced in the next decade with the Internet of Things based on cyber-physical systems: Germany should play the first fiddle here.”

It continues, “Therefore, the promoter group Communication of the Research Union Economy – Science of the Federal Government on January 25, 2011 proposed the future project Industry 4.0 in its recommendations for action. The future project has since been adopted, with the implementation of business, science and politics have already begun.”

Plattform Industrie 4.0

Plattform Industrie 4.0 Logo

From there, the German government as well as other various private companies in Germany launched the initiative Plattform Industrie 4.0. The end goal is to establish Industry 4.0 implementation as a major priority in Germany and to help drive the mass adoption of Industry 4.0 worldwide.

Plattform Industrie 4.0 has established five “areas of action” that they believe require decisions to be made by politicians and industrial players:

  • Research and Innovation: One of the main activities around R&D has been figuring out ways to engage SMEs through educational efforts, targeted funding, grants, working groups, and applied research projects. As one part of this effort there have been 25 SME 4.0 Competence Centers set up around the country where small and medium-sized enterprises can get advice about Industry 4.0 implementation and have access to physical demonstrations and testing facilities.
  • Legal Framework: Much of the work being done in this area is around establishing frameworks to ensure that personal and business-related data is not misused. A working group has been formed to address the new legal challenges that have cropped up with Industry 4.0 such as liability questions and protection of internal company data.
  • Norms and Standards: Standardization in the manufacturing industry is needed in order to establish the mechanisms for development, integration, and operation of technical systems. Plattform Industrie 4.0 has put forth a proposal for a “solution-neutral reference architecture model” which they hope will “systematically classify and further develop Industrie 4.0 technologies”.
  • Security: This working group has a goal of establishing approaches, standards, and solutions that anchor “security by design” into corporate culture. The focus is around preventative measures that can be built into systems from the start, while simultaneously retrofitting existing systems to meet new security requirements.
  • Work: Training and educational programs will be necessary to help workers gain the skills to thrive in the new types of jobs surrounding Industry 4.0. This working group is testing solutions around professional and academic training opportunities to help companies secure the employees needed for these future jobs.

On an international level, the platform has established alliances with the Industrial Internet Consortium (USA), Alliance Industrie du Futur (France), and the Robot Revolution Initiative (Japan). They’re currently working to create an online overview of Industry 4.0 applications worldwide.

How Can it Help me? The Benefits of Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0

As you can expect, all of these organizations working on pushing Industry 4.0 forward are doing so because of the major benefits that can be claimed to the businesses implementing it. So how can manufacturers benefit from Industry 4.0?

One area that is immediately apparent is the technical assistance provided by cyber physical systems. These systems can do the tasks that are too exhausting and dangerous for humans to complete and even use data collected to make spur of the moment decisions in certain urgent situations without the needing the help of humans.

Resource conservation is another one of the benefits that Industry 4.0 technologies can provide. In 2017, the USDA issued 131 recalls that resulted in over 20 million pounds of food going to waste. Implementing simple temperature monitoring and alert systems can help solve problems like food spoilage and waste. These systems can also send an alert when an environment is too hot or cold for the food so that the issue can be handled swiftly.

One of the most often-cited benefits of Industry 4.0 is the opportunity to remotely monitor and control industrial machinery. For systems that need to be monitored regularly, the ability to check in and control different processes from anywhere is extremely valuable.

More Benefits of Industry 4.0

There are countless applications for Industry 4.0 which means that the benefits are varied as well. Below are some of the other ways manufacturers can benefit from these solutions:

  • Predictive maintenance
  • Smart energy consumption
  • Automation of knowledge work
  • Statistical and advanced process control
  • Quality management
  • Data-driven demand predictions
  • Rapid experimentation and simulation
  • Remote maintenance for service
  • New connected products and business models

Who is Using it? Examples of Industry 4.0 in Use Today

It’s easy to talk about the technologies and benefits of Industry 4.0 but real life examples are often the push that higher ups need in order to start really considering how the smart factory of the future could help bolster their businesses.

Below are some examples of Industry 4.0 initiatives that are being used today:

Lockheed Martin is on track to save $11 million over the next five years by using technologies such as additive manufacturing to reduce the cost of the F-35 joint strike fighter’s full mission simulators.

Chinese construction equipment manufacturer LiuGong is embracing Industry 4.0 technology to enable them to target $7.18 billion in operating revenue by 2025.

Europe’s largest lawn and garden machinery company, Global Garden Products, uses connected sensors to track and monitor engine vitals as well as sending the readings to cloud data storage. They’re getting the information they need right now to build better engines as they’re bringing the Internet of Things into their manufacturing processes.

Bosch’s factory in southern Germany used Industry 4.0 technology to reduce their cycle times by 8% resulting in a cost savings of €500,000 in the first year alone.

GM has started using collaborative robots to aim headlights and calibrate radar for cruise control in their vehicles. The process now takes only three seconds and has reaped huge efficiency gains for the company.

Mongini's smart factory Industry 4.0 application

Cake manufacturer, Mongini’s, retrofitted their factories’ production lines and facilities with IoT systems that enable quality assurance food safety teams to know immediately whenever impurities are detected in their products. And they’ve updated their cold chain and modified their commercial freezers so that factory supervisors can optimize the whole production process from batter to bite.

cattle in a field

Jackie Rednour-Bruckman is working with the Georgia Department of Agriculture and Daxima Software to use blockchain to track animals from conception to consumption. Jackie says, “Farm to table suddenly becomes a wealth of information with just the scan of a bar code.”

How Do I Get Started? Implementing Industry 4.0 in Your Factory

Worker looking at electrical panel

At this point, you may be ready to start really thinking about the ways that you can improve processes with Industry 4.0 in your factory. However, you are probably wondering what barriers to entry you should expect along your implementation journey.

Challenges of implementation can include lack of buy-in and knowledge from the top down, the skills gap of your current employees, data security concerns, and scalability and reliability.

However, with technologies like Temboo’s Kosmos System, the process can be made much easier.

Industry 4.0 Made Easy with Kosmos

Kosmos enables businesses to more easily implement Internet-connected sensors, actuators, and machinery in their products, processes, and facilities. It’s unique among IoT offerings in that:

  1. Customers don’t need to write any code to create IoT systems;
  2. Customers can use non-proprietary hardware from multiple vendors, even within the same system; and
  3. Kosmos handles the development, maintenance, monitoring, and all other software aspects of IoT systems from beginning to end–other offerings require customers to link together several different services in order to create complete IoT systems.

Temboo has helped companies all over the world get started with Industry 4.0 technologies. We’ve seen first hand the challenges that are faced with digital transformation and we’ve also seen the ways that companies overcome those challenges.

We’ve also come up with a 7 step checklist to help get you started and have many tutorials, overviews, and case studies available on our blog.

Is Industry 4.0 the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The first industrial revolution was brought on with the use of water and steam power as well as mechanization in the late 18th Century.

The second is widely regarded as the period during which the assembly line was invented as well as the first use of electricity in industry which happened around 1870.

In the late 60’s the third industrial revolution was spurred through the use of computers and automation such as the PLC

Industry 4.0 timeline

Nowadays, there are some people who equate Industry 4.0 with the 4th Industrial Revolution.

However, others argue that the changes proffered by Industry 4.0 have not yet had a significant enough impact on the process of manufacturing to be considered a new Industrial Revolution.

Experts Weigh In

According to Dmitry Lukovkin, AI Business Director of Zyfra Group, “Technologies we have now can really make a significant impact on manufacturing….But we are far from what’s suggested to be a fourth industrial revolution.”

He continues, “The total critical infrastructure is yet to be created. But the picture will change in 5 years. The countdown to the Fourth Industrial Revolution starts not when a few companies implement Industry 4.0 technologies, but when it starts to influence the market. By 2023-25 we’ll see and feel the changes.”

Stefan Issing, Global Automotive Industry Director at IFS agrees that the evolution of technologies within manufacturing has had a significant impact already. “Within manufacturing, Industry 4.0 has changed the way we collect and analyze data, and how humans, machines and systems collaborate with each other. We’re well into changing processes – such as how we make manufacturing actions more automated, efficient, safer, and streamlined. But, what will push us over the precipice to the fourth industrial revolution is when Industry 4.0 is the driver to change entire manufacturing business models.”

No matter when or how the Fourth Industrial Revolution is brought on, it’s undeniable that the technologies that fall under the umbrella of the term are gaining traction with manufacturers around the world. In fact, one report has estimated that the component markets of Industry 4.0 will be worth more than $4T by 2020. Statistics like this prove that Industry 4.0 adoption is on the rise and continuing to grow.

If you’re interested in learning more about Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things, or other digital transformation technologies, contact our team today!