What is Industrie 4.0?

IT technician with tablet
© fotolia/Westend61

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Industrie 4.0 – What is it?

Industrie 4.0 refers to the intelligent networking of machines and processes for industry with the help of information and communication technology. There are many ways for companies to use intelligent networking. The possibilities include, for example:

  • Flexible production: In manufacturing a product, many companies are involved in a step by step process to develop a product. In being digitally networked, these steps can be better coordinated and the machine load better planned.
  • Convertible factory: Future production lines can be built in modules and be quickly assembled for tasks. Productivity and efficiency would be improved; individualized products can be produced in small quantities at affordable prices.
  • Customer-oriented solutions: Consumers and producers will move closer together. The customers themselves could design products according to their wishes—for example, sneakers designed and tailored to the customer’s unique foot shape. At the same time, smart products that are already being delivered and in use can send data to the manufacturer. With this usage data, the manufacturer can improve his or her products and offer the customer novel services.
  • Optimised logistics: Algorithms can calculate ideal delivery routes, machines independently report when they need new material—smart networking enables an optimal flow of goods.
  • Use of data: Data on the production process and the condition of a product will be combined and analysed. Data analysis provides guidance on how to make a product more efficiently. More importantly, it's the foundation for completely new business models and services. For example, lift manufacturers can offer their customers "predictive maintenance": elevators equipped with sensors that continuously send data about their condition. Product wear would be detected and corrected before it leads to an elevator system failure.
  • Resource-efficient circular economy: The entire life cycle of a product can be considered with the support of data. The design phase would already be able to determine which materials can be recycled.

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Talkin’ ‘bout a Revolution: What is new in Industrie 4.0?

Since the 1970s, information technology has been incorporated into business. Desktop PCs, the use of office IT and the first computer-aided automation revolutionised the industry. For Industrie 4.0, it is not the computer that is the core technology, but rather the Internet. Digitalising production is gaining a new level of quality with global networking across corporate and national borders: the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communication and manufacturing facilities that are becoming ever more intelligent are heralding a new era: the fourth industrial revolution, Industrie 4.0.

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On the path to Industrie 4.0: What needs to be done?  

Implementing Industrie 4.0 is a complex project: the more processes companies digitalise and network, the more interfaces are created between different actors. Uniform norms and standards for different industrial sectors, IT security and data protection play an equally central role as the legal framework, changes in education and jobs, the development of new business models and corresponding research. All of these topics are being addressed by the experts of Platform Industrie 4.0 in six working groups. 

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Digital transformation  „Made in Germany“: What role does the Plattform Industrie 4.0 play?

The overarching goal of the Plattform Industrie 4.0 is to secure and expand Germany's leading international position in the manufacturing industry. For this, the participants of the platform discuss appropriate and reliable framework conditions. As an initiator, moderator of various interests and messages, the Plattform Industrie 4.0 ensures a space for pre-competitive exchange between relevant stakeholders from politics, business, academia, trade unions and associations. The platform is one of the world's leading Industrie 4.0 networks.

The Plattform Industrie 4.0:

  • develops core concepts in working groups on how to tackle challenges on the pathway to Industrie 4.0.
  • provides concrete recommendations for academics, companies and politicians.
  • supports SMEs with specific service offerings, such as this online map of use cases, the compass for Industrie 4.0 orientation (only in German), the online library and with their engagement in the Transfer-Network Industrie 4.0.
  • drives national and international exchanges through numerous bilateral and multilateral cooperation – particularly in the areas of IT security and standardisation.

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We’ll keep you up to date! Here you can find information about current Industrie 4.0 developments and the platform’s activities:

  • Read the latest news on the Plattform Industrie 4.0
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    for the free newsletter (only in German)

  • Discover important events at a glance (only in German)