Industry 4.0: the fourth industrial revolution

At a glance

Industry 4.0 is the keyword behind the digital transformation of industry, i.e. the integration of e.g. networked devices and production systems into everyday industrial life. We are also talking about the fourth industrial revolution: just as the steam engine or mass production once changed industry from scratch, the intelligent networking of people, data, processes and machines is now expected to bring about a noticeable change. Industry 4.0 no longer only looks at the core of a company, but also includes all aspects from the supplier to the logistics to the customer. What is special about this is that automation and, in particular, autonomous communication between machines (M2M communication) are used in many areas. Instead of relying on human intervention, the Internet of Things enables machines to automatically communicate with each other and with the outside world in order to coordinate their work and, in many cases, optimize processes independently. Another part of the concept is that people are supported in their work by technical systems, e.g. by virtually prepared information, which make a situation more transparent and thus easier and faster to process.

Examples for industry 4.0

In industry, the (Industrial) Internet of Things has enabled many processes to run more efficiently and flexibly, e.g:

Flexible production
Conventional production systems are especially efficient when large quantities are produced. This is because many tasks are still performed by people and are therefore expensive; for example, machines have to be programmed for the desired tasks, tools have to be changed over manually and intermediate results have to be checked manually. Flexible production systems enable the efficient production of single pieces and small batch sizes: Networked, modern machines automatically adjust to the required tasks and track the production progress fully automatically with sensors in all individual steps.

Adaptive Logistics
IoT applications and networked devices enable logistics processes to adapt flexibly to changing conditions, largely without human intervention. If, for example, a delivery is delayed due to traffic conditions, the delivery vehicle can deliver it to the production site in real time so that production can adjust automatically.

Other examples

  • Intelligent cooperation between man and machine, e.g. by robots in assembly
  • Machines autonomously monitor their condition and notify a technician as soon as maintenance or repair is required - and they communicate with the production plant if necessary to minimize downtime.