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Article - Industrie 4.0

Industrie 4.0


When components communicate with the production equipment by themselves, order a repair to be undertaken when needed or new material to be bought – when people, machines and industrial processes are intelligently networked, then this is what we call Industrie 4.0. After the emergence of the steam engine, the conveyer belt and computers, we are now facing the fourth industrial revolution, which is all about smart factories. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs helps the business community to take advantage of the potential of this digital revolution.

Industrie 4.0 combines production methods with state-of-the-art information and communications technology. Products can be manufactured based on the individual needs of customers, for example sneakers that come with a tailor-made sole and a design selected by the customer, or a customised individually designed piece of furniture. Industrie 4.0 makes it possible to produce items that are unique in excellent quality and at a price equal to that of mass-produced goods. Smart, digitally connected systems and production processes serve as the technical basis for this. Industrie 4.0 defines the entire life cycle of a product: from concept to development, manufacturing, use and maintenance – and on to recycling.

Figures on Industrie 4.0 for Germany

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billion euros
Planned annual investment by German industry in Industrie 4.0 applications by 2020

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Share of automotive companies that use self-controlled systems today

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billion euros
Additional growth that will be created through Industrie 4.0 by 2020

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Share of companies that believe that their value chains will be marked by a high level of digitalisation by 2020

What does Industrie 4.0 mean?

Smart production processes and new business models

What does an Industrie 4.0 factory look like? What does this mean for Germany? What are the opportunities and challenges that arise out of this fourth industrial revolution?

In Industrie 4.0 factories, smart machines control production processes by themselves. Service robots help people do physically demanding work in the assembly shop. Driverless transport vehicles manage the logistics processes and the flow of materials without any human intervention. But it is not only ‘smart factories’ that are becoming increasingly connected. Across company and industry borders, a wide range of economic stakeholders are also becoming part of this trend: from medium-sized logistics companies to specialised technical service providers and creative start-ups.

Producing in a more flexible, customised and efficient way

The use of digital technologies in industry will lead to the development of a large number of new production methods, business models and products. For example, production lines need no longer be limited to a single product. This will change the demands made of industrial manufacturing. IT support will make it possible to dynamically adapt processing stations to a changing product mix. This means capacity can be used in the best way possible. In addition, the automated analysis processes that are used can reveal maintenance needs and production downtime risks.

Cooperation: working together to harness new opportunities

This offers enormous potential for innovation and business in Germany, as some 15 million jobs depend directly and indirectly on the manufacturing industries. The digitalisation of industry will not only transform value-creation processes but also give rise to new business models and new prospects for employees. Smart, digital production processes present great opportunities for businesses – particularly for SMEs.

However, as industry becomes more digitalised and connected, the number of interfaces and the amount of data that is exchanged will increase. Unified standards, IT security and data protection therefore play a crucial role. However, such transversal issues cannot be dealt with by one single company or industry. Only if all the relevant stakeholders from industry, academia, politics and society are heard and if they work together as partners from an early stage onwards can we make the fourth industrial revolution a success.

Key social and political organisational tasks

The German government wants to utilise the enormous potential of Industrie 4.0 to strengthen Germany’s manufacturing base. Smart, digital production processes present great opportunities for businesses – particularly for SMEs.

Industrie 4.0 is a central focus of the Federal Government’s Digital Agenda. In the two funding programmes entitled ‘Autonomics for Industrie 4.0’ and ‘Smart Service World’, the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is already providing close to €100 million to foster research and innovation in the field of Industrie 4.0.

Map of Industrie 4.0 use cases; Source: BMWi

© BMWi

Map of Industrie 4.0 use cases

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Putting Industrie 4.0 into practice

From research to using Industrie 4.0 applications in companies

The economic strength of Germany depends on small and medium-sized manufacturing companies. There are hundreds of German companies that use Industrie 4.0 for their manufacturing processes and demonstrate the added value of digital solutions.

There are more than 200 practical examples that demonstrate that innovative processes for linking plant equipment, IT systems and business models more closely are already being developed and implemented by companies and research institutions. A map entitled ‘use cases Industrie 4.0’ shows where Industrie 4.0 solutions are already being used in Germany today.

Mittelstand 4.0 centres of excellence

Regional ‘Mittelstand 4.0 centres of excellence’ that receive funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, and the Centre of Excellence for the ‘Digitalisation of Skilled Crafts’ help German SMEs become more aware of Industrie 4.0, and provide them with information, training and opportunities to test their Industrie 4.0 applications. Demonstration and learning factories help companies try out new things – under the close eye of industry experts – and put their own technologies, product or customer interfaces to the test before making an investment. These services are supplemented by the work done by the Mittelstand 4.0 agencies: These agencies use multipliers to answer companies’ questions on a host of transversal issues linked to digitalisation – such as cloud computing, digital communication, processes, trade, etc..

Testbeds for SMEs

There are a number of testbeds at dedicated centres at universities and research institutions in Germany where complex production and logistics systems are being assessed, tested and enhanced under real-life conditions. These testbeds are interconnected, which means that production and application processes can be accurately simulated across several test environments. The map of testbeds (in German) shows the location of research and development institutions throughout Germany where Industrie 4.0 applications can be tested.

Plattform Industrie 4.0

Getting everyone around the table

The Federal Government wants to make a success of the fourth industrial revolution by engaging in dialogue with companies, associations, academia and trade unions. Plattform Industrie 4.0 has been created in order to ensure that Germany will remain a global leader on manufacturing and even sharpen its competitive edge.

The rapid advance in the digitisation of the economy and society is transforming manufacturing and work in Germany. Industrie 4.0 solutions combine production methods with state-of-the-art information and communication technology and create smart value chains. Coordinating the digital transformation of industry: this is the basic concept of Plattform Industrie 4.0 – one of the world’s largest Industrie 4.0 networks. It brings companies, associations, the academic community, trade unions and policymakers together so that all the stakeholders can drive their mission at many levels:

Thinking ahead and showing the way forward

Plattform Industrie 4.0 has a number of working groups that develop practical solutions and recommendations for action in the areas of standards and standardisation (in German), technology and application scenarios (in German), security of networked systems (in German), legal frameworks (in German), work and training (in German), and business models (in German).

Two key results of the Plattform’s work are the Reference Architecture Model for Industrie 4.0 (RAMI4.0) and the administration shell. RAMI 4.0 (in German) merges the essential technological elements of Industrie 4.0 in one single model and provides orientation to stakeholders from a wide range of different areas as they develop new standards for Industrie 4.0. The administration shell (in German) is a uniform virtual image and communications interface, creating the conditions for the smart networking of machines, products and people in production. The platform is not only working on the concept of the administration shell, but is also helping it become implemented in industry.

Orientation for SMEs

The platform offers and coordinates information and networking services which make Industrie 4.0 solutions known to companies throughout the country. The platform’s online map presents more than 350 examples of where Industrie 4.0 innovations are already in use in Germany, as well as an overview of where test centres are located. In addition, Industrie 4.0 Compass (in German) provides an overview of support services that are available nationwide. It helps companies find the right services to support them as they take each step in implementing Industrie 4.0 solutions. The platform works with the chambers of industry and commerce and the electrical engineering, manufacturing and computer business associations (ZVEI, VDMA, Bitkom) to hold events at which smaller businesses in particular can be given help as they move into the Industrie 4.0 world. The platform has launched the Industrie 4.0@Mittelstand (in German) series with the chambers to provide SMEs with the results of the platform’s work and practical examples of Industrie 4.0.

Since its establishment, Plattform Industrie 4.0 has developed into one of the world’s largest networks for the digitalisation of industry. A number of the platform’s members – companies and associations – have launched the Labs Network Industrie 4.0 initiative and the Standardization Council Industrie 4.0 (in German) in order to speed up standardisation efforts in the area of practical Industrie 4.0 solutions. Labs Network Industrie 4.0 aims to help companies get started with Industrie 4.0 by providing them with the opportunity to test new technologies.

National and international cooperation

The platform has entered into a large number of partnerships with national and international alliances. An Industrie 4.0 transfer network has been set up at national level to support SMEs. Through cooperation at international level, Plattform Industrie 4.0 uses its globally unique pool of technical and specialist expertise to address transnational issues in the fields of standardisation, IT security and legal frameworks. It also initiates and leads discussion on the digital transformation in industry. The platform coordinates these activities, networks stakeholders and makes it possible to include many perspectives of very different interests. This makes the platform’s work internationally unique.

For the latest news on the activities undertaken by Plattform Industrie 4.0 click here.

Online Library

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Papers and publications released by Plattform Industrie 4.0


Key fields of action

Work, security and data protection in Industrie 4.0

The world of work will change significantly as a result of Industrie 4.0 and the increasing digitalisation of the economy. And, as digitalisation continues to spread, the issue of IT security also becomes more relevant.

In the future, communication in Industrie 4.0 factories will often be seamless and wireless, enabling employees to interact more efficiently with smart production equipment. This development also opens up new opportunities for reorganising the way we work, for examples, using machines for physically demanding work or introducing more flexible and family-friendly working hours. Industrie 4.0 requires highly skilled staff and places a strong focus on life-long learning and people taking on new job roles. It is therefore important to make sure that our training curricula are meaningful and that we adapt them to new requirements.

Industrie 4.0 is about controlling logistics and production processes in real time – processes that require the exchange of data. In this context, IT and data security are key. IT security architectures and requirements need to be updated and adapted to Industrie 4.0. The challenge is to update existing structures to meet the new requirements and develop solutions for new facilities simultaneously, i.e. to make this ‘principle’ an integral part of corporate culture.


Unified standards for the digitalisation of industry

The close networking of technologies and value chains allows for an intensive exchange of data and therefore the creation of more interfaces. This means that unified standards are crucial for Industrie 4.0.

The definition and development of unified standards is important not only for the future of specific sectors of industry in our country – such as mechanical engineering and automation technology – but also for dealing with transversal issues such as Industrie 4.0 and thus for the entire economy. The German economy is tackling head-on the challenges of digitalisation linked to Industrie 4.0. It wants to make sure that there is fair and free competition and that we can protect our economy from dependence on outside technology.

Further information

industrie 4.0