What is meant by Industry 4.0?
The term Industry 4.0 stands for a future project of the German federal government and is used both as a marketing term and in science communication. It is the title of a so-called fourth industrial revolution, which is characterized by individualization, hybridization of products (production and services are to be coupled) and the integration of customers and business partners into business processes.
Industry 4.0 stands for digitalization and networking of value chains. The change relates to all stages of the production process and includes not only internal processes such as procurement, production, maintenance and distribution but also suppliers, logistics companies and other external players.
Thus, Industry 4.0 can contribute to higher productivity, flexibility and lower resource consumption.
Many changes are triggered by Industry 4.0. Embedded systems and autonomous machines that move without human control and make their own decisions are important components of this development. An essential part of this development is the Internet of Things, where objects become smart objects through networking technologies and the equipment with sensors or chips. This enables to connect people, machines and things.
(Click here to read more about the Internet of Things)
Service robots can support human specialists in the fields of operations, care and therapy areas because they are precise, resilient and always available. The advantages in the medical sector are, for example, electronic patient files that can avoid double treatment and medical smartwatches that remind of medication.
In the area of energy supply, a smart grid system has emerged, which can connect small and large energy suppliers and thus revolutionize energy management.
The critical aspects of Industry 4.0
The highly technical development of Industry 4.0 also faces great challenges. Teaching an autonomous system enough know-how with the help of data to replace a human being and to react adequately in unforeseen situations is a complex task for development (e.g. in autonomous driving). The highest priority is given to risk minimization in order to avoid that autonomous systems misjudge situations and thus errors or even accidents happen.
Another challenging topic is data protection. The main issue here is that systems can be hacked and data can be stolen for undesired purposes. Networked houses, self-driving cars and electronic files bring many advantages, but they also save private information from us and make us transparent people. The issue of economic ethics is mainly concerned with the replacement of human workers by machines.
Cf. Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon, Industrie 4.0, accessed: 18.05.2020
Cf. Verein Industrie 4.0, Was ist Industrie 4.0, accessed: 18.05.2020
Cf. Alexander Thamm GmbH, Das Internet of Things und die Industrie 4.0: Wie Smart Factory & Co. die Wirtschaft verändern werden, accessed: 18.05.2020
Cf. Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie, Was ist Industrie 4.0, accessed: 18.05.2020
Cf. Industry of things, Was bedeutet Industrie 4.0? accessed: 18.05.2020