Industry 4.0 refers to a fourth Industrial Revolution, a concept that was originally launched in the German government’s industrial program, now used as a nickname worldwide when addressing the latest industrial developments.
We are therefore, on the brink of the fourth industrial revolution. The first was driven by the steam engine and manufacturing process mechanization. The second one, activated by the availability of electric energy and the production line, represented by Ford and his “T Model”. In the 70’s a third revolution sprung up, with the increase of factory automation based on electronics and computers at the place of work.
Now, with the fourth industrial wave, devices are capable to take control over manufacturing and distribution. This future will be marked by the strong product individualization under extremely flexible production conditions: mass customization, with wide integration of business partners in the value chain.
The vision of Industry 4.0 is to create the so called ‘cyber-physical systems’ in which products charged with sensors can tell the machines how and when they should be processed. The processes now govern themselves in a de-centralized modular system. Devices with embedded “intelligence” begin to work together in direct wireless connection or through the internet cloud to again revolutionize production.
Central control systems give way to de-centralized decision-making once device-to-device communication hits the factory floor. This is the central idea of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
In Industry 4.0, each actuator and each sensor in a factory is connected to what is called Internet of Things (IoT), creating the foundation for complete process integration. Mobile communication technologies, cloud computing and “Big Data” analysis constantly transform the industrial intranets, which served as the basis for the industrial automation in recent years, into an industrial internet.