The current understanding of Industry 4.0 encompasses more than the vision of a fully automated and technology-oriented development in German industry. The so-called fourth industrial revolution is characterized by the increasing networking of people, materials and machines.
This guiding vision undoubtedly creates complexity, because Industry 4.0 is more than just working with an Internet connection. It should change the world of work at a rapid and unstoppable speed. Digitization in the context of Industry 4.0 shows that organizations are changing and work is becoming faster and more virtual.
But what does that mean in concrete terms? What is Industry 4.0? This article is intended to collect definitions and at the end give an overview of what Industry 4.0 could mean and possible concrete examples of what Industry 4.0 is and what is not.

What is Industry 4.0

There are numerous definitions of Industry 4.0 and I also ask myself: What is Industry 4.0? So says, for example BDI : Industry 4.0 stands for the fourth industrial revolution. After mechanization (Industry 1.0), mass production (Industry 2.0) and automation (Industry 3.0), the Internet of Things and Services is now finding its way into production. Industry 4.0 technologies enable outstanding growth opportunities and competitive advantages for Germany as a business location. Forecasts assume that companies can use Industry 4.0 to increase their productivity by around 30 percent.
The Gabler Business Lexicon sees it more as a marketing term: “Industry 4.0” is a marketing term that is also used in science communication and stands for a “future project” by the German federal government. The so-called fourth industrial revolution is characterized by the individualization or hybridization of products and the integration of customers and business partners into business processes.
That too Magazine viernull describes the development of Industry 4.0 with a historical development: “Industry 4.0” stands for the “fourth industrial revolution”. Before that, there must have been three other revolutions – at least this is what the creators of the term suggest: “Industry 1.0” means the era of mechanics that began in the 18th century, “Industry 2.0” refers to the era of electronics (20th century). Century) and “Industry 3.0” according to this logic stands for the increasing automation of industry through the use of office IT since the 1970s.
So it seems that this is the fourth industrial revolution and there have been three more. I have summarized examples and metaphors for this in the following illustration.

was ist industrie4.0
Phases, metaphors and examples for the industry (own presentation based on the knowledge of )

Components of Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is also a kind of collective term for many services and products. On the side of the BDI I have summarized these in the following figure. Certainly these are not 100% complete, but mostly the core aspects. Since it is primarily a term from the government, I mainly used the government pages and the BDI as sources.

Industrie 4.0
Components of Industry 4.0 (own illustration based on the BDI )

With Social machines says the BDI: As in social networks on the Internet, intelligent machines exchange information with one another. You can organize yourself independently and coordinate processes and appointments together.
Global Facilities says according to the BDI: Machines do not only exchange data within a production facility. A company’s machines are also networked with systems from suppliers and customers. If a supplier fails, alternative suppliers are analyzed in real time with regard to their capacity utilization or costs and automatically commissioned.
Of the Augmented operator means people as “watchdogs”. So says the BDI: In the smart factory, people remain a central part of production. As an “augmented operator”, he controls and monitors the production processes in the production network.
Smart Products means that every produced part has a chip with it, which contains or sends information about it. V irtual production thinks that there will be abstract and virtual images of factories. Unfortunately, there is hardly a clear example on the subject and I am currently not in a position to describe it better. If you have anything about it, feel free to write it in the comments.
Smart Services thinks that in the future billions of intelligent products will be connected to the Internet during their service life and huge amounts of data ( Big data ) about your own operating and product status in a data cloud.
Industry 4.0 largely stands for networking and the intelligence of machines. It is hardly an argument that this fact leads to a lot of data and that the term big data is therefore closely linked to Industry 4.0 as well as topics relating to data protection. Read more on the Page of the BDI and definitely take a look at my book suggestions Digitization in medium-sized companies .

Examples of Industry 4.0

But what exactly is Industry 4.0 and what is not? In the following I have looked for examples and show some fictional examples as well as real scenarios from Bremen.

That’s what he says Industry signpost : An example of Industry 4.0 is when “The parts know who they are”. This “intelligent factory” is called “Open Integrated Factory Showcase. It shows the networking of production and IT. The special thing about the factory is that the workpieces inform the machine how they are to be processed.

As an example of this scenario, you also state that a machine can produce 16 different variants of the product. The workpieces contain information about the production process. The parts know who they are and can talk to the system. The parts always go to the correct station and tell it: “I am this part, in this version and now please process me correctly”. So you can use Industry 4.0 to produce a wide variety of product variants on one production line.

Now I have to go to the information page Digitization in Bremen Found eight specific examples, some of which I would like to present to illustrate Industry 4.0. All examples are from the same page and partially copied.
Example 1: Ancillary cost bills are time-consuming for Bremen Airport – for the more than 100 individual transactions, meter readings for water and gas must be read and billed. With digital meter reading and intelligent document management, the airport was able to save an enormous amount of time.
Example 2: Robots are becoming more complex and more powerful. A Bremen logistics company made use of technical progress to transport returns of online orders fully automatically through a warehouse. This saves time and money and takes the strain off employees.
Example 3: An industrial service provider in Bremen uses the cloud in a targeted manner to allow distributed teams to work with workflows. All work processes relating to HR and personnel are completely relocated online. The employees of the personal office are located all over Germany and there is little need for coordination.
Example 4: Monitoring heavy transports from several thousand kilometers away for progress, transport damage or improper handling – a Bremen logistics service agency dreamed of this for a long time. With an Industry 4.0 project, logistics monitoring was introduced, which made it possible to monitor the load.
All examples are detailed on the page The Digitization of Bremen listed. In conclusion, I will go into the examples again.


The article deals with the question: What is Industry 4.0? Industry 4.0 is a term that is primarily a project of the federal government and is not actually used abroad. This is the fourth industrial revolution, which deals with the networking and intelligence of machines. There are already numerous examples such as chips and monitoring systems for freight as well as machines that can automatically maintain. People should increasingly take on the role of watchdogs. With Industry 4.0, problems such as big data and data protection are becoming more relevant than before for German companies.
Reading tip: Article on agile production
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I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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