Industry 4.0: Production of the future

April 20th, 2017, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: EngineerIT


At a recent seminar held at Festo’s South African head office in Isando, Gauteng, Eberhard Klotz, head of the Festo Industry 4.0 campaign described Industry 4.0 as being the fundamental change to the value creation and the life-cycle of products where the real and virtual world grow together.  He said  that there is not one definition available, but summed up Industry 4.0, as the production of the future, with networking of components and machines bringing the real and virtual world together and advancing the application of digital planning by comparing the operation of the factory with the digital world.

Eberhard Klotz, head of the Festo Industry 4.0 campaign: ”Industry 4.0 is the production of the future with networking of components and machines bringing the real and virtual world together.”

Industry 4.0 is one of the future projects adopted in the “Action Plan High-tech strategy 2020” by the German Federal Government to address the rapid social and technological developments and put structures for cooperation between all drivers of innovation in Germany. The working group Industry 4.0 set up by the Research Union Economy – Science of the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) – sheds a light on the requirements for a successful start into the fourth industrial age. In October 2012, the working group handed over its report entitled “Implementation of recommendations for the future project Industry 4.0”. The associations BITKOM, VDMA and ZVEI, which account for more than 6000 member companies, acted on the suggestion of a continuation and further development of the project Industry 4.0.  In April 2013 they concluded a cooperation agreement to run – in the form of a thematic cooperation beyond association boundaries – the Platform Industry 4.0. In April 2015, the Platform Industry 4.0 was expanded by the addition of more people from companies, associations, unions, science and politics.

The platform’s technical work is carried out in thematic working groups. The working groups develop and document precompetitive concepts on selected topics and specific recommendations for action that, when implemented, should ensure a competitive advantage for all partners  The following working groups contribute to the overall development of the platform:

  • Working group on reference architectures, standards and norms
  • Working group on research and innovation
  • Working group on the security of networked systems
  • Working group on the legal framework and
  • Working group on work, education and training

Klotz said that while Europe is adopting Industry 4.0, and other parts of the world are moving to the internet of things (IoT), there is collaboration between the US-lead concepts and Germany’s Industry 4.0.

In the matter of procedures to be followed for manufacturing in the future and the IoT, the differences between Germany and the USA may not be unbridgeable, but they are definitely conspicuous. The genesis is totally different: when a consulting body of the German federal government, the Economy-Science Research Union, requested the associations to set up the Industry 4.0 platform, large companies in the USA triggered the start.  In March 2014 AT&T, Cisco, General Electric, IBM and Intel founded the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) in order to coordinate the priorities for the industrial internet, and to enable the technical applications required for this. Meanwhile 250 companies have joined the movement, including some from Germany. The aim of the Industrial Internet Consortium as described by Dr. Richard Soley, executive director of IIC, is to bring together “operational systems”, which means machines and industrial plants in the widest sense of the term, and information technology. In a recent statement Dr. Soley emphasised that industrial applications are being developed at IIC which, if successful, can be brought into the international standardisation bodies. He stressed that the IIC is not competing with the German Industry 4.0 platform, and that the reference architecture presented by the IIC for the industrial internet does not differ essentially from the ideas of German Industry 4.0.

Klotz said the China 2025 strategy adopted by the Chinese government mirrors the Industry 4.0 process, and mentioned that the Chinese are well known for adopting only the best processes.   He said that the implementation of the vision of Industry 4.0 is an evolutionary process which will progress at different speeds in factories and certain segments of industry. “Industry 4.0 approaches are being implemented in practice in all cases where networking will lead to better control, organisation, efficiency etc. and a clear customer benefit can be identified.”

Action area Customer benefit
Production Economic, flexible, convertible production “plug and produce“, batch/lot size 1
Engineering process Faster commissioning of machines/installations “virtual commissioning“
Energy management Increasing resource efficiency (component, machine, demands)
Logistical processes More efficient control of procedures (incl. demand planning)
Predictive maintenance Increasing machine availability, condition monitoring

Festo has introduced a modular concept for process automation which will effect a fundamental shift in the design and engineering of process plants. Modularisation will not be possible to the same extent for all industry segments or every process; however, the technical design process for each plant should include a review and assessment of whether modular concepts can be applied so both the plant operator and plant manufacturer can benefit from the associated advantages.

Klotz said that automation technology carries out everyday tasks in factories such as gripping, moving and positioning goods as well as controlling processes. Nature performs all of these tasks instinctively, easily and efficiently. What could be more logical than to examine these natural phenomena and learn from them? That is why Festo set up the Bionic Learning Network, a research network linking Festo to well-known universities, institutes, development companies and private inventors. To motivate, inspire and enthuse and to kick-start innovation – as a technological leader and as a learning company, it is pursuing a set of clear objectives with the Bionic Learning Network which ultimately demonstrate the solution expertise of Festo in a way that will inspire young people to take an interest in technology and help the company to discover new talent.

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