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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 Energy 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 Energy, 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.

Frequently asked questions on Industrie 4.0

What is so revolutionary about Industrie 4.0?

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What does Industrie 4.0 mean for Germany?

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What is a smart factory?

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How does Industrie 4.0 change our economy?

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How does Industrie 4.0 change the way we work?

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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, trade unions and academia. Plattform Industrie 4.0 has been created in order to ensure that Germany will remain a global leader on manufacturing and even improve its competitive edge.

How can German industry remain the leading factory equipment supplier? How can Germany further improve its competitiveness as a production location by adopting Industrie 4.0 solutions? What role can Germany play in setting standards and how can Industrie 4.0 benefit people in the world of work? Plattform Industrie 4.0 aims to find answers to these questions. Headed by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, high-ranking representatives of companies, associations such as the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW), the Federation of German Industries (BDI), BITKOM, the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) and the Central Association of the Electrical Industry (ZVEI), standardisation organisations and trade unions such as the German Metalworkers Federation (IG Metall) are working to ensure that Germany can harness the opportunities linked to Industrie 4.0.

Focus of the working groups

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, security of networked systems, legal frameworks, research, and training. In addition to this, the participants try to identify meaningful examples that show how Industrie 4.0 applications can be successfully implemented.

The steering committee, which includes business representatives, develops a strategy for the technical implementation of the working groups’ findings. The strategy group, which includes representatives from politics, industry associations, academia, trade unions, Federal Ministries and the German Länder, is tasked with providing policy leadership and assuming the role of a multiplier in the socio-political debate on the effects of Industrie 4.0.

Providing assistance for SMEs

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 order to speed up standardisation efforts in the area of 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.

The Platform also developed the RAMI 4.0 reference architecture model. RAMI 4.0 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.

Plattform Industrie 4.0 and international cooperation

Industrie 4.0 is a trend that exists not only in Germany, but around the world. Developing joint standards and ensuring the interoperability of different systems in global value chains is therefore an important issue that must be discussed. Plattform Industrie 4.0 has built partnerships with other leading platforms from around the world. In July 2015, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of Industrie 4.0 (PDF, 51 KB - in German). In addition to this, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the Standardization Administration of the People's Republic of China (SAC) have set up a joint working group on standardisation in the area of Industrie 4.0 as part of the Sino-German cooperation on standards. In March 2016, Plattform Industrie 4.0 started cooperation with the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) based in the US.

At the 2016 Hannover Fair, Germany and France presented a joint action plan. This was done in the presence of Ministers Gabriel and Macron. This action plan sets out four fields of cooperation. It states that the partners want to develop scenarios for the use of Industrie 4.0 applications that are tailored to the needs of customers. In addition to this, the partners intend to set up several international testing centres that they want to use together. At the end of April 2016, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy adopted an agreement on cooperation on the internet of things and Industrie 4.0 (PDF: 87 KB) with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). This agreement is to help German and Japanese companies work together more closely, and provide for more cooperation on international standards. The joint action plan adopted by Plattform Industrie 4.0 and Japan’s Robot Revolution Initiative (RRI) supplements these efforts.

Hanover Declaration Initial results and additional fields of cooperation

The signing of the ‘Hanover Declaration’ (in german) (PDF, 220KB) by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the METI on 19 March 2017 marked the point at which the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) became part of the cooperation. Moreover, the Hanover Declaration served to present some initial results, including a joint position paper on industrial cyber security (in german) and a strategy paper for stronger cooperation within international standardisation bodies (in german). The signatories also agreed to provide greater mutual support to SMEs wishing to enter the other party’s market and to extend the existing cooperation to new fields such as vocational and continuing training and automated and connected driving.

The Industrie 4.0 platform also has a strong presence within the European Stakeholder Forum entitled Digitising European Industry. The European Stakeholder Forum was first held on 31 January 2017 and also helped achieve the goals set by the German G20 presidency..

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

  • 14/05/2018 - Press release - Industrie 4.0

    State Secretary Dr Nussbaum opened international conference on IT security in Industrie 4.0.

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