Technological advances have driven dramatic increases in industrial productivity since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. The steam engine powered factories in the nineteenth century, electrification led to mass production in the early part of the twentieth century, and industry became automated in the 1970s. In the decades that followed, however, industrial technological advancements were only incremental, especially compared with the breakthroughs that transformed IT, mobile communications, and e-commerce.
Now, though, we are in the midst of a fourth wave of technological advancement: the rise of new digital industrial technology known as Industry 4.0, a transformation that is powered by nine foundational technology advances. (See Exhibit 1.) In this transformation, sensors, machines, workpieces, and IT systems will be connected along the value chain beyond a single enterprise. These connected systems (also referred to as cyberphysical systems) can interact with one another using standard Internet-based protocols and analyze data to predict failure, configure themselves, and adapt to changes. Industry 4.0 will make it possible to gather and analyze data across machines, enabling faster, more flexible, and more efficient processes to produce higher-quality goods at reduced costs. This in turn will increase manufacturing productivity, shift economics, foster industrial growth, and modify the profile of the workforce—ultimately changing the competitiveness of companies and regions.
This report describes the nine technology trends that are the building blocks of Industry 4.0 and explores their potential technical and economic benefits for manufacturers and production equipment suppliers. To demonstrate our findings, we use case studies from Germany, which is recognized as a world leader in industrial automation.