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Industry 4.0: Agility in production?

manufacturing parts for engine manufacturing production line Source: iStock/zhuzhu

Industry 4.0 is paving the way for a social and technological revolution that will drastically change the entire industrial landscape. Why 4.0? As since the 18th century, when the first Industrial Revolution began, it is the fourth wave of major technological changes. There is brand new video footage available from the German Engineering Association VDMA featuring different Industry 4.0 projects of players such as the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, Bosch, SAP, Siemens as well as Wittenstein. What this video shows: Industry 4.0 is a sophisticated approach changing the entire global value chain: communication, planning, logistics and production.

"Actually, Industry 4.0 is a paradigm shift. We aim to gradually decentralize centralized production control. Simplified, the work piece itself is giving the instructions, it addresses the robot directly: ‘Please paint me red’, or ‘I need grinding here and there!’ Developments that constitute a reversion in the logic of producing."
Prof. Wolfgang Wahlster, German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence

The video brings up some industry challenges

  • How can humans get better support for their work in the factory?
  • How do we connect multiple factories from different companies?
  • How do we share data in this market place?
  • How do software, sensors and RFID technology interact?
  • How does a self-aware-product communicate with its context?
  • How to handle big data?
  • How can mobile devices be integrated?
  • Which data security levels do we need?
  • Which impact does intelligent production have on factory design and construction?

What does Industry 4.0 mean for Bosch?

Let me give you a concrete example: In the future, components such as the Bosch Diesel injector will be produced in small quantities and in real-time. The production starts only after somewhere in the world a carmaker has actually placed a concrete order. The order form not only contains all information about technical requirements but also about destination and client. The information is embedded in the component and is capable of managing the production process, for example by ordering missing components or setting up the individual production parameters. Simultaneously, customers are kept informed of the current state of production. At the end, however, an employee makes sure that the product really fits into the engine of the carmaker and checks for errors that may have occurred. Hereby he is strongly supported by IT as he has much more information available about an individual object than any time before. If everything is fine the customer will be informed that the product is ready for shipment.

Intelligent sensors are able to determine the current location and the environmental settings such as temperature or humidity of the Diesel injectors. As they know the recipient data, they are able to find the destination almost by themselves. The system is supported by complex software that is constantly influenced by the Diesel injectors within the blue box. The software translates the information into clear and meaningful images. The packers receive permanent instruction on what to do and occurring errors are reported automatically. The new system aims to support people in their efforts. The images, for example, can help to bridge language barriers as they are easy to understand and to remember.

Bosch engages actively in the Industrie 4.0 project of acatech – the National Academy of Science and Engineering on executive level. An interim report was published at CeBIT lab talk March 6, 2012 in Hannover, Germany.

"The implementation starts with small steps here and there, there won’t be a big bang that is going to introduce Industry 4.0. On the contrary, it will come step by step. But if we look back in ten years we will see that the world has changed significantly."
Encouraging closing words of Hartmut Rauen, Member of the Executive Directorate VDMA

Do you have any experience in Intelligent Production or Smart Factory that you want to share in this blog? Or any consequences it has, for example for adjoint sectors such as logistics, RFID technology or ERP systems? How this will improve work in the facory? Can you envision open data for production?

More on Industry 4.0

This blog post looks back at Industry 4.0 of 2016 and takes a look ahead to what will shape the world of Industry 4.0 in 2017.


  • 22. March 2017 at 5:56

    The Industry 4.0 solution presented at #BCW16 showcases a set of Industry 4.0 products that have been integrated to address the following four use cases

  • 27. January 2014 at 10:11

    Dear Michael,

    Thanks for your comment!

    For a start, I can recommend the following studies about Industry 4.0 and trends in manufacturing:

    The first one is from the Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswissenschaft und Organisation:
    The second is a study conducted by Roland Berger, which focuses on services in the manufacturing industry:

    I can also always recommend having a look at the report “Recommendations for implementing the strategic initiative Industrie 4.0” which gives a great overview of the topic, use cases, etc.


  • 23. January 2014 at 14:18

    Dear Stefan,

    I’m currently working on a term paper for my university about the topic ‘potentials & trends in the industy’. Therefore, I’m also very interested in topics IoT and Industrie 4.0 and I read a lot on your blog and got many interesting ideas from it.
    Are there any scientific sources which deal with these topics? I know the topic is kind of “new”, that’s why it’s hard to find literature but unfortunately it’s required for scientific work.
    Thanks a lot, Michael

  • 22. November 2013 at 17:22

    Dear Nadine,
    thanks for cross-linking. Good to see that you are covering the topic so well.

  • 15. October 2013 at 12:52

    Dear Stefan, I really like your blog and will follow the activities on your website. Maybe these 2 blogs are also interesting for your audience.
    Best regards from Walldorf,
    Nadine Hülsen

  • 30. August 2013 at 15:18

    Dear Thomas,
    Dear Miguel,

    the Software world is much more used to openess than the machine industry. For example: OPC UA is an excellent example of industry collaboration, hence it is not as open as Eclipse, Apache or Linux. But I think the convergence of these two industry sectors will help to open up “Industrie 4.0” also. At least I am activily promoting this in the steering committee for Industrie 4.0.


  • 21. June 2013 at 15:02

    thanks for giving us an update of the “Industry 4.0” vision. What role will be played by the Open Source movement and communities in this context? How can the term agility be mapped or linked to the “agilement movement” in the software engineering/development space?
    What percentage of the value creation process will be achieved by software in the context of production lines?
    Kind regards,

  • 18. April 2013 at 18:21

    thanks for linking this to our Bosch Rexroth business. Yes, you are right “Open Core Engineering” by Bosch Rexroth is the first step to open up and support better cooperation. Just recently Bosch Rexroth won the Hermes Award for this:

    Maybe also an update about the work here in Germany. The “Industrie 4.0 Plattform” is established now


  • 10. April 2013 at 21:23

    Hi Stefan
    informative article indeed. I think this industrial 4.0 with IoTS is very relevant for a typical customer specific order scenarios (MTO, ETO) etc. like Rexroth.
    I have recently seen article about Open Source Engineering… would that also be one part of industry 4.0?


  • 25. January 2013 at 11:39

    Dear Stefan,
    I came across your blog while researching case studies for a report for the European Petrochemical Association which will address Technology as an enabler of Sustainable Chemical Supply Chains. I am familiar with the Bosch engagement in IOT after I attended the 2nd Annual Internet of Things conference in Brussels in 2010 – Hartmut Dunger of Bosch was also a participant.
    I would like to reference the Diesel Injector case in the report, but wondered if you may have other case studiy examples which might have specific relevance to a process industry like the chemical industry.
    The IOT is a fascinating development – the appllications seem boundless, and I would be the first to admit that it is sometimes difficult to grasp the full implications of this paradigm shift.

  • 30. May 2012 at 14:56

    thank you for suporting my line of argumentation. We belive that technology is for humans (and not without them). Maybe you have noticed our slogan “Bosch – Invented for Life”. I will give a keynote about “humans in the internet of things” in October here
    Could you share a little bit about your specific experience?

  • 29. May 2012 at 22:30

    “How can humans get better support for their work in the factory?”

    It’s a good question that every company, not just production facilities, can ask themselves. The human element is still the most important at the end of the day. How do all the other processes and procedures aid human employees?

  • 24. May 2012 at 12:17

    I really appreciate your wonderful knowledge and the time you put into educating the rest of us. I think the game should be more and more abundant, thank you.

    • 24. May 2012 at 12:29

      Thanks a lot for your encouraging comment. Do you have some specific topic or interest that we could cover in future blog posts?