Thought Leadership

The power of Industry 4.0 and Internet of Things in manufacturing

By alastairorchard

Industry 4.0, the fourth Industrial Revolution, the Internet of Things and the Internet of Services are among the most commonly used terms to describe the accelerating intelligent connections among people, products, equipment, services, things and the data generated during production and throughout the entire lifecycle of the product.

The term “Industry 4.0” continues to garner worldwide discussion. Beginning with the German government’s involvement, this public-private partnership supports the next revolution in manufacturing – creating decentralized, autonomous real-time production.

But what does that really mean? The core of Industry 4.0 is about creating adaptive, agile manufacturing networks. Industry 4.0 envisions the ability to harness intelligence from production while using connections from the objects being built to the people and machines building them – all to accelerate innovation, quality and efficiency. The virtual design and simulation of products must connect to the intelligence gathered during manufacturing, but it goes beyond that.

Demands from the current society – including trending preferences and customers’ experiences while using products – require manufacturers to listen to the products themselves, understand the consumers’ trending voices and predict shifts in market preference.

The orchestration of all of these pieces requires an infrastructure with unique capabilities. The Industry 4.0 initiative defines what manufacturers need and what operational changes are required to be successful in the next generation of industrial production.

This blog series is dedicated to helping strategic manufacturers understand and prepare themselves to be leaders in this next leap forward in manufacturing innovation.

Industry 4.0 in manufacturing.pngIndustry 4.0 defines what manufacturers need and the operational changes required to be successful in the next generation of industrial production.

The Internet of Things and Industry 4.0

The terms “Internet of Things” and “Industry 4.0” are hot topics, and they continue to spark global conversations around what they are and how they’ll affect us personally and professionally.

Some people assume that the Internet of Things is a subset of Industry 4.0, but that isn’t the case. The Internet of Things relates to Industry 4.0, but they aren’t the same thing: the consumer version is pushing the industry version, in all of its complexity, forward much more quickly than we realize.

The Internet of Things in manufacturing. The Internet of Things, or the IoT, is an abstract concept about the interconnectedness of physical things that have their own intelligence.

For example, my car can talk to me and tell me when it needs an oil change, and it can make an appointment on my calendar with my dealer for a checkup at the same time. Or, my home heating system texts me and says the weather is getting cooler, and unless I get it serviced within the next three days, it won’t work.

These types of intelligent network of “things” are becoming reality – and more quickly than we realize. With the IoT impacting our everyday world, manufacturing thought leaders are gaining attention as they apply the same concepts to their industry.

If we have the ability to avoid running out of oil, or if we have the ability to know when to repair one of our heating units before it breaks down, why can’t manufacturing companies have systems that automatically replenish, provide real-time feedback and avoid failures?

With the Internet of Things in manufacturing, they can.

The connectivity of the IoT has become a driving force of Industry 4.0. The realization that a machine or system can catch and prevent human errors on a daily basis has led to greater scrutiny of how to rethink supply chain complexity, and to create the infrastructure that supports the intelligence of the things in those networks.

Internet of Things in manufacturing.pngThe Internet of Things in manufacturing gives companies the means to have systems that can automatically replenish, offer real-time feedback and prevent failures.

Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things. Industry 4.0 makes manufacturing industries as modern as our personal lives. It focuses on the support that this next generation of intelligent manufacturing needs to be successful.

Today, connections are made among products as they are produced. The connections involve the equipment producing these products, the real-time feedback on product performance in the field, the changes in consumer preferences and the virtual world of the product design and simulation.

The manufacturers who will win in this next industrial revolution will have to harness the intelligence being produced in real time to get innovation at higher quality to market – faster than their competitors. That’s what is pushing the urgency of Industry 4.0 – fundamental market competition, which equates to revenue growth and profitability.

This concludes the first part of our blog series on Industry 4.0’s relationship with the Internet of Things. Our next posts will look at key concepts innovative manufacturers must think about as they move their organizations forward in this next industrial revolution. 

About the author
With more than 20 years of experience, first as a manufacturer and then with Siemens, Alastair Orchard has focused on the gains in operational efficiency that Advanced Automation, MES and MOM delivery. He now focuses on Industry 4.0 and the consumerization of manufacturing. Alastair currently leads a global team running the Digital Enterprise Project to help customers take advantage of the synergies possible between product ideation, realization and utilization through the digital transformation of their business processes. Alastair holds an engineering degree in chemical engineering from the Loughborough University of Technology in the U.K. and lives in Genoa, Italy with his wife and four children.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at