What is Industry 4.0? Definition and Examples

Industry 4.0 is also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution or 4IR. It refers to the rapid change in industries, technologies, societal processes, and patterns that have been taking place in the 21st century. The change is mainly due to increasing smart automation and connectivity.

Industry 4.0 definition - image showing the four industrial revolutions
Image created by Market Business News.

The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Industrial Revolutions

  • The First Industrial Revolution

The first industrial revolution, from 1760 to 1849, saw mechanization through steam and water power. If somebody says, “The Industrial Revolution,” this is the one most of us think they mean.

  • The Second Industrial Revolution

The second industrial revolution, from 1871 to 1914 saw the emergence of the motor car, and the extension of railroad networks and electrification.

  • The Third Industrial Revolution

The third industrial revolution, which occurred towards the end of the 20th century, was characterized by the spread of digitization and automation through the use of computers and other electronic devices, and the emergence of the Internet. Nuclear power became a major source of energy in many countries during this period.

Industry 4.0 – Manufacturing

IBM says the following about Industry 4.0:

“Industry 4.0 is revolutionizing the way companies manufacture, improve and distribute their products.”

“Manufacturers are integrating new technologies, including Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and analytics, and AI and machine learning into their production facilities and throughout their operations.”

Industry 4.0 is an extension of the 3rd industrial revolution, which was all about IT systems and electronics, especially in the manufacturing sector.

During the current revolution (Industry 4.0), most of those computers and electronic devices are communicating with one another.

Leveraging modern tech

A significant transformation is underway in how products are made and delivered. Manufacturers today aim for further automation and a flexible factory.

To survive in today’s fiercely competitive marketplace, they must leverage artificial intelligence, IoT, cloud computing, robotics, analytics, and other state-of-the art technologies.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

Internet of Things - explanation
Image created by Market Business News.

The Internet of Things or IoT has been a major enabler of Industry 4.0. IoT is a system of machines, computers, devices, objects, and people that are all connected with one another electronically – and in a growing number of cases, wirelessly.

Your refrigerator is connected to your computer, which is connected to dozens of devices within and outside your home. We call them smart devices (they can communicate with other machines).

Smart Factories

Audi smart factory - Industry 4.0 definition
Audi image adapted by Market Business News.

First, we had smart TV’s, refrigerators, and other smart office or home devices. Now, the smart factory has emerged.

Smart factories are equipped with embedded software, robotics that gather and analyze information, and sophisticated sensors.

With advancing technology comes better and faster decision making. In fact, a growing number of decisions which were made by humans are being made by smart machines today.

According to German auto maker Audi:

“The Internet of Things, 5G, and smart production. These and other technologies make the processes in the automotive industry more efficient”

Why the name ‘Revolution’?

These four revolutions are called revolutions because the innovation that pushed them forward did not just boost productivity – it totally revolutionized how people worked and made things.