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Industrie 4.0: Coming of the cyber-physical age

Are we on the cusp of the 4th Industrial Revolution, the cyber-physical age? Where machines and products co-operate to drive productivity.

Are we on the cusp of the 4th Industrial Revolution, the cyber-physical age? Where machines and products co-operate to drive productivity. Or is it just propaganda?

In the video above Alan Norbury, the Industrial Central Technology Officer (CTO) for Siemens, puts the 4th Industrial Revolution into context. The term Industrie 4.0 originates from the high-tech strategy of the German government, which sought to re-define the role of manufacturing post global economic downturn. It suggests that we are on the cusp of the 4th Industrial Revolution, a cyber physical age, which will be realised over the next 20 years. It is an age in which materials and machines are inter-connected within the internet of things (IoT), where everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data. Enabling highly flexible, individualised and resource friendly mass production.

This will drive new business models, that are ‘the masters of data’. It is driven by a requirement for shorter time to market, increased flexibility and greater asset efficiency. At its core is the cyber-physical-system (CPS) of which there are 4 cornerstones:

  1. Transparent factories – internally and externally networked
  2. Integrated value chain with seamless engineering
  3. Use of intelligent models
  4. Modular and networked secure automation

There are some cynics who believe that Industrie 4.0 is just German propaganda. A way to invigorate German manufacturing following the global economic crisis. Others argue that we are on the cusp of the cyber-physical age and it is an important consideration of both industrial and corporate strategy.

Talking point

  • Do you think that the cyber-physical age is the next stage in our industrial evolution or hype?
  • Is it appropriate for all types of products?
  • Will there still be a role for more traditional forms of manufacturing?
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