Many people have heard about industry 4.0 and typically associate this with connecting devices to the Internet (IoT) and making factories digital and smarter. This is true but you can also easily connect all devices you have to the Internet but still not be Industry 4.0 (compliant).


Especially since many companies are working on their digital strategy, it is very useful to understand the basic concepts of Industry 4.0. This really help to define clear goals but also makes the documents that are available a bit easier to read and understand (e.g. global strategic developments).


This series of articles deals with the basics (or fundamental) changes that Industry 4.0 brings us. There is a lot of documentation available but if you do not have an IT background (or are involved in complex IT projects), it may prove a bit of a challenge to go through them and understand the content. The document “German standardization Roadmap”, provides great information but really proves a challenge to read and understand (along with the standards and directives) when reading it for the first time.


We will use this document (“German standardization Roadmap”) as a guideline and focus on the fundamental changes of Industry 4.0. The goal of these articles is to provide a basic understanding of the “groundwork” for Industry 4.0.


We support various Industry 4.0 projects including the development of digital strategies. Having a basis understanding of the fundamentals of Industry 4.0, supports the definition of realistic and clear goals with a view on future developments.



What is really new in Industry 4.0

As mentioned in the introduction already, just connecting devices to the Internet is not necessarily Industry 4.0 (complaint). We already have “The cloud”, “Networks”, “Automation devices with Internet access” and “Internet-based services”. These are not new topics related to Industry 4.0.

But what is new, are following topics:


  • Uniform and sector neutral standards for services and semantics
  • From Intranet to Internet
  • Digitalisation
  • Exchanging information between value chain partners.


We will look at these aspects more closely in the following paragraphs, but a short summary is included below. It basically means is that all ‘objects’ (assets*1) can communicate using an open standard not just within the company but also with suppliers and customers (value chain).

*1 we will look at the definition of an asset later, this is part of the RAMI (Reference Architect Model Industry) framework. See also next note.


We need a common standard for communication. This means that all parties involved need to use the same language for communication, security, syntax, protocols, etc. (this is supported by the e.g. Open Industry 4.0 Alliance,


This may involve a big change for some companies, going from a closed system (vendor lock in) with propriety software, to an open system. But with everybody using the same ‘language’, the exchange of information becomes much easier between the value chain partners (customer and suppliers).

The communication then moves from Intranet (within the company) to Internet (between companies, suppliers and customers), the need for security becomes obvious.


Another important aspect of Industry 4.0 is that “everything valuable”*2 is available in a digital form (digitalisation). A robot can be present on the workshop floor but in Industry 4.0 also a digital copy of the robot is needed. Industry 4.0 requests to have a digital representation (virtual twin) available that represents characteristics and behaviors.

*2 “everything valuable” is referred to as an “asset”, this can be products, processes but also humans and ideas. We get back this this later.


With “everything valuable” having a virtual representation, information for the value things can be shared between all parties involved (using an open communication standard). Sounds simple enough.


Before we dive into the more technical implementation, let’s first look at who is involved in this development and how they co-operate.



Where did it start, who are involved and is it completed ?

 Since it all started in Germany, we will look at these organizations to start with. Industry 4.0 is not really owned by anyone and when looking at the history:


The term "Industrie 4.0", shortened to I4.0 or simply I4, originated in 2011 from a project in the high-tech strategy of the German government, which promotes the computerization of manufacturing. The term "Industrie 4.0" was publicly introduced in the same year at the Hannover Fair” [Wikipedia].


An overview of the main parties (organizations) involved in the support and development of Industry 4.0 are shown below. See the abbreviation list below for a short list of most and commonly used terms (end of article).


I4 Overview01
 Interaction of Plattform Industrie 4.0, SCI4.0 and LNI 4.0 (p13) by Din E.V, 2018. Berlin, Din EV.


Platform Industrie 4.0

This organization bring together representatives from business sector (companies), the scientific sector, trade unions, politics and consumer group to discuss the future plans. It is supported by the German Ministry of Economic Affairs and energy (

More actors from the private sector, business associations, unions, research organizations and political institutions joined. Today, a total of over 300 players from 159 organizations are active in the platform.



Labs Network Industrie (LNI) 4.0

 LNI 4.0 offers an ideal laboratory environment and environment for experimentation, especially for small and medium-sized businesses (SME’s). LNI supports small and medium companies to introduce and implement Industry 4.0 solutions (



 Standardization Council Industrie (SCI) 4.0

The SCI 4.0 works on the standards for industry 4.0 and the co-ordination of them nationally and internationally. The SCI 4.0 also defines the need for new projects and organizes the (international) implementation (


The Platform Industrie 4.0 defines the general strategy and mainly larger corporations' participle in this organization. They provide the ‘means” for the Small and Medium (SME). Another very aspect here is the international co-operation. This is required to have “everybody” on board working towards a common goal (see next paragraph).



International Approach & Harmonization

…... [We discovered very soon that international cooperation is indispensable for many industry 4.0 issues. Skills for the digital age or IT security are fields that are better addressed together. Standardization and regulatory challenges require cooperation with other countries or supranational institutions. After all, the added value of digitized production is generated in networks - and they do not end at national borders. Of particular importance for German companies are, of course, European neighbors with whom they maintain close business relations....]

(Henning Banthien in blogpost Implementation of an Industry 4.0 Strategy - The German Plattform Industrie 4.0)


Europe has more (national) initiatives which include the French “Alliance Industrie du Futur”, the Italian “initiative Piano Industria 4.0” and the Dutch “Smart Industries”. Outside Europe we find the Industrial Internet Consortium (USA) and the Robot Revolution Initiative (Japan).


The Platform Industrie 4.0 has connections to these organizations and agreed on a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with China and developed a joint action plan.

A more comprehensive overview is provided below (Europe).

I4 Overview02

Key facts of the national I4.0 policies (p2) by Digital Transformation Monitor..


Plattform Industrie 4.0 already carries out intensive dialogues at international level: There is a close link to the EU Commission and the G20 countries in terms of European workshops, lectures, publications etc.


The Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Plattform Industrie 4.0 support the European Commission in its efforts to build a network of national initiatives at European level and to promote activities on industry 4.0 across Europe (Henning Banthien).


Next article, introducing RAMI is available for furher reading. 




(2018) GERMAN STANDARDIZATION ROADMAP, Industrie 4.0. Version 3. Berlin: Din e.V.

(2018) Details of the Asset Administration Shell from idea to implementation. Berlin, Platform Industry 4.0.

(2017) Key lessons from national industry 4.0 policy initiatives in Europe. Digital Transformation Monitor.

(2018) RAMI4.0 - a reference framework for digitalisation. Berlin, Platform Industrie 4.0.

Schweichart, K. Dr. Reference Architectural Model Industrie 4.0 (RAMI 4.0), an introduction. Berlin, Platform Industrie 4.0.

(2018) RAMI4.0 – Details of the Asset Administration Shell, from idea to implementation, Berlin, Platform Industrie 4.0.

Zaheer, M.A., Industry 4.0 Hierarchy Level, November 29. Industry 4.0 Hierarchy Level [Online]. [Accessed 06 July 2020]. Available at

Leeuw, Valentijn, de (2019). Concepts and Applications of the I4.0 Asset Administration Shell. [Accessed 05 July 2020]. Available at,orchestration%20systems%20or%20engineering%20tools.

(2017) Examples of the Asset Administration Shell for Industrie 4.0 Components –Basic Part. Frankfurt am Main, Germany, ZVEI.

Binder, C. (2017). Introduction to the „RAMI 4.0 Toolbox“. Salzburg, Salzburg University of Applied Sciences.

Fraile, F, Sanchis, R, Poler, Raul, Ortiz, A. October 18, 2019. Reference Models for Digital Manufacturing Platforms. Basel, Switzerland, MDPI.

Henning Banthien, "Implementation of an Industry 4.0 Strategy - The German Plattform Industrie 4.0", entry posted 25 January 2017,






The Federation of German Industries (BDI)


Bitkom is Germany’s digital association.


Federal ministry for economical affairs and energy


German Institute for Standardization


Expertise center for electrotechnical standardization in Germany

LNI 4.0

Labs Network Industrie 4.0

SCI 4.0

Standardization Council Industrie 4.0


Small & Medium Enterprises

Platform 4.0

Platform Industry 4.0 is sharing the digital transformation in manufacturing.  As a network from Germany we make change tangible, develop technical foundations and create worldwide impact.


Mechanical Engineering Industry


German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association

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