Industry 4.0 > Industry 4.0 and high automation in machinery industry

Industry 4.0 - Quest study

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Market survey about Industry 4.0 in machinery industry

How Industry 4.0 is distinguished from high automation

Picture Industry 4.0 up to the ERP

Machine-builders sometimes claim they had already implemented Industry 4.0 “years ago” in the automation of their machines. So Industry 4.0 is not news to them. The following article proves these machine-builders right – and disagrees on the other hand. Because what matters is the context of the machine-builders’ changes.

Automation technology passed through three stages since the eighties (see the three-part article serial about the trends in automation technology since 1980):


  1. The stage of the electrical mechanics as forerunners of automation technology until the beginning of the eighties.

  2. The transition to microelectronics and automation connected with slowly rising degree of integration of automation technology since the eighties.

  3. High automation with the determining trend of an ever higher degree of integration since the first decade of the new millennium.

There are high-miniaturized, high speed efficient microprocessors that belong to high automation opening an almost infinite function variety, storage of billions of data on smallest space, and data transfer in real time within the machine.

So software that determines the use of data and function variety has been growing up to the technological success factor already in high automation.

Industry 4.0 is technologically based on high automation

Industry 4.0 means a further, higher level, which will grow out of the frame of the current automation technology, however, in technological regard built on high automation.

The cyber physical system, abbreviated as CPS, belongs technologically and substantially to Industry 4.0. Into a component (individual component, subsystem, system) an informative layer able to communicate is integrated making the component self-aware, controllable and manageable.

High automation already knows such communication and diagnostic able components. Servo converters without resolvers reproduce the three-phase motor mathematically as motor model, which records the position of the rotor just as exactly as a resolver would do. CNC control systems map the path by fastidious interpolations. Sensors display if contamination hinders reliable signals. Image processing systems check product quality. These are already cyber physical systems, which can also communicate their values via Internet and are also controllable and manageable.

What now constitutes the difference between a CPS in high automation and in connection with Industry 4.0?

How a cyber-physical system differs in high automation and in Industry 4.0

In high automation the purpose of these CPS is predominantly focused on a specific production and maintenance task. So only the functional relation with the production task is of interest, i.e. whether the motor turns perfectly, the path corresponds exactly to the desired value, the sensor supplies reliably measured values, the product quality is good enough.

In contrast to this Industry 4.0 expands the purpose of a CPS in three ways.

First Industry 4.0 equips the component with information about its life cycle.

Furthermore Industry 4.0 integrates intelligence (microprocessor and software) into the component making the component controllable and manageable. Specific production and maintenance task remain existing but expanded by the informative capability of the component about its own state and by its ability to adapt to changing production tasks. The self-awareness about the own status serves for process optimisation and signals in time for maintenance and exchange (if necessary triggering autonomously orders of spare parts). The ability to adapt automatically to changing production tasks increases significantly the flexibility of production.

Finally Industry 4.0 expands the use of such CPS in comparison to high automation to all relevant individual components or subsystems of a machine or a plant so that the entire production process is integrated as system, into a systemic connection, running automatically within a predetermined frame, locally as internationally controllable and manageable. That encompasses the production task, its supply with inputs, the employment of staff and the distribution of the products. A CPS in Industry 4.0 provides the immanent tendency to turn the entire machine, the entire plant into a CPS.


  • So a CPS in high automation has common features with a CPS in Industry 4.0. Their difference is based on the qualitatively extended use of the latter that at the same time requires a more highly developed CPS that other than in high automation with Industry 4.0 is integrated into a systemic connection.

Software will develop from the technological success factor to the substantial success factor for the market power of a company

This changes again the role of software as the cyber side in the CPS. The variety of physical components becomes controllable and manageable by means of software codes. This functionality at almost every physical component turns the software from a crucial technological success factor further to the substantial success factor for the market power of a company.

However, there is no reason to render the meaning of the software in terms of absolute and to separate it from the connection with the physical components. The determining remains the unity of the two sides of a cyber physical system.