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Industry 4.0: Key Design Principles

by Daron Underwood, Vice President R&D, CTO

Key Design Principles of Industry 4.0Industry 4.0 refers to a trend or concept in the current manufacturing industry that focuses on automation of processes and data exchange. The initiative integrates the IoT, cyber-enhanced systems and cloud computing. It originated in Germany, and advocates for the full automation of manufacturing processes.

The Design Principles of Industry 4.0

This manufacturing concept is based on 4 key principles, aimed at ensuring that all manufacturing processes are computerized.

These include:


This refers to the ability of machinery and related components to connect and communicate with people through the Internet.

Transparency in information

This principle requires that information systems should be able to create virtual copies of the physical world by configuration of digital data into sensor data. For this to be achieved, raw sensor data has to be aggregated with compatible context data.

Technical assistance

This concerns the ability of the systems to support humans through comprehensive aggregation and visualization of information for better decision-making and quick solutions to problems. Technical assistance also focuses on the ability of cyber-enabled systems to physically support human resources by handling various tasks, which are considered time-consuming, harmful and exhausting to people.

Decentralization of decisions

This principle refers to the ability of cyber-enabled systems to independently come up with decisions and carry out their dedicated functions. This can only be changed in the event of interferences or conflicts with the intended goals, which may require some tasks to be handled at other levels. The concept is characterized by greater customization of products in flexible manufacturing environments, as in industries dealing with mass production.

From Industry 1.0 to Industry 4.0

The key focus of this strategy is to effect various means of self-diagnosis, configuration, optimization, cognition and intelligence towards the support of people across various working environments. An example of machines that operate on this concept is those that can predict hitches, react to unexpected changes and facilitate maintenance autonomously.

Industry 4.0 is a “smart factory” initiative that advocates for the use of cyber-enabled systems in monitoring physical processes, creating virtual copies of the physical environment, and making decisions in industries. The information can be used by humans in facilitating various industrial processes or actions for improved productivity.

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