Industry 4.0 Terms & Concepts

Buzzwords and abbreviations dominate the public debate on Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing. It is difficult to navigate in this jungle of terms, and therefore, we have made an easy-to-read guide for you with a collection of the important terms and concepts of Industry 4.0.

(Please note, there are new entries being added frequently, however not on a regular basis.)

If you found any incorrect information or typo on these pages, do not hesitate to get in touch with us! We are glad to receive your message.


Smart Factory and Smart Manufacturing

Smart Manufacturing and the Smart Factory is a broad category of manufacturing with the goal of optimizing the manufacturing process. Smart Manufacturing is the process that employs computer controls, modelling, big data and other automation to improve manufacturing efficiencies.

Smart Manufacturing aims to take advantage of advanced information and manufacturing technologies to enable flexibility in physical processes to address a dynamic and global market. 

Smart Manufacturing is being predicted as the next Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0. And, as with many other advances throughout recent years, it all has to do with technology connectivity and the advances in the contextualization of data.

Definition 1: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines Smart Manufacturing as systems that are “fully-integrated, collaborative manufacturing systems that respond in real time to meet changing demands and conditions in the factory, in the supply network, and in customer needs.” 

Definition 2: The SMLC definition states, "Smart Manufacturing is the ability to solve existing and future problems via an open infrastructure that allows solutions to be implemented at the speed of business while creating advantaged value."  

(Source: Manufacturing Tomorrow)

IoT and IIoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a computing concept that describes the idea of everyday physical objects being connected to the internet and being able to identify themselves to other devices.

The IoT is significant because an object that can represent itself digitally becomes something greater than the object by itself. No longer does the object relate just to its user, but is now connected to surrounding objects and database data. When many objects act in unison, they are known as having "ambient intelligence."

The internet of things is a difficult concept to define precisely. In fact, there are many different groups that have defined the term, although its initial use has been attributed to Kevin Ashton, an expert on digital innovation. Each definition shares the idea that the first version of the internet was about data created by people, while the next version is about data created by things. In 1999, Ashton said it best in this quote from an article in the RFID Journal:

"If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things – using data they gathered without any help from us – we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best."

Most people think about being connected in terms of computers, tablets and smartphones. IoT describes a world where just about anything can be connected and communicate in an intelligent fashion. In other words, with the internet of things, the physical world is becoming one big information system.

(Source: Techopedia)

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the use of Internet of Things technologies in manufacturing.

Also known as the Industrial Internet, IIoT incorporates machine learning and big data technology, harnessing the sensor data, machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and automation technologies that have existed in industrial settings for years.

The driving philosophy behind the IIoT is that smart machines are better than humans at accurately, consistently capturing and communicating data. This data can enable companies to pick up on inefficiencies and problems sooner, saving time and money and supporting business intelligence efforts. In manufacturing specifically, IIoT holds great potential for quality control, sustainable and green practices, supply chain traceability and overall supply chain efficiency.

(Source: Techtarget)


Industrial Ethernet

Industrial Ethernet (IE) is the use of Ethernet in an industrial environment with protocols that provide determinism and real-time control. Protocols for Industrial Ethernet include EtherCAT, EtherNet/IP, PROFINET, POWERLINK, SERCOS III, CC-Link IE, and Modbus/TCP.

Industrial Ethernet can also refer to the use of standard Ethernet protocols with rugged connectors and extended temperature switches in an industrial environment, for automation or process control. Components used in plant process areas must be designed to work in harsh environments of temperature extremes, humidity, and vibration that exceed the ranges for information technology equipment intended for installation in controlled environments.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Cyber-Physical Systems

Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) are integrations of computation, networking, and physical processes.

Embedded computers and networks monitor and control the physical processes, with feedback loops where physical processes affect computations and vice versa.

The economic and societal potential of such systems is vastly greater than what has been realized, and major investments are being made worldwide to develop the technology.

The technology builds on the older (but still very young) discipline of embedded systems, computers and software embedded in devices whose principle mission is not computation, such as cars, toys, medical devices, and scientific instruments.

CPS integrates the dynamics of the physical processes with those of the software and networking, providing abstractions and modeling, design, and analysis techniques for the integrated whole.

As a discipline, CPS is an engineering discipline, focused on technology, with a strong foundation in mathematical abstractions.

(Source: UC Berkeley)

Digital Twin

A digital twin is a virtual representation of a product. It can be used in product design, simulation, monitoring, optimization and servicing and is an important concept in the industrial Internet of Things.

Digital twins are created in the same computer-aided design (CAD) and modeling software that designers and engineers use in the early stages of product development. The difference with a digital twin is that the model is retained for later stages of the product's lifecycle, such as inspection and maintenance.

According to product lifecycle management (PLM) expert Michael Grieves, who was among the first to use the term, the concept of the digital twin requires three elements: the physical product in real space, its digital twin in virtual space and the information that links the two.

Sensors connected to the physical product can collect data and send it back to the digital twin, and their interaction can help optimize the product's performance. For example, sensors might detect when a car's engine oil needs changing, and the car's digital twin will have an overlay image indicating the new information, which can appear on the owner's smartphone or the manufacturer's PLM system. Some manufacturers, including power tool maker Black & Decker, have extended the digital twin concept to encompass assembly lines and other factory systems.

The same images overlaid with real-time sensor data can be used in augmented reality (AR) applications for product maintenance and field service. In AR, the digital twin must be able to follow the product's location and movement.

(Source: TechTarget)