Many manufacturers are grappling with what Industry 4.0, the so-called fourth industrial revolution, will mean for them. To recap, Industry 4.0 envisages cyber-physical systems. These are physical systems that are represented by a virtual image (digital twin) plus data that together depict all the possibilities and capabilities of the networked production participants, as well as their current states. A physical production participant can make independent decisions and communicate these to neighbouring production units to cause action without need of human intervention. So, by having a digital twin, full offline simulation of a production system is possible; and by having all the data about the current system’s status, production planning and forecasting is accurate, while process bottlenecks or anomalies can be spotted and dealt with, or predictive equipment maintenance supported. On the manufactured product side, Industry 4.0 also takes in connected products able to supply use data to designers or product suppliers.

That’s the top-level big picture. Helpfully, EEF (‘the manufacturers’ organisation’) has, supported by Oracle, published a report ( designed to prime UK manufacturers on the practicalities of Industry 4.0, which EEF calls ‘4IR’ (fourth industrial revolution). This breaks the concept of Industry 4.0 into digestible chunks and helps firms make the connection between theory and practice, using case studies to show how Industry 4.0 technologies and techniques could work.

These examples centre on smarter relationships, smarter production and smarter products. They include creating a digitised warehouse using RFID tracking of inventory to create a smarter inventory management system, using production line simulation or virtualisation to identify the most efficient layout for production, and the use of always-connected products that allow predictive maintenance (see also Machinery’s Autodesk University report [], which picks up on some of this).

The publication says that Industry 4.0 will herald smarter production, relationships and products and will boost the number of high-skilled jobs in the UK. But it warns that the speed of change will be unprecedented, leaving little room for complacency. Without industry and supply chain leadership, coupled with a supportive industrial strategy, the UK could be left behind.

Lee Hopley, chief economist at EEF, says: “4IR is happening and the UK’s success in this global industrial transformation will hinge on manufacturers’ strategies and ambitions. It goes far beyond simply investing in new technologies and techniques – this new era requires cultural shifts, new business models and the ability to adapt and innovate.


“This report is about sharing this insight with manufacturers but, more importantly, also providing practical examples so that 4IR stops being about theory and starts being about something that manufacturers can genuinely see how and why to apply. By helping to connect principle to practice, we aim to put our sector in the driving seat, building confidence and awareness, so that UK manufacturers can be at the forefront of this new industrial wave.”

Vikram Singla, product innovation and supply chain apps leader at Oracle, adds: “It is very encouraging to see that UK manufacturers have taken note of the major changes coming to their industry and the role of technology. The technological element of this transformation is critical, as it will mean change happens at unprecedented pace.

“Cloud computing in particular and the scale, speed, flexibility and agility it enables will mean businesses will very quickly be able to make changes to everything from production processes to the way they manage their supply chains, product innovation and customer relationships. Similarly, in a smarter, more technological age of manufacturing, cloud will help businesses to collect and analyse the data created by their business processes, instilling a culture of constant improvement, refinement and efficiency.”

Leaving such top-level thinking and focusing on matters of detail, TÜV SÜD business line manager for machinery safety Neil Dyson (right) says that Industry 4.0 is progressing more quickly on the software side than on the machine tool and equipment side, but that it will affect equipment OEMs and end users. Industry 4.0 systems may be automatically reconfigurable, and it is how people interact with these varying system configurations that Dyson homes in on.

TÜV SÜD ( is a notified body that can be called upon to confirm that a machine complies with the EU Machinery Safety Directive’s Essential Health & Safety Requirements (EHSRs). To be placed on the market in the EU, machinery and equipment must be safe, according to the directive/regulations – CE marked.

“In an Industry 3.0 [today] situation, you will risk assess a machine and nothing is going to change. And if you update something, you’ll have to revisit certain things to make sure the EHSRs are covered, but it won’t change too much; it’s going to make a product ad infinitum. With Industry 4.0, at the touch of a button machinery and production lines can be instantly changed. As it is the original configuration that is risk assessed, such instant updates mean that the traditional approach of ‘risk assessment as you make changes’ will become obsolete. The solution may be to cover all eventualities within the CE marking.”

He is not talking about a single entity such as an enclosed CNC machine tool here but a system that is more complex and has multiple active elements that may be swapped in and out. In such a case, there is scope for variation in the nature of human-machine interaction between configurations, and hence variation in risk for operators, setters and maintenance staff, requiring documentation and related training. The digitally signed element comes down to a section, or sections, within a piece of equipment’s or a system’s legally required Technical Construction File that will define each planned alternative set-up or configuration and its compliance with EHSRs, gaining a Declaration of Conformity (DoC – CE mark) for that use.

Equipment that may become part of a set-up but which has no function on its own (partly complete machinery) would be covered by a Declaration of Incorporation – DoIs exist already (see Once incorporated into the system, the complete modified system configuration is covered by a DoC, as long as this configuration has been covered in the main Technical Construction File.

This is really a conceptual idea rather than one that can be linked to something now, Dyson underlines, adding: “I haven’t seen any machine that is anywhere near this process yet.” But he suggests it needs to be taken account of, understood and planned for. “No one is really addressing this, but it is what is ultimately going to happen. It does rely on available sensor technology and that has a cost, so as that falls it becomes more attractive. And if there isn’t an industrial requirement for it, then it won’t happen quickly, either. However, I believe that by 2020, some of this will be coming into play. TÜV SÜD is talking about this with OEMs and clients globally.”


What manufacturers think about Industry 4.0 – according to EEF

EEF’s research shows that just four in 10 (42%) have a good handle on Industry 4.0. At the same time, manufacturers are aware that it will lead to crucial transformation, both at a business and industry level.

Over six in 10 manufacturers (61%) say digital technologies will boost productivity, while three quarters (74%) say that Industry 4.0 will fundamentally change customers’ expectations. This in turn will require firms to change and adapt in order to meet marketplace needs.

Almost seven in 10 (68%) say that Industry 4.0 will happen faster than previous industry changes. And while most are seemingly confident about managing the pace of change, almost four in 10 (39%) are concerned about their firm’s ability to keep up.

This article appeared in the January 2017 issue of Machinery magazine.