Industry 4.0

By Tabitha Mishra
Last updated: July 16, 2024

What Does Industry 4.0 Mean?

Industry 4.0 is a shorthand for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a period that marked a notable shift in industry and manufacturing. Specifically, widespread digitization, greater automation, the Internet of Things (IoT), and the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) in manufacturing processes.

The term gained prominence in 2016 when the World Economic Forums made “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution” the theme of its annual meeting.

Safeopedia Explains Industry 4.0

To understand the significance of Industry 4.0, it is best to contextualize it among the previous industrial revolutions. Here is a brief overview:

The First Industrial Revolution

Beginning in 18th century Britain, the Industrial Revolution is a historical period marked by the easing of manual labor through the use of coal- and steam-powered machinery. This new technology gave rise to the modern factory, which quickly outpaced workshops and cottage-based manufacturing due to its greater productivity and efficiency.

Sprawling railway networks and steamships also facilitated commerce, providing incentives to speed up production.

The Second Industrial Revolution

The second major transformation in industrial processes came about at the end of the 19th century with the emergence of new energy sources. Oil, gas, and electricity supplanted coal and steam as the primary engines of production.

This era also saw the advent of the internal combustion engine and the invention of the telegraph and telephone, both of which created new efficiencies across various industries.

The Second Industrial Revolution is also known as the Technological Revolution, differentiating from the previous industrial revolution which was characterized by mechanization.

The Third Industrial Revolution

The next industrial revolution took place in the second half of the 20th century and is marked by the rise of digital technology, including electronics, computers, and telecommunications.

In addition to improving manufacturing efficiency, these technologies gave rise to a number of new industries, such as space exploration and biotechnology.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is in some ways an extension of the Information Age brought about by widespread digitization during the Third Industrial Revolution. Its distinguishing feature is not the use of digital technology per se, but the automation facilitated by that technology. Rather than speeding up analog processes through digital technology, the technology handles many of the processes by itself.

This has been driven by a number of emerging technologies, including the Internet of Things, cloud-based computing, machine learning, and large language models. These advanced technologies have been made possible due to faster computing, affordable data storage, and smaller chips and sensors.

The Nine Pillars of Industry 4.0

A paper presented at the 2nd International Conference on Materials Manufacturing and Design Engineering identified nine pillars of Industry 4.0:

  1. Big data and analytics
  2. Autonomous robots
  3. Simulation
  4. System integration
  5. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
  6. Cyber security and cyber-physical systems (CPS)
  7. Cloud-based platforms
  8. Additive manufacturing
  9. Augmented reality


The Fourth Industrial Revolution

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