Industrie 4.0 is opportunity, challenge

China is pushing ahead with Industrie 4.0 with 94 intelligent manufacturing efforts in China Manufacturing 2025; challenges remain.


Courtesy: Control Engineering ChinaIndustrie 4.0 is the fourth industrial revolution, the general orientation, transformation, and upgrade of the manufacturing industry, and an unprecedented opportunity for development in the industrial automation industry. Whether large-scale application of robots or wise use of factory Internet, it will bring huge changes to the global manufacturing industry. 

Blueprint, 94 special projects

2015 is the first year of China for Industrie 4.0. On May 8, 2015, the State Council released the strategic planning of China Manufacturing 2025, which symbolizes the formal implementation of the Chinese blueprint for Industrie 4.0. After that, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology also introduced 94 special projects of intelligent manufacturing, initiated more than 30 pilot demonstration projects of intelligent manufacturing, and released a package of relevant policies to promote and actively implement the China Manufacturing 2025 strategy.

For a while, publicity about Industrie 4.0 and intelligent factory demonstration projects was overwhelming, boiling the manufacturing industry of China overnight. After more than a half year, people tend to have calmer thinking about Industrie 4.0 after following it blindly at the start and finding few shortcuts on the road of transformation leading to intelligent manufacturing. Instead, it calls for a more down-to-earth craftsman spirit.

Transformation, upgrades

Developed countries are speeding up the implementation of reindustrialization, and developing countries are also speeding up the industrialization process. China is confronting dual challenges from the advanced technologies of developed countries and low-cost competition of developing countries, so it is extremely urgent to accelerate industrial transformation and upgrade.

"Different from developed countries stepping into Industrie 4.0 based on Industry 3.0, China not only needs to keep up with Industrie 4.0, but also needs to make up missed lessons in Industry 2.0 and Industry 3.0," pointed out Li Keqiang, premier of the State Council. 

Slow start at first

In spite of very bright prospects of Industrie 4.0, it is a long-term process to implement. At earlier stages, no effects may be obvious after great amounts of spending and effort. In moving from Industry 2.0 and Industry 3.0 to Industrie 4.0, there will be huge challenges.

Industrie 4.0 needs powerful hardware support to complete the functions such as data collection and acquisition, network connections, computational analysis, visualization, and more, while the hardware investment cost is rather high.

To obtain more information about machine efficiency and health, more sensors will need to be installed. After a data connection is established, massive amounts of data will come out of the machine in real time, although data transmission speed and transmission quality are affected by hardware quality. The analysis, cleansing, and storage of big data also need support from high performance computers and mass storage memory media. At present, many factories have no such hardware or data connections, and a digitalized analysis platform will require additional investments.

Safety, security

Aileen Jin, editor-in-chief, Control Engineering China, explains that the new environmental protection law in China may translate into large investments in controls, automation, and instrumentation. Courtesy: Control Engineering ChinaAnother challenge comes from safety and security. Industrial data often contains many trade secrets. Risk of divulging secrets increases with data transmission and analysis. With industrial big data analysis, a factory may cooperate with a third-party data analysis company, which separates the analysis algorithm or software of intelligent data from a factory's internal data environment. Safely securing a connection between data in a factory and an analysis platform outside the factory becomes difficult.

Industrie 4.0 needs to be implemented. Future engineers will no longer focus on just one field. Instead, they need to grasp multidisciplinary knowledge. At present, lack of comprehensive talents in the industrial circles and the gap in human resources are challenges in the realization of Industrie 4.0.

Aileen Jin is editor-in-chief of Control Engineering China; Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,


Key concepts

Industrie 4.0 is being demonstrated in 94 projects in China.

Investments and efforts may produce few recognizable benefits initially.

Security of off-site data analysis is a concern. 

Consider this

When will you be implementing the best practices from Industrie 4.0?

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