Dr. Henning Bork
Dr. Henning Bork
After studying mechanical engineering in Darmstadt, Berkeley and a doctorate in Munich, Dr. Henning Bork currently signs as "Senior Director Strategy" at ASM. He puts a strong focus on the development of the SMT Smart Factory and the digitization of business processes.

Three reasons why it has taken several decades to advance to Industry 4.0

A short look back with the help of Wikipedia: How did connectivity and the Internet evolve from the 1960s to 2000s?

(Image: ©5 Second Studio)

The basic idea of connecting computers was created in the 1960s in the military defense research program (Darpa). The starting point of connecting computers can be traced back to the late 1960s, when researchers at several universities in California and Utah transferred the first bits between
UCLA and SRI (Stanford). The development of protocols, HTML and browsers laid the groundwork for the Internet and the World Wide Web (WWW).

The tipping point was in the early 1990s when the first Internet providers started offering Internet access as a service for privately owned computers.
The next major step in the application of the technology took place when the Internet became social and the existing relationship between users
fixed sites was extended to connect people (e.g., social media).

This graphics shows the rapid development that had taken place: Explosion of Internet Hosts count (Source: Wikipedia).

The second major step in the usage of social media was the launch of the smartphone in 2007.
From a business perspective, many companies also realized the value of the data being created in all those applications and transformed this value into well-known digital business models.

Based on these major steps there are three reasons for me why it took such a long time to advance from connectivity to Industry 4.0.

Reason 1: Industry 4.0 is a consequence of abilities, but needed time to evolve.

People and production have always been driven by new technologies. The targets in every production are yield, throughput and inventory at the lowest costs. Every production application requires new solutions to be very mature. In past and current productions environments, it has been impossible to implement a solution that is not yet mature, as the above-mentioned targets will automatically show this immaturity. As such, it simply took time for these new solutions to reach a level of maturity that was sufficient for production requirements.
In contrast to this new functions appeared in the context of the Internet in the 1990s and 2000s, no legacy solutions were already in place that needed to be outperformed. As a consequence it was easier to use the new possibilities in the social context and has taken time for all solutions to mature, before they could be deployed into production.

Reason 2: The experience of the value of connectivity.

A second major point had to become true as well: people had to experience the value of connectivity and the arising possibilities on their own. As the changes needed to move to Industry 4.0 are fundamental, people (and managers) must be convinced of the general value of connectivity, data analysis, etc. As such, I believe that experience with regard to connectivity in society in general was a precondition before Industrie 4.0 concepts could be accepted. The good news is that this acceptance is becoming stronger with each new generation that is being hired and promoted in production environments

Reason 3: Connectivity in the social context and the new level of abstraction helped to formulate the concept of Industry 4.0.

The step from Industry 3.0 to Industry 4.0 represents a major innovation. In many innovations, the important first step is to advance from the problem description to a more general (and abstract) view of the situation. I believe that connectivity in the social context has helped people view manufacturing challenges from a more general perspective. This new perspective, paired with the availability of new solutions, has helped to formulate the concept of Industry 4.0


  • It has taken more than four decades to advance from the beginnings of computer connectivity to the Industry 4.0 concept.
    Solutions needed time to mature before they could be introduced into manufacturing environments.
  • People needed to experience the value of connectivity and associated services on their own before they were willing to accept the fundamental changes required by the Industry 4.0 concept.
  • Connectivity and other solutions have helped people to view production from a different perspective and helped to formulate the Industry 4.0 concept.
  • Nowadays, many solutions can already be found on the shop floor (for example, the ASM Process Expert) while others are still on the horizon, which I will have a closer look at in further post.

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