History Lesson: Industry 4.0 [Visual Explainer]

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)

Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is the era of integrating intelligent digital technologies into industrial processes at scale.

Industry 4.0 tech

Overlapping with the Third Industrial Revolution (AKA Digital Revolution), 4IR has seen the rapid development of advanced manufacturing technologies, including:

  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Machine learning (ML)
  • Big Data analytics
  • Augmented reality (AR)
  • Virtual reality (VR)
  • Advanced robotics
  • Cyber-physical systems (CPS)
  • Cloud computing
  • Blockchain
  • 3D printing (additive manufacturing)
  • 5G
  • Digital Twin
  • Smart materials
  • Predictive maintenance
  • and much more

The Birth of Industry 4.0

In 2011, the term Industrie 4.0 emerges as part of Germany’s initiative championing the digitalization of manufacturing processes.

High Tech Strategy 2020

In 2012, the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy announces the High-Tech Strategy 2020 initiative to push digital transformation in the manufacturing sector.


In 2013, Industry 4.0 is selected as the central theme of the HANNOVER MESSE trade fair in Germany.

Industry 4.0 Roadmap

In 2014, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy releases the first edition of the Industrie 4.0 Roadmap.

World Economic Forum

In 2015, the World Economic Forum officially recognizes Industry 4.0 as part of 4IR.


In 2016, the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) releases its Industrial Internet Reference Architecture (IIRA).

ISO 18435-1:2017

In 2017, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) announces the first international standard specific to Industry 4.0.

Made in China 2025

In 2019, the Peoples Republic of China announces the Made in China initiative, emphasizing advanced digital transformation technologies to boost the country’s manufacturing industry.


In 2020, adoption of digital manufacturing technologies accelerates as companies seek effective remote collaboration capabilities.


In 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announces the NNMI program.

First smart factory

In 2022, Volkswagen opens its first smart factory in Germany.

2023 and beyond

Today the term Industry 5.0, though not officially recognized, is gaining steam as manufacturers seek to achieve full digital manufacturing ecosystems that drive continuous improvement and innovation.