Industry 4.0: It’s all about information technology this time

A favorite theme many speakers — especially futurists — like to invoke is that we’ve passed the industrial revolution, or even the information revolution that superseded it, and we’re now in some kind of “post-information” revolution. Some people, especially on the European side of the pond, have another name for it, calling it “Industry 4.0.”

Just to clarify this phenomenon, the numbering wasn’t meant to align with any of the information technology waves of the past few decades — Web 2.0, et. al. But the transformation promised with Industry 4.0 has everything to do with IT.

“Industry 4.0” was the brainchild of the German government, and describes the next phase in manufacturing — a so-called fourth industrial revolution. The phases consist of the following:

Industry 1.0: Water/steam power
Industry 2.0: Electric power
Industry 3.0: Computing power
Industry 4:0: Internet of Things (IoT) power

As you can imagine, building a new industrial paradigm around IoT calls for IT managers and professionals to step up and support new growth in new ways. Many of the technologies enterprises are putting into place today will form the core of Industry 4.0.

Boston Consulting Group (BCG) just published a primer that identifies the nine technology areas that underpin Industry 4.0, and it almost reads like the checklist of any enterprise IT shop seeking to keep up with the digital era:

Horizontal and vertical system integration: Industry 4.0 calls for an enterprise view of data and networking of systems. It’s the only way to ensure collaboration not only across enterprise departments, but also between partners across value chains.