Industry 4.0

What is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 describes the organisation of production processes based on technology and devices autonomously communicating with each other along the value chain: it represents a model of the ‘smart’ factory of the future where computer-driven systems monitor physical processes and it takes account of the increased digitalisation of manufacturing industries.
Industry 4.0 was initially developed by the German government in 2012 to create a coherent policy framework to maintain Germany’s industrial competitiveness.

In the words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Industry 4.0 is ‘the comprehensive transformation of the whole sphere of industrial production through the merging of digital technology and the internet with conventional industry’. 

Industry 4.0’s key requirements are :

  • standardisation of systems, platforms, protocols;
  • changes in work organisation reflecting new business models;
  • digital security and protection of know-how;
  • availability of appropriately skilled workers;
  • research and investment;
Source : Industry 4.0 – Digitalisation for productivity and growth – European Parliament – 2016

Industry 4.0 depends on a number of new and innovative technological developments:

  • The application of information and communication technology (ICT) to digitise information and integrate systems at all stages of product creation and use (including logistics and supply), both inside companies and across company boundaries; EPRS Industry 4.0 Members’ Research Service Page 3 of 10
  • Cyber-physical systems that use ICTs to monitor and control physical processes and systems. These may involve embedded sensors, intelligent robots that can configure themselves to suit the immediate product to be created, or additive manufacturing (3D printing) devices;
  • Network communications including wireless and internet technologies that serve to link machines, work products, systems and people, both within the manufacturing plant, and with suppliers and distributors; Simulation, modelling and virtualisation in the design of products and the establishment of manufacturing processes;
  • Collection of vast quantities of data, and their analysis and exploitation, either immediately on the factory floor, or through big data analysis and cloud computing;
  • Greater ICT-based support for human workers, including robots, augmented reality and intelligent tools.

The main features of Industry 4.0 are:

  • Interoperability: cyber-physical systems (work-piece carriers, assembly stations and products) allow humans and smart factories to connect and communicate with each other.
  • Virtualisation: a virtual copy of the Smart Factory is created by linking sensor data with virtual plant models and simulation models.
  • Decentralisation: ability of cyber-physical systems to make decisions of their own and to produce locally thanks to technologies such as 3d printing.
  • Real-Time Capability: the capability to collect and analyse data and provide the derived insights immediately
  • Service Orientation.
  • Modularity: flexible adaptation of smart factories to changing requirements by replacing or expanding individual modules


Industry 4.0 is not the only term that describes these new phenomena in industrial production.

New terms and paradigmas such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Internet of Services are getting more and more widespread in everyday’s language to describe the digital integration of production and services, which are strictly related with the Industry 4.0 philosophy.

  • The Internet of Things: refers to IT systems connected to all sub-systems, processes, internal and external objects, supplier and customer networks; that communicate and cooperate with each other and with humans.
    According to some projections, by 2020, 30 billion devices – from a jet liner to a sewing needle – will be connected to the internet.
  • The Internet of Services: refers to internal and cross-organizational services which are offered and utilised by participants in the value chain and driven by big data and cloud computing.
  • Advanced manufacturing: Another term often cited in the literature to describe innovations in technology improving products or processes.
  • Cyber-physical systems which are made up of software embedded in hardware such as sensors, processors and communication technologies and can autonomously exchange information, trigger actions and control each other independently.
  • Smart factory: This and the related term ‘factory of the future’ exemplify some of the technical innovations under Industry 4.0 such as integration of ICT in the production process and how these could play out in practice.


A number of EU Member States are sponsoring Industry 4.0-related initiatives, including Germany, Italy, France and the UK, which represent the largest industrial sectors by value added in the EU.

Starting in 2010, the German government has contributed €200 million to the Industry 4.0 initiative to encourage the development of ‘smart factories’.

Building on Germany’s strength in embedded systems, this initiative brings together private businesses, the public sector and academia to create and implement a 10 to 15- year plan for applying digital technologies to the industrial sector.

In Italy, the Fabbrica del Futuro govermnental project (2011-13) supported research initiatives in areas including customisation of products, reconfigurable factories, high performance and sustainability. By making use of technologies in the areas of ICT, material recovery, control systems, factory reconfiguration, quality control and man-machine interaction, the project aimed to enhance quality, flexibility and customisation in manufacturing.

In 2016 Italian government also introduced a number of relevant fiscal advantages to support companiesi investments in Industry 4.0 equipments and technologies.

The UK has initiated a number of policies to make manufacturing more responsive, more sustainable, more open to new markets and more dependent on skilled workers.

In April 2015, France launched a plan for the Factory of the Future to create demonstration centres (vitrines technologiques) to showcase new products and services. Particular emphasis has been placed on aid to small and medium-sized enterprises, with €1 billion available in loans to SMEs that want to start robotics,digitalisation or energy-efficiency projects.


Key preconditions are clearly required for the successful implementation of Industry 4.0 in a company:

which means

  • Standardisation of systems, platforms, protocols, connections, interfaces
  • Work organisation : complex systems will have to be easily managed. Real-time oriented control will transform work content and processes & environment
  • New business models will have to be developed and implemented
  • The availability of a new generation of skilled workers which can design and operate Industry 4.0 establishments

The availability of powerful, effective but still user-friendly software is clearly at the heart of any Industry 4.0 technology.

LIBELLULA has been designing innovative, highly performing software in the metal sheet cutting category for over 25 years, often anticipating trends through rule-breaking and visionary solutions, fully integrated in production process and incredibly easy to use through intuitive interfaces

The features of a number of LIBELLULA UNIVERSE suite software are fully in Industry 4.0 making them the perfect choices for innovating, future-oriented companies, such as

The new, revolutionary module connected to Libellula.WIZARD which grants an extraordinary simplifying of sheet scraps recovery process.

All geometrical parameters in just One Click

Nesting, parameters and machine programming in just 4 steps

Automated planning at the highest levels

ERP / CAM and MRP / CAM interface: different systems, a single database.

The warehouse management in “real time”

The intelligent dynamic power intake system for highly efficient suction of dust and industrial gases

Sources : Industry 4.0 (European Parliament, 2016) – Industry 4.0 : Digitalisation for productivity and growth (European Parliament, 2015)
9 June 2017