The precise definition of Industry 4.0 is shrouded in mystery. Even the name is a source of debate. Should it be Industry 4.0; the German variation, Industrie 4.0; IR4; or the fourth industrial Revolution? The consensus is that the term covers the coming together of technologies like cloud computing; data analytics; the Internet of Things and 3D printing, to bring far-reaching benefits to manufacturers across all market sectors.

While technological interoperability is critical, people are often the catalyst for Industry 4.0. Customers are becoming more demanding in what they expect from technology. They want better products and services delivered more quickly and easily at less cost. Manufacturers need to understand this and adapt their design and development processes accordingly.

The other key driver is that technology at the disposal of manufacturers is becoming more functionally-rich, relevant and accessible. The capabilities of artificial intelligence and data analytics are growing and new methodologies like machine learning and servitisation are thriving.

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By Mike Stanbridge, AB Agri; Chandru Shankar, Microsoft; Mark Breeden, HSO and Alex West, IHS Markit Research