Bosch Software Innovations

The IoT helps factories of the future Machines, organize yourselves! Industry 4.0: flexible factories and production

  • Real-time production capability
  • Cyber-physical systems connect the real and virtual worlds
  • Parts communicate with machines
Add to my press materials
Save text
  • February 06, 2014
  • Bosch Software Innovations
  • Press releases

press release

    In the factory of the future, parts will tell machines how they “want” to be processed.
    This will make it efficient to produce small batches and customized products.

Stuttgart/Berlin – The internet of things has the potential to link all objects in the world. This also paves the way for the factory of the future, in which all machines and the products they produce stay in close contact. The key term here is “Industry 4.0.”

Before: versions 1.0 to 3.0
This term implies that there must have already been versions 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0, and indeed these refer to specific epochs in industrial history. Industry 1.0 refers to the steam-powered machines that to varying degrees took on heavy physical work for people, for instance in transportation or mines. Version 2.0 is characterized by the assembly line, which sped up production by dividing processes into steps, making it faster, cheaper, and more efficient. This allowed mass markets to be served. A classic example is the production of the Ford Model T, of which 15 million were built in the United States between 1908 and 1927. Industry 3.0 refers to computers, and the robots and machines they control, which allow an extensive degree of automation in production and a reduction in costs. This is the current status quo in industry.

Now: Industry 4.0
The future of industry is built on all of these things, but is far more flexible. And to some degree, it has the capacity to self-organize, since parts will tell machines how and when they “want” to be processed. The societal trend towards customization is a driving force for this. In such a factory, the lubricant is information, which tells the machines and robots how they should organize themselves for each project.

This interaction between machines, software, and information is known as a cyber-physical system. The network of programs with mechanical and electrical components communicates via the internet. This makes constant coordination possible, even between locations around the world and beyond company boundaries. Cyber-physical systems connect the real and the virtual world.

“Opportunity for German industry”
“Industry 4.0 presents German industry with many opportunities – as both supplier and user. One of these is the ability to continue producing in high-cost locations,” says Dr. Volkmar Denner, the CEO of Bosch. This kind of production needs more than just machines, it takes qualified and creative experts.

Sports shoe configurator
One example is the customized sports shoe. A website allows customers to configure their desired model through a series of clicks: green uppers, dark red logo, yellow laces. When the representation shown in the web-based configurator matches the customer's wishes, the order is sent to the factory with a mouse click. There, a robot selects the right materials and brings them to the machines, which cut the fabric and the logo and create the desired custom shoe. Upon completion, the shipping department automatically sends it on to the customer. The customer is kept informed about the order at every stage by email. And the shoemaker's supply system knows when it is time to send off an order for new materials.

In short, the flexible, information-driven cyber-physical system makes possible a real-time production capability – not only for cost-effective customized shoes but also for self-designed t-shirts, custom blends of muesli, or PCs.

Workpieces “know” what to do
Denner cites housings as another example: “In future production setups, housings will be transported by an autonomous system from the production area to the assembly hall. The part “knows” the different steps in its processing; it uses the automated transport system to reach the next available machine, then tells the machine the finished product it should create and gives it the specifications. This is repeated from one process step to the next – including the subsequent logistics chain. The prerequisite is to have open, integrated software and hardware architectures. This encourages re-envisioning and collaboration.”

Communication by smart objects
Plattform Industrie 4.0, an initiative of several industry associations in Germany, sees a similar pattern. “Which detergent belongs in the bottle? How does the metal blank need to be cut? Where does the spare part need to be sent? In the era of Industry 4.0, products know the answers themselves and they can inform the machines what needs to be done to them. The objects become smart. They have barcodes or RFID chips attached that contain the required information. Scanners and computers read the data and transmit it online – and make sure that the machines respond appropriately. This is how smart objects communicate. An internet of things is created. The physical world and the virtual world converge into cyber-physical systems.”

According to German's Federal Education Minister, Johanna Wanka, it's a question of speed: “The economy is poised on the edge of a fourth industrial revolution. The Industry 4.0 project gives us the chance to play a part in customizing this process and thus securing Germany's long-term prosperity. Research can help reorganize production processes and improve structures. But it is just as important that these results take hold quickly in everyday business.”

Fraunhofer study:
A shoe configurator:
Custom muesli:
Germany's Federal Ministry of Education and Research on Industry 4.0:
Plattform Industrie 4.0:
Acatech on Industry 4.0:
Five good reasons for Industry 4.0:
Final report of the Industry 4.0 working group:

The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 375,000 associates worldwide (as of December 31, 2015). The company generated sales of 70.6 billion euros in 2015. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 440 subsidiaries and regional companies in some 60 countries. Including sales and service partners, Bosch’s global manufacturing and sales network covers some 150 countries. The basis for the company’s future growth is its innovative strength. Bosch employs 55,800 associates in research and development at 118 locations across the globe. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to deliver innovations for a connected life. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.”

The company was set up in Stuttgart in 1886 by Robert Bosch (1861-1942) as “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering.” The special ownership structure of Robert Bosch GmbH guarantees the entrepreneurial freedom of the Bosch Group, making it possible for the company to plan over the long term and to undertake significant up-front investments in the safeguarding of its future. Ninety-two percent of the share capital of Robert Bosch GmbH is held by Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH, a charitable foundation. The majority of voting rights are held by Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG, an industrial trust. The entrepreneurial ownership functions are carried out by the trust. The remaining shares are held by the Bosch family and by Robert Bosch GmbH.

Additional information is available online at and,

PI8450 - February 06, 2014

Your contact person for journalists

Thilo Resenhoeft

+49 711 811-7088 Send Email

Share this information