Press release #Business/economy

Robot coworkers, climate action, and AI

industrie 4.0

Milestones from ten years of Industry 4.0 at Bosch

Dennis Christmann

Dennis Christmann >

One decade, four billion euros in sales, countless opportunities – for Bosch, Industry 4.0 is a success story. The company is a pioneer in connected manufacturing and is consistently pursuing its idea of the factory of the future. Key stages from ten years of Industry 4.0 at Bosch:

2011: The fourth industrial revolution gets a name

A smart factory with machines that are connected, communicate with each other, and organize themselves – with people at the center of it all, orchestrating more efficient, more flexible, and more customized production. Originally called “cyber-physical production systems”, this idea receives a catchier name in 2011: “Industrie 4.0” (Industry 4.0). With the official go-ahead given for the German government’s pioneering project, the German term quickly takes hold around the world.

2012: Bosch takes over the chairmanship of the Industry 4.0 working group

From concept to development: chaired by Siegfried Dais, former deputy chairman of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH, and Prof. Henning Kagermann, president of acatech, the Industry 4.0 working group draws up initial recommendations for implementing a successful path into the fourth industrial age. They send their recommendations to the German federal government in October 2012. Dais comments: “During the course of our work together it has become apparent that Germany possesses all the necessary competencies in the fields of manufacturing technology and mechanical engineering to continue to enjoy global success in tomorrow’s world of the Internet of Things and Services.”

2013: From Industry 4.0 to technology “Invented for life”

“We must turn data into knowledge, and knowledge into benefits,” says Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner at the ZVEI Annual Convention in 2013. The company is already using connectivity software in its own manufacturing operations, and is also developing its own software solutions for industrial processes. Its declared aim is to derive business models from the technical potential of Web 3.0 that will lead to a better quality of life. This is one of the reasons Bosch begins working in 2013 on the “Energy-efficient factory” project spearheaded by the Technical University of Darmstadt.

2014: Bosch premieres the world’s first robot coworker

The world’s first robot certified to work side by side with human operatives without the need for additional protective housing comes to life at Bosch in 2014. Its name describes its purpose: APAS – automatic production assistant. This is not only a big step in the development of human-robot collaboration (HRC), but also a crucial one for Industry 4.0. Bosch has developed APAS so that it can autonomously take over the feeding of machines, palletizing, and assembly in the shortest possible time.

2015: Bosch establishes “Connected Industry”

Bosch pools its connected manufacturing expertise in its company-wide “Connected Industry” innovation cluster. This brings the company a step closer to becoming the leading user and leading supplier in connected manufacturing. Bosch launches an education offensive as well: associates without a degree are to be offered training for IT and commercial jobs that usually require an academic degree. The aim is to respond to the growing demand for software expertise and prepare its workforce for Industry 4.0 jobs. The first group to participate in the program is made up of roughly 80 skilled workers.

2016: Bosch readies old tech for Industry 4.0

Old machine, rapid connectivity, new benefits. This is the reasoning behind Bosch’s decision to take a closer look at its company founder’s 130-year-old lathe. Sensors and software combined with IoT-enabled industrial control catapult the lathe from 1887 into the Industry 4.0 era. This is more than just a symbolic action: according to studies in 2016, tens of millions of machines are still being assembled in plants worldwide without being enabled for Industry 4.0.

2016: Industry 4.0 on cloud nine – Bosch’s own cloud for IoT services

With the launch of its own cloud for internet-based services, Bosch becomes a full-service provider for connectivity and the internet of things. In the Bosch IoT Cloud, the company runs various applications for its connected mobility, connected industries, and connected buildings businesses.

2017: Workplace 4.0 – People and machines team up at Bosch

With the APAS workstation, Bosch creates the first workplace where people and machines work side by side. People remain indispensable as decision-makers and drivers, supported by the precision and endurance of the production assistants. In this setup, Workplace 4.0 adapts to the individual – everything from the height of the work surface to the speed or guidance assistance for new processes.

2018: Bosch establishes its own operating unit for Industry 4.0

Bosch creates a new operating unit for connected industry. This brings together all its Industry 4.0 activities, especially concerning software and services. It also ensures that the company has the best possible team for the job: customers wanting to connect the entire value stream can now consult the new unit for support. The unit launches with 500 associates in Germany, Hungary, and China.

2019: Bosch countson training – and a smartphone for manufacturing

Developed by Bosch and the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the first Germany-wide vocational training program geared to the Industry 4.0 skill set is launched. The training program is now also offered in other countries, such as China. That same year, Bosch debuts a new software solution: CtrlX AUTOMATION – ctrl being short for “control.” The solution makes systems and machines as accommodating as a smartphone, with functions that can be customized and updated – much the way a smartphone is via apps.

2020: Bosch puts first 5G campus network into operation

Data is transferred extremely reliably and ultra-fast, machines react almost instantaneously, wireless is becoming the standard, and people and machines work together safely and without barriers at all times – the new reality at the Bosch plant in Stuttgart-Feuerbach. This is the beginning of the real-time revolution for Industry 4.0 at Bosch, as it aims to gradually roll 5G out to all its roughly 240 plants around the world.

2020: Bosch’s pioneering Industry 4.0 role helps make its global manufacturing operations carbon neutral

All 400 Bosch locations worldwide no longer leave a carbon footprint. Connected manufacturing has played a crucial part in this achievement: Industry 4.0 solutions can detect energy consumption and make it more efficient. In over 100 plants and locations worldwide, Bosch is already utilizing an energy platform that is part of its own Industry 4.0 portfolio. Intelligent algorithms help predict energy consumption, avoid peak loads, and correct deviations in energy consumption.

2021: Toward zero-defect production with Bosch artificial intelligence

The Bosch Center for Artificial Intelligence (BCAI) has developed a system based on artificial intelligence (AI) that can detect and remedy anomalies and malfunctions in the manufacturing process at an early stage. This use of AI ensures more efficient, environmentally friendly manufacturing with better products. The AI solution currently supports production in around 50 plants and 800 production lines, and will eventually be rolled out to all 240 Bosch plants.

2021: Distinction for Bosch’s factory of the future in Suzhou, China

For the second time, the World Economic Forum has honored a Bosch plant as an Industry 4.0 lighthouse project. In Suzhou, China, Bosch demonstrates how digitalized manufacturing and logistics can increase efficiency and quality in equal measure. Bosch already added its plant in Wuxi, China, to the list of shining examples back in 2018. There, the World Economic Forum highlighted the capability of connected solutions for troubleshooting and predictive maintenance as exemplary for a factory of the future.

2021: Within ten years, Bosch generates four billion euros in sales with Industry 4.0

Since launching Industry 4.0 ten years ago, Bosch has generated more than four billion euros in sales with its portfolio in this area. In 2020 alone, the company recorded sales of more than 700 million euros with connected solutions for manufacturing and logistics. Bosch is not only a supplier, but also a user: Bosch plants now count more than 120,000 machines and over 250,000 devices that feature connectivity, such as integrated camera systems and robots. Bosch projects indicate that connected solutions increase productivity by as much as 25 percent.

About Bosch

The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 428,000 associates worldwide (as of December 31, 2023). According to preliminary figures, the company generated sales of 91.6 billion euros in 2023. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. As a leading IoT provider, Bosch offers innovative solutions for smart homes, Industry 4.0, and connected mobility. Bosch is pursuing a vision of mobility that is sustainable, safe, and exciting. It uses its expertise in sensor technology, software, and services, as well as its own IoT cloud, to offer its customers connected, cross-domain solutions from a single source. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to facilitate connected living with products and solutions that either contain artificial intelligence (AI) or have been developed or manufactured with its help. 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 Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 470 subsidiary and regional companies in over 60 countries. Including sales and service partners, Bosch’s global manufacturing, engineering, and sales network covers nearly every country in the world. The basis for the company’s future growth is its innovative strength. At 136 locations across the globe, Bosch employs some 90,000 associates in research and development, of which roughly 48,000 are software engineers.

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 upfront investments in the safeguarding of its future. Ninety-four percent of the share capital of Robert Bosch GmbH is held by Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH, a charitable foundation. The remaining shares are held by Robert Bosch GmbH and by a corporation owned by the Bosch family. 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.

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