How SMEs can benefit from Industry 4.0

Industrie 4.0 im Mittelstand

Industry 4.0 solutions have so far been used by ‘upscale’ SMEs and large corporations rather than by small and medium-sized enterprises. What is the reason for this? What approaches can be used to facilitate access to Industry 4.0 for SMEs?

In order to understand the starting points for a production optimized according to industry 4.0 principles, it is necessary to clarify what industry 4.0 is and why companies make changes in their production. Industry 4.0 is the fourth industrial revolution. Priority is given to collecting and analysing data from machines, plants, employees and goods in order to identify optimization potentials for the (manufacturing) processes and to derive corresponding measures from them. It is not uncommon for completely new business models to open up as a result.

In principle, changes in production processes are mainly implemented if the investments amortize within a short period of time or if they are necessary for safety reasons. In manufacturing, the processes that move along the seven general types of waste in a company are optimized:

1. Transportation
Transport does not add value, it is only a means to an end.

2. The stocks
Every euro invested in semi-finished or finished material is tied up and not free for further tasks.

3. Movement / search
In order to maintain production, it is necessary to have the material and tools at the workplace, but employees often look for them.

4. Waiting
The times when employees cannot work are both unnecessary and costly.

5. Overproduction
Wrong or insufficiently mobile sales planning is usually expensive for the company.

6. Incorrect processes / technologies
Most companies still have simple input/output ratios (goods purchasing and sales) that do not allow for production optimization.

7. Scrap / rework
Double work is not worthwhile. Especially the subject of rework and rework is a subject that many company bosses shrug their shoulders.

Many companies have been fighting this kind of waste for a long time, but without digitisation some of them are hard to counter.


In his article on Industry 4.0 for SMEs (published in the special issue of Computer & Automation on 19.07.2017), Dr. Karsten Königstein explains why small and medium-sized companies are so reluctant with regard to Industry 4.0 and explains the approaches that SMEs also use to make the leap into Industry 4.0.

Read the whole article (in German) here…