Implementing Industry 4.0 Concepts at ThyssenKrupp

  • March 16, 2015
  • Feature

By Bill Lydon, Editor

At the 19th Annual ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, Florida, Reinhold Achatz, Head of Corporate Function - Technology, Innovation, and Sustainability at ThyssenKrupp, described how they are using Industry 4.0 as a way to achieve their 10 year digital enterprise goal. ThyssenKrupp is a large diversified industrial company with traditional strengths in materials and a growing share of capital goods and services businesses. The company has more than 150,000 employees in nearly 80 countries with 2014 sales of around 41 billion euros. ThyssenKrupp is a participant in the definition of the Industry 4.0. Read more about implementing Industry 4.0 in a report by acatech National Academy of Science and Engineering, et al.

Industry 4.0 - The Vision

Industry 4.0 defines the fourth industrial revolution, a next step in organizing and controlling the chain of economic value across the whole product life cycle. The product life cycle reflects the increasing customer requirements and describes all the processes relating to a product. The life cycle includes everything from the product idea, to customer order, development, production, shipment of a product or solution, and ends with recycling, including all related services. Efficient product life cycle outcomes require digital access to all necessary information in real-time and the ability to create an optimal flow of value creation based on this information. Achatz described the concept of combining people and systems to form dynamic, real-time-oriented and self-organizing, value-creating grids. The grids can be optimized by applying different criteria, including cost, availability and the use of resources.

The goal is to gain greater efficiency, which has been the constant goal throughout the history of manufacturing. Putting this continuum in perspective, Achatz described how Ford in 1914 used the production line to reduce chassis assembly time for a Model T from more than 12 hours to about 1 ½ hours. More recent examples include the use of robots to improved productivity. The belief is the implementation of a digital enterprise using Industry 4.0 concepts will yield another large improvement.

ThyssenKrupp is implementing Industry 4.0 concepts to achieve seamless communications and integration of processes to:

  • React more flexibly to customer requests
  • Reduce cost
  • Increase quality
  • Increase throughput
  • Reduce environmental foot print

Achatz noted the digital connection of value chains, as envisioned by Industry 4.0, will be the key to success. The application of new technology is required to achieve these goals. He noted the technology for Industry 4.0 is available today. Networked embedded systems form the Internet of Things, and includes cloud computing, internet services, and peer-to-peer communications.

ThyssenKrupp Strategy

ThyssenKrupp’s implementation strategy is the seamless integration of ERP, MES, automation, and control systems to achieve smart production using peer-to-peer communications. This strategy includes a full implementation of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) with communication linkages that create systematic feedback loops to refine requirements, identify problems, ideas, and trends. A major goal is to encompass the entire value chain. They want to deliver products that satisfy customer requirements and avoid over engineering for attributes that customers do not value. Real-time data linkages are required with suppliers and customers. Customer service is included in this system vision to manage after sales service, spare parts, and complaint management. The company is also incorporating end of product and system life management which includes recycling concepts. Achatz described planned obsolescence as a necessary strategy to drive additional revenues while freeing up R&D resources to continue innovation for the future. He illustrated this strategy with a 15 year product lifecycle example.

Cyber Security

Achatz emphasized the importance of cyber security since successful implementation of Industry 4.0 requires that all data of a company be digitally available. The extended exchange of data and information between factories or even companies requires a high level of reliability and trust.


People are also integrated into the Industry 4.0 concept. Rather than replace people with automation, people are enabled to make informed decisions with higher quality information. Industry 4.0 will bring a number of innovations and requires different skills and education, particularly with an aging workforce. There is a need for improved technical education and lifelong learning.


ThyssenKrupp Elevator and Microsoft have cooperated on improving life cycle maintenance of the company’s installed base of elevators. They are applying data analytics to increase ThyssenKrupp’s maintenance and service capabilities. Field service efficiency and elevator availability is being improved by capturing real-time information from elevators and applying analytics in cloud-based systems to schedule maintenance based on predictions. Read more about about this application.

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