The manufacturing industry has been one of the forerunners in adopting innovative technologies to optimize workflows, quality, and cost reduction processes. The first major technical revolution happened around the 1800's when water and steam were being used for the first time to mechanize production processes. The second revolution occured around 100 years later when electricity was being widely adopted and allowed for mass production. Somewhere around the 1950's and '60s the computer became a vital part of production and this marked the start of the third industrial revolution: the digital revolution.
Currently the world is entering yet another paradigm shift which has been hailed as the fourth industrial revolution. The emphasis in this development lies on cyber-physical systems. By combining the full potential of the digital revolution (which is still progressing) and combining these with the increasingly advanced mechanical possibilites in (among others) robotics, it becomes possible to improve manufacturing processes with realtime data on products, capital, supply and demand, and more. Key design principles are interoperability, virtualization, decentralization, real-time capability, service orientation, and modularity (Hermann, Pentek & Otto, 2015)
The first official program to fully embrace this development took place in Germany (Industrie 4.0). A major goal is that due to the benefits of these technical developments it would bring back manufacturing from 'low-wage countries' to Europe. The Dutch response was written down in an action-agenda labeled 'Smart Industry'. Keywords are zero-error manufacturing, flexibility, low-volume / high-mix en quality. LEO was involved during the creation of this document and helped shape the Dutch national agenda for action.