The development of Industry 4.0 in Germany: an interview with Yuri Toluyev

Industry 4.0 was the subject of Yuri Toluyev’s plenary presentation at the IMMOD conference in Saint Petersburg. He described how new approaches to enterprise development, united by the concept of Industry 4.0, are driving technological development.

AnyLogic attended the event and interviewed Toluyev about Industry 4.0, its development, and its implementation. Interesting and informative, read on for Yuri Toluyev’s Industry 4.0 insight.


Yuri Toluyev

Yuri Toluyev is a professor at the Fraunhofer Institute, Germany. He is engaged in applied Simulation Modeling and supervises projects on the creation of commercial models for enterprises in Germany. He is a Winter Simulation Conference committee member.



The term Industry 4.0 originated in Germany. What is needed for its implementation, and how popular is it among German companies now?

In 2011 the German government made this concept a key component of the country's high-tech development strategy. Germany was first to give the idea a name, although similar programs have been developed in the USA (e.g. by the Industrial Internet Consortium) and in Japan (the Industrial Value-Chain Initiative). For Industry 4.0 to develop successfully, a country must fully understand the concept and successfully implement its four main components:

  • Cyber-Physical Systems;
  • Internet of Things;
  • Internet of Services;
  • Smart Enterprise.

The special, almost demonstrative, behavior of Germany is explained, in particular, by the discontent of the country with its position on world exchanges. For example, on the NASDAQ, which specializes in high-tech companies, of the 3,200 firms represented there, less than ten are German.

From the point of view of German politicians and industrialists, there is a contradictory situation: Germany occupies key positions in many industries, due to the high level of efficient production and the quality of its products, but even its most famous companies scarcely participate on the global financial stage. Realizing that efforts in the financial markets would not generate success, Germany decided to go another way and to create a future economy based on new principles of organization in the sphere of material production. At the same time, the country's enterprises could take advantage of not having outsourced production to countries with cheaper labor.

Industry 4.0 in Germany

Most German companies see Industry 4.0 as being positive. Its implementation will provide information transparency and high controllability of processes in production and logistics. This will lead to the emergence of fundamentally new business processes and an increase in the economic performance of enterprises that have introduced appropriate technologies. Also, the enterprises in the supporting sectors, developing and selling the technology and software for the components of Industry 4.0, are benefiting from increased orders.

How are German companies developing and implementing the new concept?

As is usual in Germany, the introduction of something new begins with the clear planning of all stages and forthcoming actions. It is clear that the leaders of this process are the German automakers. Daimler AG was one of the first to announce its activities in the direction of Industry 4.0. Markus Schäfer, Member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production & Supply Chain Management, once said “For us at Daimler it is beyond question that the digital transformation will lead to fundamental changes in our industry. This applies to the methods we use to develop, plan and produce our vehicles. It also relates to the ways in which we make contact with our customers. And, not least, we will be able to experience the digital transformation in our products themselves.”

In the company there are regular reports on new production units, corresponding to the concept of the Smart Factory. For example, at the plant in Sindelfingen, where E and S-Class cars are produced, an area of tool production has been built and put into operation, where forms can be automatically made - even just single copies – for the car body part presses. Transport robots move products between machining centers and induction furnaces, where parts are hardened. Functions of central management are carried out by a specialized MES (Manufacturing Execution System). This system connects local machining-center control systems and the planning and management system for the whole instrument production enterprise.

Smart Factory

Industry 4.0 technologies are used in a variety of different business areas and this has given rise to the related concept of Logistics 4.0. An example of which is the result of cooperation between two giants of logistics joining their efforts in the field of air cargo transportation. Siemens Postal, Parcel & Airport Logistics (SPPAL) is one of the world leaders in the technology for sorting and processing postal and baggage items. Another division of Siemens, AXIT, specializes in cloud IT solutions for managing supply chain logistics processes that involve a large number of companies.

One of AXIT’s latest products is a cloud-based logistics platform for SPPAL. Within the framework of the Logistics 4.0 concept, information from the supply chains is transferred through this platform to the Planning, Prediction & Control (PPC) system of the air cargo transportation center. As a result of the interaction of the two information systems, it is possible to find postal cars that can arrive at an airport before the end of aircraft loading. In addition, based on the information of the shipments of postal items that are on the way to an airport, the issue of choosing flights is quickly resolved.

How does simulation modeling help realize the principles of Industry 4.0 in production?

The traditional role of simulation modeling as a way of checking and comparing processes in workshops and warehouses, as well as in the systems of intra-plant transport of industrial enterprises remains, of course, and it is relevant when introducing the principles of Industry 4.0 to enterprises.

Fundamentally new problems arise when simulation modeling is used in an emulation mode to test and configure programs for working with real objects in an enterprise. While a further option is to use simulation modeling to support the creation of a digital twin, a virtual copy of equipment or, perhaps, a whole production site.

Digital twin in enterprise

When using simulation modeling in emulation mode, it becomes possible to investigate the interaction of local control systems with each other and with high-level coordinating systems. It is important to check both the logical feasibility of the proposed control algorithms and the physical viability of transport and warehouse operations in production (often performed simultaneously). It is also necessary to consider the high autonomy and communication properties of individual objects in the processes under study.

In the case of creating a digital twin you need to receive data from devices in the workplace and also workers in the enterprise. A model in the form of a digital twin can be used, for example, as a means for short-term forecasting – predicting the end of the next operation, or the time for a whole production task.

Thanks for the answering our questions, good luck in your work!

Thank you.

⭐ If you are interested in using digital twins in business, see our London conference follow-up, with downloads. Including how Siemens applies a digital copy of a supply chain created in AnyLogic when planning its logistics processes. Digital Twins in London.

❔ Do you have any questions on Industry 4.0 or digital twins? Put them in the comments below!

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