The 'Three Is' of Industry 4.0: A Framework for Irish Industry was recently published at the 21st IFAC Conference on Technology, Culture and International Stability, TECIS 2022. The paper presents a hypothesis framework for Industry 4.0 adoption within Ireland. The 'Three Is' address implementation, implications and impact in the context of Industry 4.0.

The term 'Industry 4.0' was first used in 2011 at the Hanover Fair in Germany. It was proposed that Industry 4.0 would allow for new business models based on cyber-physical systems and help German industry remain competitive.

Future of innovation and business growth

The term is reminiscent of the 'fourth industrial revolution'. The surrounding technologies used within this revolution are providing a critical perspective for the future of innovation and business growth.

Some of the technologies being used to implement Industry 4.0 include: autonomous robots; simulation; cloud computing; augmented and virtual reality; cybersecurity; big data; additive manufacturing; and system integration.

The introduction of Industry 4.0 and its surrounding technologies is transforming the global landscape from both a social and technological perspective. Many key aspects are being addressed such as: mass customisation of manufactured products, enhanced collaboration, improved human-machine interaction and product optimisation.

It is extremely important that Ireland adopts Industry 4.0 and its technologies in the coming years to remain competitive. Ireland has adopted a strategy to implement Industry 4.0 in the 2020-2025 strategy plan.

The manufacturing industry is a central pillar of the Irish economy and it employs more than 227,000 people throughout the country. It is vital that the industry keeps developing and adopts the technologies that help drive Industry 4.0.

These technologies are being implemented to enhance productivity and the quality of working life for humans. For example, the implementation of collaborative robots has shown effective solutions to automation and they also can perform tasks which may have been potentially dangerous for human workers.

Increasing connectivity and digitalisation

The overall landscape of Industry 4.0 is characterised by increasing connectivity and digitalisation due to physical-digital interface, network and data processing technologies. A key role is being played by both the internet of things (IoT) and cloud computing.

A very important aspect found from key literature was pilot projects. Many companies around the world would begin with assessing Industry 4.0 implementation and then begin a pilot project which integrates a new technology.

Further implementation would be carried out with a strategic plan. Resources which are a challenge for full implementers of Industry 4.0 include financial resources and the availability of qualified staff.

Hybrid strategies such as Industry 3.5 are also crucial in bridging the gap between Industry 3.0 and Industry 4.0. With Industry 3.5 there is a focus on the short-term improvement of the existing environment of the factory.

This will help achieve optimisation at each level of operations. This includes quality control, factory floor control, supply chain management and operations strategy. During this period several improvements will be made to the infrastructure, machines will transition to a more connected state so they can communicate and help achieve the Industry 4.0 vision. The ability to analyse data will also be strengthened.

Vital role in modernising companies within Ireland

Literature has suggested that there is a knowledge gap on Industry 4.0 readiness in Ireland. Current perspectives from various research showed a lack of knowledge about Industry 4.0, even though it is playing a vital role in modernising companies within Ireland. It was suggested in various papers that Industry 4.0 in Ireland should be investigated further to add to the academic knowledge pool.

In order to develop the 'Three Is' framework, a qualitative approach was utilised for data collection. Fifteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with stakeholders working within Irish industry.

The participants worked in a variety of engineering roles which provided several unique perspectives. From the results gathered, it was found that the main concern during Industry 4.0 adoption in Ireland is that there is a lack of knowledge about the subject.

Many participants felt there was a lack of awareness and understanding in Industry 4.0. The costs of implementation was also another concern due to the high costs with the upskilling and training of workers as well as paying for the implementation of new technologies and maintaining them.

The main priorities for companies in Ireland were pinpointed as the country is currently transitioning to Industry 4.0. Health and safety; quality; and profit were found to be the pillars of prioritisation.

Companies are looking to improve these three priorities by introducing Industry 4.0 technologies. For example, the use of cloud based servers and paperless based systems to boost productivity.

Increased consistency

Cobots are also being used to enhance productivity and product quality with increased consistency during processes with less human error.

Various Manufacturing Execution Systems and Enterprise Resource Planning systems are allowing for a reduction in waste as well as better organisation.

Additive manufacturing is allowing for the development of customisable parts in house as a opposed to ordering parts overseas, where currently there are huge supply chain issues across the world. Smart sensors are allowing for improved health and safety by being able to predict potentially dangerous outcomes before they happen.

Ireland is currently in the transitional phase of 'Industry 3.5'. Many companies are only adopting at least one technology. In order to fill the knowledge gap on the topic in Ireland, it is important that the subject is focused on more within third level education. More academic education is needed in order to meet the requirements to both adopt and use Industry 4.0 technologies in the country. 

It is proposed that The 'Three Is' of Industry 4.0 Framework would be an ideal solution to give students or workers looking to upskill, a basic understanding of Industry 4.0.

  • 'Implementation' is the process of putting Industry 4.0 into effect, therefore areas of interest would include: strategies like resource-based view; the current transitional period 'Industry 3.5'; the adaptability needed from both an organisational and worker standpoint; and the investment needed for implementation.
  • 'Implications' are the likely consequences of Industry 4.0. These include upskilling your current workers; the return on investment on the technologies adopted; the challenges and concerns that Industry 4.0 presents including: lack of skills; cybersecurity; business models; culture change; and capital investment.
  • 'Impact' is Industry 4.0 having a strong effect on somebody or something. This part of the framework looks at the effect Industry 4.0 has on quality; sustainability; productivity; health and safety; competitiveness; innovation; and profit.

By using this framework, both students and workers looking to upskill can be educated about Industry 4.0 with a structured approach. This will help improve their knowledge, awareness, understanding and attitude with regard to Industry 4.0, therefore improving the chance that industry in Ireland embraces the capabilities and potential of Industry 4.0.

It can be concluded that Industry 4.0 technologies will bring significant improvements to Irish companies, enhancing health and safety, quality, sustainability and more.

In order to maximise the potential of Industry 4.0, it is critical that there is an emphasis on Industry 4.0 education at third level and in the workplace to provide the sufficient knowledge, awareness and understanding needed for Irish industry to remain competitive.

Author: Jordan Neville is an R&D device engineer at Teva Pharmaceuticals. This paper was written from his dissertation for the MSc in Innovative Technology Engineering, which was completed in South East Technological University, Waterford. The full paper can be found on Science Direct at