The acatech Industry 4.0 Maturity Index provides companies a guideline for a structured approach. Apart from technological requirements, the digitalisation strategy must not disregard the adjustment of organisational structures and qualification of employees and must focus on IT security in all phases.

Ready for Industry 4.0?

Bertolt Gärtner | TÜV SÜD


Companies often find it hard to assess where they are on the path to digital transformation and which measures are required to reach the finishing line. Classification can be done with the Industry 4.0 Maturity Index. It provides support in order to not lag behind in international comparison in terms of digitalisation and to ensure competitiveness. With the multi-dimensional maturity model, it is possible to record the status quo and to develop a roadmap to a higher Industry 4.0 maturity. The example of a supplier for energy and signal technology shows how costs can be saved and productivity increased.

There is no getting around digitalisation and networking. Many companies have recognized the potential: more efficiency, more flexibility, more quality and faster market launch of products and services. Thanks to the digitalisation of processes up to 25 per cent of energy and material can be saved. This says a study carried out on behalf of VDI Zentrum für Ressourceneffizienz (ZRE) [2]. Companies often find it hard to determine where there is need for action and which measures are necessary and reasonable. According to a study by the consulting company BCG, a quarter of the companies faces the risk to fall behind in terms of digitalisation [1]. In order to catch up, a comprehensive strategy is required that combines all sub-measures. For example, Germany ranks clearly behind the USA. Reasons are, among others, that digital transformation is connected to significant efforts and investments and often the required expert knowledge is missing.

Approximately three quarters of all major companies already align themselves according to the new opportunities. That's not yet the case for the small and medium sized enterprises. But especially they account for the majority of the economic strength in Germany. And they can particularly benefit from the Maturity Index as guideline for digital transformation.

The maturity is determined for each of the four structural areas resources, organisational structure, information systems and culture [3].

Six analysis steps

The index was developed by acatech (Deutsche Akademie der Technikwissenschaften) together with a cross-industry consortium of research institutes and companies [3]. The target is to record the progress on digitalisation in order to develop individual roadmaps based thereon for the successful implementation of Industry4.0 solutions. The Maturity Index takes into consideration the complete value-added chain. It does not only comprise the production, but also the fields development, logistics, service as well as marketing and sales. This allows a comprehensive assessment of the complete company and the development of tailor-made solutions. The multi-dimensional maturity model is particularly designed for manufacturing companies. The digitalisation level of a company is determined for all of the fields separately. To do this, the Maturity Index defines six maturity levels:

  • Computerisation: Using information technologies and automating processes. This is in nearly every company the case. At this stage, information technologies, however, are still used separately, e.g. in the case of a CNC milling machine for which processing data is still entered manually.

  • Connectivity: When components are networked, maturity level "connectivity" is achieved. Here, for example, remote maintenance becomes possible thanks to remote services. However, complete integration of information technologies and operative technologies has not yet taken place.

  • Visibility: Sensor technology records statuses and processes in real time during production. Thus, a digital company model is being created, a so-called digital shadow that shows what is happening in the company at any time.

  • Transparency: When companies use the digital model not only to see what happens, but also to detect interdependencies and to understand, they reached maturity level four. To do this, it is necessary to interpret data context-related and to link it. Big data applications are used parallel to operational application systems such as ERP or MES systems so that a joint platform for comprehensive data analyses is created.

  • Forecasting ability: In order to create different scenarios and with regard to their probability of occurrence to assess consequences, the digital model is updated in future. Thus, developments can be anticipated and corporate decisions based thereon.

  • Adaptability: When these decisions are taken automatically by the IT systems, then Industry 4.0 is fully implemented in the company. Adjustment measures are realised without delay. To which extent IT systems are granted autonomy should always depend on the complexity of the decisions and the cost-benefit ratio.


Three steps to implementation

The implementation of the Maturity Index is structured in three phases. At first, there is the review of the current situation: What level has the company's Industry 4.0 development reached? Therefore, the maturity level is defined for each of the above stated corporate fields.

Second, the companies define individual goals: Which strategy is to be pursued? In which direction is the company heading? And which tasks are allocated to the individual fields? In a gap analyses, experts then determine, which skills are missing in order to achieve these goals.

Based thereon, in a third step, measures are identified in order to develop and expand the required skills. An indicator system together with a cost-benefit matrix show which of the possible measures are particularly suited in order to efficiently increase the company's maturity level. This will then lead to a roadmap.

The target must not necessarily be the highest level of maturity, adaptability. Which level a company strives at should always depend on the own strategy and the cost-benefit ratio. With the step-by-step development from one level to the next, often quick wins can be achieved, so that an increased profitability becomes visible very quickly. This increases the prospects of success of the individual measures while the company pursues a comprehensive, long-term transformation.

Exemplary determination of maturity level in the field of production (source: FIR e. V. at RWTH Aachen).


More than technology

In order to be able to use data within production efficiently and profitably, these must not only be recorded automatically, but also processed, edited automatically and then interpreted and used by employees. Thus, the maturity index takes into consideration four decisive key areas within the corporate structure:

  • Resources: workforce and their competencies, machinery and equipment, tools, products

  • Information systems: socio-technical systems in which information is provided and processed by both people and information and communication technology

  • Organisational structure: rules and structures guiding the relationships within the company as well as externally

  • Culture: value system within the company, e.g. employees’ willingness to review and adapt their behaviour in response to changes.


Data security, data protection and data sovereignty

When data is exchanged or stored via networks there is the questions regarding security and protection of data as well as who owns such data. Networking theoretically makes a production a lot more vulnerable to unwanted access by third parties or to manipulation. For many companies, the concerns regarding IT security are an obstacle to promote the Industry 4.0 approaches. Often also experts are missing, which, however, can be acquired externally.

A solution example: Industry 4.0 companies often rely on data provided by the sensor and component manufacturers. In order to exchange these in a safe way, two redundant communication paths should be implemented. This already relates to project planning and shows the cross-process importance of IT security. Especially here, TÜV SÜD supported the development of the Maturity Index – with long-term project experience in the industry and interdisciplinary know-how. Thus, TÜV SÜD developed as one of the first companies a certification according to safety standard IEC 62443 for industrial control and automation systems. With it companies can detect potential weaknesses in their control technology and take effective protection measures in order to be on the safe side also with regard to Industry 4-0 applications.  Apart from this, TÜV SÜD together with its partner Uniscon provides a neutral platform for safe storage and processing of sensitive data. The so-called Sealed Cloud is internationally patented and meets not only the strict German legal requirements, but also the new EU General Data Protection Regulation. Important are not only data safety and protection, but also to deal with it in a self-determined way. This also makes safety-critical usages, such as for communication between machines possible.

The six levels of maturity of the Maturity Index (Source: FIR e. V. at RWTH Aachen).


Roadmap for a production facility

What such a roadmap can look like in real life is shown by a supplier for energy and signal technology. Across numerous manufacturing facilities, more than 4,000 employees manufacture industrial connectors, device connection technology and network components used for automation, among them RFID solution. The company intensively studies information technologies as well as Industry 4.0 and, in addition, created an infrastructure that supports the implementation of use cases. Thus, there was already a digital map of the processes, which was kept up-to-date at any time using the data from production.

For some years now, an Industry 4.0 project group realises individual use cases again and again based on this map. Thanks to this basis, experts evaluated the state of production in only four days and determined a comparatively high level of maturity in the company. Usually, evaluation takes more than a week.

In the framework of this pilot project, among others, cutters spread across several sites were focused on.  They were equipped with structure-borne sound in order to be able to measure vibrations. This made possible to monitor their condition in more detail and to maintain the systems as required. According to the single data measured by the sensors it can be determined when cutter is worn out, which means that components are cut outside the tolerance range. So far, these processes could only be improved locally. Part of the roadmap are now the connection of data analysis and process optimisation. The effects of single measures can thus be compared across the production lines by means of key figures. The best maintenance measure can then be comprehensively initiated and further monitored and optimised, if needed.

In this case, the company's roadmap comprised more than thirty single measures with which the efficiency of the already digitally monitored systems could be further increased significantly. Consequently, also delivery reliability and production flexibility increased as well as a result. Another benefit was that with the Maturity Index, the time period for selection and assessment of individual project could be clearly shortened. The establishment of a project group and the identification of the individual Industry 4.0 projects often takes several months. In the case of the cutting machines, the roadmap was created within only three weeks. Therefore, thanks to the Maturity Index, a company can start implementing their projects a lot earlier. Since the individual use cases can now be assessed faster and more accurately, it is possible to save time and costs and the basis for decisions whether their implementation within the complete production is reasonable is improved.


Competitive for the future

The example of the above described production facility shows that a company's productivity, efficiency and thus also profitability can be clearly increased. Prerequisite is a targeted strategy starting with the current situation. The acatech Industry 4.0 Maturity Index provides companies a guideline for a structured approach. Apart from technological requirements, the digitalisation strategy must not disregard the adjustment of organisational structures and qualification of employees and must focus on IT security in all phases. Based thereon it can be ensured that the company remains globally competitive and will be successful also in the future.



[1] Boston Consulting Group: Which Companies Are the Real Champions of Building the Digital Future. 2017.

[2] VDI Zentrum Ressourceneffizienz GmbH (VDI ZRE): Ressourceneffizienz durch Industrie 4.0. Potenziale für KMU des verarbeitenden Gewerbes. Berlin 2017.

[3] Deutsche Akademie der Technikwissenschaften (acatech): Industry 4.0 Maturity Index. Die digitale Transformation von Unternehmen gestalten. München 2017.



The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of ManufacturingTomorrow

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