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Industry 4.0 as enabler for a sustainable development

A qualitative assessment of its ecological and social potential
: Stock, Tim; Obenaus, Michael; Kunz, Sascha; Kohl, Holger


Process safety and environmental protection 118 (2018), pp.254-267
ISSN: 0957-5820
European Commission EC
2015-1-DE01-KA203-002207; ERASMUS
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IPK ()

In 2015, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Agenda 2030 which counts 17 indivisible and self-sustaining goals. These so-called Sustainable Development Goals are intended to serve as a foundation for a transformation of the global economies towards a sustainable development. This transformation process should be built on an economic development in accordance with social equality and within ecological boundaries. As essential stakeholders for a global sustainable development, industrial organizations have to shift towards a novel paradigm which puts an emphasis on sustainable value creation. Industrial value creation has gone through radical changes during the last years. Since the 2010s, the so-called fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) can be observed. The state of the art in research and technology for Industry 4.0 and sustainability is outlined. The potential for sustainable value creation in Industry 4.0 is qualitatively assessed for a macro and micro perspective based on a literature review and expert interviews. The assessment unfolds that the value creation might positively contribute to a sustainable development in many cases. Critical areas with expected negative contributions related to the quantity of materials used, primary energy consumption, and working conditions are identified and elaborated in more detail. A demonstrator for an intelligent cube production is investigated in order to verify the results of the assessment. This demonstrator is currently set up in China as part of a Sino-German Research Institute.