Written by Jim Zwica

How Industry 4.0 Will Revolutionize Manufacturing

This is part 1 of a 5-part series called Turning Data Into Insights. This blog series explores best practices relating to the product lifecycle management approach, and how these best practices will help drive Industry 4.0.

Industrial revolutions mark the convergence of many groundbreaking innovations. They lead to new methods of product development and manufacturing, disruptive technologies, and optimized business processes. The fourth industrial revolution is culminating into what thought leaders refer to as Industry 4.0. Technologies in both the physical and digital worlds are converging most critically in the manufacturing sector, including:

  • The Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • New cloud technologies
  • Big data

Even with the right technology in place, a lack of digital culture and skills within an organization may prove to be a significant roadblock for experiencing Industry 4.0 benefits.

Jim Zwica

With the help of these technologies, organizations have the ability to add real-time product intelligence and proactive approaches to traditionally reactive processes. Industry 4.0 is a movement that will lead to entirely new operating models that will slash development costs, emphasize digital prototyping, and allow for unprecedented product customization.


Fundamentally, every organization leverages the PLM approach on some level. This philosophy is built on a tangible technology layer, with successive layers becoming more abstract (moving through applications, functionality, and application integration). Oleg Schilovitsky, an expert in PLM, provides a helpful graphic in understanding product management functions in Figure 1 below:


The diagram presents a general overview of the PLM framework. The horizontal layers at the bottom represent the technological elements, and the vertical layers represent the management functions. These are all placed equally in the diagram to demonstrate their importance and the management cross-communication in a PLM process. That being said, the likelihood of an organization implementing these management functions within a PLM software decreases from left to right. In other words – almost all companies implement “Document Management,” but almost none implement “Sourcing & Supply Chain Management” through their PLM software.

Purdue University’s Digital Enterprise Center demonstrates the entirety of the PLM approach in Figure 2 below:

Purdue University's Digital Enterprise Center

The level of integration greatly varies depending on the organization’s processes and workflows. In fact, many organizations continue to invest in multiple technologies to support the PLM approach despite having a dedicated PLM software tool.


Enterprise PLM software allows users to document, track, and organize all elements related to the development of a product, collating various data sources into a central repository. This centralization enables greater awareness and collaboration among licensed users in the PLM platform. The number of vertical management layers integrated in the diagram above into the PLM software depends on the scope of the PLM software integration. To reiterate, the integration often requires customization.


Over the next several weeks, I will be exploring the critical importance of PLM and how the approach will help shape and ultimately deliver Industry 4.0 in sweeping strokes. Once companies start leveraging the PLM approach in a more robust way, they will experience significant improvements in their business processes. Throughout this blog series, I will:

About Jim Zwica

Jim serves as a solutions architect and strategic product expert and voice of the customer for Vertex Software. He has extensive experience in product lifecycle management (PLM) and collaboration throughout the supply chain, giving him unique insight into customer needs. As a strategic expert, Jim:

  • Works with customers to identify use cases and workflow improvements using Vertex
  • Serves as a liaison between customers and the Vertex platform, providing recommendations for improvements and upgrades  

Jim’s experience with PLM began in the late ‘90s, and developed into a strong strategic and consultative approach. Throughout his roles with EAI, Siemens, and Caterpillar, Jim consulted with manufacturers on how to best leverage PLM, communicated technology recommendations from the customer back to executive leadership teams, and led development teams to create technology for virtual design reviews.