Industry 4.0 vs. Industry 5.0: Understanding the Real Difference

17 March 2023
possessed photography jIBMSMs4 kA unsplash

Manufacturing in the 21st century is moving forward at such a rapid pace that it can be difficult, if not impossible, to keep track. Caught seemingly in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, excitement is already beginning to swell for the fifth. 

The previous ‘revolutions’ which have punctuated the manufacturing sphere’s history are all clearly delineated from one other through specific defining features. Steam power and mechanisation spearheaded the first – ‘Industry 1.0′, if you will – whilst electricity and the assembly line was the buoy for the second. The third industrial revolution, leaning more into the trends we are witnessing today, was borne out of computers becoming widespread, thus allowing for partial automation. 

Today, digitisation has become almost inseparable from our conception of industrial transformation; in the wake of this, the fourth and fifth revolutions we face today have considerable overlap. Both focus on the enhanced capabilities and applicability of digital technologies, and both endeavour to seize the increasing scope of IIoT.

Whilst the previous eras have come forward with absolute metamorphosis, the differences are more subtle this time around. At a surface level, the seed at the centre of these two separate industrial movements is identical. However, the differences between them should not be overlooked. 

In this article, we break down some of the key distinctions between ‘Industry 4.0’ and ‘Industry 5.0’, exploring what each advocates for, where instances of each can be identified in the world around us today, and what the transition from the former to the latter would mean for the manufacturing landscape. 

Back to Basics: Industry 4.0 and Industry 5.0 Teased Apart

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Image source: Vaclav via. Unsplash


Let’s begin by shining a light on base-level definitions. 

Familiar to most, Industry 4.0 was introduced to the public in 2011 as part of a high-tech initiative led by the German government. Forbes puts it in simple terms: “the fourth industrial revolution […] take[s] what was started in the third with the adoption of computers and automation and enhance[s] it with smart and autonomous systems fueled by data and machine learning”. 

In other words, the fourth industrial revolution involves itself with the amplification of autonomous production, bringing machine-led activity to its culmination and attempting to reduce human input as much as possible. Efficiency and speed are top priorities, together combining to boost productivity and revenue. 

Surprisingly, the term ‘Industry 5.0’ came hot on the heels of its predecessor, with its first use recorded only 6 years later, emerging at a 2017 CeBIT trade fair in Hannover. Here, Japan showcased its vision for a new application of industrial digitisation: as a mode of collaboration rather than replacement. As Christian Berg’s article for Clarify articulates, Industry 5.0 gives a title to “automation with a soul”, placing the utilisation of interconnected “automation systems, machines and robots […] for maximum performance optimisation and efficiency […] [with]in the context of a greater human-centric approach”.

By definition, then, Industry 4.0 and Industry 5.0 are not defined by any practical distinction in technological approach. Moreover, it is their distinctive attitudes towards using these tools which draws the line between the two. 


Nuance in the Real World

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Image Source: Jezael Melgoza via. Unsplash


How exactly do the disparities between these industrial movements play out in real manufacturing environments? 

Let’s take the example of MES & workflow automation software like AMFG’s. This solution offers a prime example of how typically Industry 4.0 staples – IIoT, cloud computing, machine learning, etc. – can be woven into the fabric of manufacturing operations towards encouraging operational improvement. This holds even more resonance in light of the platform’s end-to-end functionality – at every stage of production, AMFG’s management and automation tools can enhance the efficiency of production processes, encapsulating the whole manufacturing cycle within a digital framework. 

However, AMFG’s platform leans into Industry 5.0 principles with equal reverberation. A pivotal value proposition included in Industry 5.0’s first introduction was the notion of ‘cobots’, machines designed to work closely alongside human workers rather than to write over them.

In line with this sentiment, AMFG allows users to pinpoint typically repetitive tasks and smoothly automate them, such as the generation of a job quote, or scheduling a part for production. Shouldering these responsibilities, human workers earn the space to work on more complex and interesting engagements. 


Reinterpretation of the Same Systems


Digging a little deeper, let’s pluck out a few of the central principles behind ‘Industry 4.0’ operations and explore how they take on a different demeanour within an Industry 5.0 context.

As outlined in our Industry 4.0 deepdive last year, the Internet of Things is an expansive network of interconnected devices, engaged constantly in the exchange of information, from which each device is able to benefit or react. Throw an additional ‘I’ onto the ‘IoT’ acronym and you have IIoT, the Industrial Internet of Things, labelling the way in which this web of digital connections is used in industrial spheres.  

Big Data gives name to the immense quantities of information which are constantly recorded and exchanged within the IoT network, and which can subsequently be used by businesses to extract valuable and actionable insights. 

Through the eyes of Industry 4.0, these two capabilities of the contemporary technological landscape are useful in their ability to drive autonomous functionality. Machines can take in information from their surroundings and communicate with one another with barely any need for human input, giving way to self-driving, self-nourishing mechanisms.

Within this paradigm, humans are replaced and operations are entirely driven by computer programs. This ideal reaches its pinnacle within the notion of the ‘lights-out factory’. Indeed, some companies around the world are already breathing life into this vision – Japanese machine manufacturer Fanuc, for instance, has already achievedlong hours of continuous unmanned machining” in their headquarter factories.

On the other hand, Industry 5.0 spins the purpose of these phenomena quite differently. Whilst human absence is a core objective of the fourth industrial revolution, the reintroduction of human workers is prioritised in the fifth. Here, IIoT and Big Data may be used to efficiently source and hand over information for humans to use, or alternatively to free up more engaging work by taking on repetitive but necessary tasks. 

Exemplifying this, Nikon recently announced its ‘Vision 2030’ , a solution development and R&D initiative driven by the belief that “co-creation by humans and machines will play a more important role than ever before”. As part of their 4-year Medium-Term Management plan, put in place to support the achievement of their 2030 deadline, this notion is unfolded with greater clarity: “humans and machines will co-create seamlessly in order to enable people to focus on more creative work for self-expression and consumption in the pursuit of value”. 

IIoT and Big Data still lie at the core of these two revolutions. However, the ways in which the technology is actually put into place, and the purpose of its implementation, marks a great difference. 


Strength Test: Which Revolution ‘Wins’? 


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Image Source: ThisisEngineering RAEng via. Unsplash


Whilst the first three industrial revolutions take on a far more linear format, with one development introducing improvements from its predecessor, this model is no longer persisting. Instead, these revolutions stand on equal footing. In fact, in many ways, it can feel as though they are primed to go head and head. 

Overriding humans or enhancing humans: which approach is ultimately ‘better’?

It’s tempting, after investigating the differences between these two movements, to settle on the verdict of radical difference. However, though this article has set out to establish a distinction between the two, their similarities are of equal importance when answering this question. 

Because both define approaches to using similar technology, it is much more possible to embody the principles of both Industry 4.0 and Industry 5.0 at the same time. One company may decide that they want to pursue complete autonomy in one operational department – perhaps for batch production – and use automation to enhance human contributions in another, such as for custom orders. Another may dedicate their entire shop floor to an Industry 4.o approach, with completely unmanned manufacturing as the goal. 

Even if the language used to describe these phenomena may imply a linear development – four will inevitably move onto five – one key principle is shared by each respectively, and can help to override this separation: smart technology can drive unparalleled efficiency. Automation is a spectrum, upon which Industry 4.0 and Industry 5.0 take different positions, and in relation to which businesses can uniquely position themselves, too. 


Redefining ‘Revolution’


Historically, describing a series of events as pertaining to an ‘industrial revolution’ implies unignorable, palpable, technological change. It assumes a radical shift in approach, so strong that a line can be drawn between the former and the latter. 

This definition is much more difficult to stand by in the 21st century. But it need not make the delineation between two ‘eras’ redundant. 

Where Industry 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 are about shifts between different technologies, Industry 4.0 and Industry 5.0 are about changes in attitudes towards the same technologies. 

How a technology is used can be just as impactful for manufacturing businesses as the introduction of new technologies and approaches is. Whether taking revenue, employee retention, production throughput or other factors into consideration, the way in which automation and IIoT is equipped can make all the difference. 



Enjoyed this? Check out our previous article, ‘The 3 Biggest Trends in Prototyping Processes in 2023′.



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