There is a growing need to enhance existing processes in order to satisfy customer expectations which define value and influence fidelity.
The growing amounts of sensors, data, computing resources, services and usage of artificial intelligence reshaped many areas in the society and are increasingly influencing the manufacturing sector  . The fact that even small enhancements over the manufacturing process translate into gains and economic growth  was acknowledged by multiple governments, which developed initiatives to embrace change , , ,  and favor the development of a new generation of factories — smart factories.
Government investments for this area in EU only are estimated in 1.5€ billion , while the expected impact of manufacturing digitalization is estimated in more than €110 billion of annual revenue for Europe only until 2021. Global gains are expected to grow up to 3.7USD trillion value by 2025 .
McKinsey Global Institute estimates that 60% of all manufacturing activities may be automated with current technology . Most companies are just starting their digital transformation in what can be envisioned as a new evolutionary phase of lean manufacturing. This evolution is expected to be technologically supported by Internet of Things (IoT), cloud analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI), increasing spending on this platforms up to 40%  over the next few years.
Given the importance of Industry 4.0, there is growing research on the topic. This ranges from opinions on how smart factories should be connected to the ecosystem, architectures that attempt to provide all functionalities associated to smart factories as well as standards, protocols, technologies, and practices that embody those architectures. Industry 4.0 can also be seen as an evolution of lean principles. In our next post, we will present some examples of how digitalization and AI help to enhance manufacturing.