Industry 4.0: New Lexicon, No Limits


Through history, each industrial revolution has provided massive improvements in product quality and productivity. Each has disrupted and displaced existing ways of doing things by making transformational changes to business processes, how the businesses are organized, and the skills required to function in them.

Today, “Industry 4.0” is ushering in a fourth industrial revolution. For instance, we might conceive of an Industry 4.0 business as being a technology company that makes paper. This is different in many ways from our current view of a paper company that uses technology to perform better.

In the current, Industry 3.0 era, computers have been the key drivers of change. With the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), however, a lot of the data that is today processed separately will be handled directly by the machines themselves, requiring little if any manual intervention. Industry 4.0 is one of those concepts that will elevate the functions that humans carry out in industry to a new level, just as computers elevated human interaction with production systems to a higher level.


The main differentiator between “digitalization” and “Industry 4.0” is that the latter offers connectivity through the Industrial Internet of Things. (Photo by Colin Czerwinski.)

So, what is the distinction between “digitalization” and “Industry 4.0”?

Digitalization has been around for years and, at its essence, involves interacting with customers using digital means. Digitalization has mostly been focused on business processes like marketing, sales, distribution, procurement, and accounting. In the area of production, digitalization has consisted of enabling process data to be recorded and processed through, for example, the distributed control systems (DCS) that exist in most mills.

Industry 4.0 takes the concept of digitalization a major step forward. Its objective is to integrate all company processes, including mill production system information, into the company as a whole. This includes the business processes mentioned here and extends to sister mills in the company. The main differentiator is “connectivity through the Industrial Internet of Things.” Thus, a mill becomes part of an ecosystem as opposed to an independent entity.

While COVID-19 has been a major disruptor in our industry, such crises often have a silver lining. The pandemic is turning out to be a major accelerator of change in the world of work. Industries, including the paper industry, are going through an inflection point.

Companies that were already on a path to digitalize their operations find that they are weathering the crisis better than their peers and will accelerate their conversion. Companies that were making plans to digitalize their business are now determined to do it, and those who had no plans in that area find themselves needing to make those plans quickly if they are to remain competitive. An understanding of Industry 4.0 terms and ideas, and an ability to communicate company- and industry-wide about the benefits, has become more critical
than ever.


Between March and October 2020, a Special Interest Group (SIG) of the IT Committee of TAPPI’s PIMA Management Division undertook to produce a lexicon to clarify the terms associated with Industry 4.0. Now published as a TAPPI Technical Information Paper (TIP), the Lexicon is recommended reading for anyone interested in knowing more about the specifics of Industry 4.0.

Patrick Dixon, P.E., PMP and vice president of automation at Pulmac Systems Inc., was an instrumental part of the group that developed the Lexicon. “When Industry 4.0 articles first appeared in industry publications, I had a hard time understanding what they were saying. It appeared to me that many of the terms used were mystical or contradictory,” Dixon says. “When I joined the PIMA IT committee, I found I was not alone. I suggested we take on the effort of defining these terms. I had a great deal of encouragement and support, and we began our effort.”

A comprehensive, 30-page document, the Lexicon stands on its own to explain how Industry 4.0:

•  differs from previous industrial revolutions,
•  focuses on industrial production,
•  provides intelligent flexibility of production allowed by the internet,
•  emphasizes connectivity of industrial automation data, and
•  distinguishes between terms applied in the consumer and information technology spaces and industrial space.

To get started, the group formed an 11-member committee with a diverse set of skills, experience, and positions in industry. “There was representation from the production side and supplier side. We conducted weekly meetings and used a shared file folder from TAPPI to maintain information and drafts of our work,” Dixon explains.

The committee divided into four teams to focus on each type of term:

•  INDUSTRY: Terms that apply broadly to the state of industry
•  INFRASTRUCTURE: Terms pertinent to elements of industrial digital infrastructure
•  TECHNOLOGY: Terms about specific technical capabilities and techniques
•  APPLICATION: Terms that apply to specific application of digital technology

When the group had a draft ready for review, it conducted a beta test. “We sent the draft to a diverse group of 72 professionals in the paper or automation industry,” says Dixon. “Most of those that responded were very supportive and encouraging. We incorporated responses from the beta test into our final revision.”


Once we understand and can discuss the nature and benefits of Industry 4.0, the question remains: how do we implement it? The answer depends on the specific situation of each company.

If your company is building new facilities, either greenfield mills or building a new production process in an existing building, then it should be economic to implement the technologies and processes of Industry 4.0. Yet these installations should not be managed the same way as the pre-Industry 4.0 production lines were; they should immediately be placed under a management organization that is conducive to deriving the benefits of Industry 4.0. The technologies per se will provide some economic benefits of their own, but it is the ability to integrate as part of a larger system that makes Industry 4.0 so powerful and economic.

On the other hand, if a company is not building new facilities, it is difficult to make a business case for a complete makeover of an existing mill. To convert an existing facility to an Industry 4.0 system, an audit and program is required to check all sensors in the mill and to ensure that all control systems work properly. This an extensive and time-consuming exercise that is costly and unlikely to compete successfully for corporate capital.

Most mills use a continuous improvement mindset to improve performance; capital is allocated for specific continuous improvement activities. One strategy is to use that capital to make the continuous improvement using processes that are pillars of Industry 4.0. In other words, the data audit is performed as part of the continuous improvement effort. If this is done consistently for all performance improvement projects, a time will come when conversion to Industry 4.0 becomes obvious as the benefits will be able to be realized in a short time frame.

Again—in either case, clear language is needed. Says Dixon, “My hope is that adoption of the Industry 4.0 Lexicon can address confusion in the marketplace and help facilitate communication. Clear communication of expectations is critical to ensuring that investments in technology provide benefit.”

Since creating the Lexicon, the PIMA IT Committee has discussed whether it would benefit corporate members to report the industry’s progress on implementing Industry 4.0. If so, the first step would be to develop a methodology to determine how a company or mill is progressing—i.e., what are the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that indicate progress in implementing Industry 4.0 technologies? It’s not clear that industry-specific KPIs exist—yet.

One next step would be to mandate the PIMA IT Committee to research and develop KPIs on Industry 4.0 that would have relevance to managers in the pulp and paper industry. Because it is made up of volunteers from all aspects of the industry, the IT Committee is well-equipped to address this complex subject.

“It is notable that TAPPI is the first to put forward the Industry 4.0 Lexicon,” says Dixon. “This work is applicable to every industry, and to have the paper industry as a leader in game changing automation technology is remarkable.” 

Robert J. White is CEO of Pulmac Systems International Inc. (, vice chair of the PIMA Division, and a member of the PIMA Division’s IT Committee. Email him at [email protected].


Learn, Network, Grow

•  A more detailed version of this article, titled “Industry 4.0—A Must Way Forward for Our Pulp and Paper Industry,” will be presented at TAPPICon Live! as part of the Innovations Panel. TAPPICon Live! will take place October 3-6 in Atlanta, GA. For complete program details and to register, visit

•  All TAPPI Standards, Technical Information Papers (TIPs), and Useful Methods (UMs) are available to TAPPI members and can be accessed by print-on-demand from; purchase of the Standards CD; or by online subscription/license. TAPPI TIP 1103-04, “Industry 4.0 Lexicon”, is available here:

•  To join TAPPI’s PIMA Management Division—or any of TAPPI’s other divisions and committees working in a variety of industry areas—visit—committees/.