Designing for Industry 4.0

Jon Lawson

Jonathan Wilkins explains the changes design engineers face as Industry 4.0 booms

When the Walkie Talkie skyscraper was constructed in 2009, it was supposed to be an up-market living space for hundreds of London’s most wealthy citizens.

However, it turned out the be the perfect example of designer myopia —  a phenomenon where a product pleases the designer but doesn’t fit the brief.

The so-called Walkie Talkie skyscraper’s curved front acts as a concave mirror for a period of two hours each day, focusing light onto the streets and leading to a road temperature of up to 91˚C. It is this criticism, along with many others that earned the building the Carbuncle Cup in 2015 — a prize awarded to the worst new building in the United Kingdom.

Just like architects, design engineers need to adapt their work depending on their surroundings, especially as Industry 4.0 continues to revolutionise levels of automation in the factory.

Changing times

Design engineers’ roles will change in two distinct ways as factories incorporate more digital technology and automated processes into their operations.

First, design engineers must ensure that the equipment designed for use in an Industry 4.0 environment is compatible with other systems in order to remain functional in years to come.

If a part does become obsolete during the machine’s lifecycle, design engineers can rely on dedicated obsolete industrial parts suppliers, such as EU Automation to deliver replacement parts as quickly as possible and reduce the likelihood of downtime.

Secondly, it is important for design engineers to keep up to date with the latest technological advancements available to them.

There may be a more efficient way of manufacturing a product that uses novel technology. If the design engineer isn’t aware of the application during the design phase, they may miss out on a vital opportunity to improve the manufacturing process.

One of a design engineer’s main priorities is the efficiency of the design process.

By using information transparency and predictive analytics, design engineers can build on and improve their design processes for future products by making the most of relevant data from the manufacturing process.


Systems designed for Industry 4.0 factories should have the right protocols and data interfaces, in order to be compatible with the Internet of Things and other Industry 4.0 components.

As operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) intertwine, the security of manufacturing and process data must be made a priority. Using the right protocols can bring inherent security benefits.

For example, machine-to-machine communication protocol, OPC UA has security measures built in to stop viruses in one piece of equipment infecting another during communication.


Features of Industry 4.0 such as simulation, digital twinning and virtual commissioning can be used to the design engineer’s advantage.

These technologies allow design engineers to see and understand the operations of a production line before it is built. It means that they can see each stage of production and ensure that their design is compatible and will be built in the most efficient way.

Design engineers need to stay up to date with Industry 4.0 developments, as some of them will bring new technologies that could improve the final products that they design. They need to plan ahead and make sure they see the bigger picture in order to avoid making mistakes like designer myopia.

Jonathan Wilkins is marketing director of industrial obsolete parts supplier, EU Automation

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