How Quality 4.0 is Changing the Future of Business: Part 1

Quality 4.0
What is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is one of the most frequently occurring terms in contemporary business articles. Entering “Industry 4.0” into the Google search engine produces 298 million hits in English alone. Many technology companies are talking about it, promoting it, and selling it. However, defining what it means and who it impacts can be a difficult task.

The concept of Industry 4.0 was introduced in 2011 at the Hannover Fair. This project, launched by the German government, was dedicated to the accelerating digital transformation in Germany’s manufacturing industries. Also referred to as Smart Manufacturing or Smart Production, the concept derives from the “fourth industrial revolution,” which is the modern culmination of industrial macrotrends since the late 1700’s:

  • Industry 1.0: the introduction of machine production to replace manual production in the eighteenth century.
  • Industry 2.0: the introduction of electricity, railroads, and the telegraph to augment machine production in the late nineteenth century.
  • Industry 3.0: the introduction of computer technology into the manufacturing environment in the mid twentieth century
  • Industry 4.0: the introduction of automation, big data, cyber-physical systems, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to automate manufacturing and collect and analyze process data in real time.

Industry 4.0 does not prescribe any specific technology solution. Instead, it promotes various technologies to improve manufacturing processes, product quality, and overall organizational performance. (Durana, 2019)

After the Industry 4.0 concept was introduced, many disciplines began incorporating the approach and rebranding with the “4.0” suffix. Today, we can read about such diverse fields as “Healthcare 4.0,” “Education 4.0,” and “Safety 4.0,” all of which have, to varying degrees, incorporated the principles of Industry 4.0.

In this blog series, we will look at how Quality 4.0, which uses the emerging technologies associated with Industry 4.0 to advance quality and performance goals, has developed out of the Industry 4.0 concept. We will explore the origins of Quality 4.0, the primary components of Quality 4.0, how it applies in different industries, and what this means for potential future business models.

What Is Quality 4.0?

The concept of Quality 4.0 came to prominence after the American Society for Quality (ASQ) released the 2015 Future of Quality Report. The report highlighted the following impacts of Industry 4.0 on quality:

  • There is a radical shift in the boundaries between organizations and customers, including customer participation in the design of products and services.
  • Organizations are placing greater emphasis on the customer experience and acknowledging the importance of prosumerism and the Voice of the Customer.
  • Business processes can no longer be opaque to the organization as a whole. Employees need real-time insight into business and supply chain processes, as well as the ability to respond to events as soon as they occur.
  • Organizational learning and constant adaptation to a changing world, as facilitated by cutting-edge technology and IIoT, are considered as important as efficiency. (ASQ, 2015).

While digital technology, including artificial intelligence (AI), Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and blockchain will play main roles in Quality 4.0, the synthesis of people, processes, and tools will be at the heart of the transformation. Organizational culture that features strong leadership participation and communication, as well as traditional quality frameworks like Baldrige, EFQM, and ISO 9001:2015 that facilitate continuous education and innovation, will drive Quality 4.0. (Radziwill, 2020) According to Watson (2020), Quality 4.0 is built on the principle of the discovery and application of profound knowledge through digitization that supports automated system corrections, a shift in the control-oriented focus from process operators to process designers, machine self-regulation of productivity and quality, and the integration of human performance technology into business systems.

According to Radziwill (2020), Quality 4.0 is driven by the fundamental principles of: increased connectedness between humans, machines, and data; human intelligence augmented by AI and data analysis, and; enhanced automation for autonomous production and decision-making without human intervention. IIoT, to whatever degree it is implemented in an organization, will facilitate connections between three important agents:

  • People, including individuals, organizations, and even societal and national groups.
  • Objects such as machines, sensors, and embedded systems.
  • Data, including unstructured data, streaming data, and data repositories.

These connections will provide transformative performance enhancements, including increased innovation, stronger organizational and societal relationships, more resilient processes, and more critical decision-making in real time. (Radziwill, 2020)

Connected, intelligent, and automated systems have the potential to produce a wide range of benefits, including everything from reduced cost of quality (CoQ), enhanced workforce capacity, and increased customer satisfaction to stronger financial results, more critical attention to the Voice of the Customer, and the creation of new business models. (Radziwill, 2020) Quality 4.0 can therefore catalyze digital transformation in many organizations.

However, considering the concept of Quality 4.0 is relatively new, and one that is being continually augmented by an ever-changing technology landscape, Quality 4.0 research is still very broad and diverse. Recent analyses of the Quality 4.0 bibliography by Dombrowski (2017) and Radziwill (2020) highlight primary research themes such as smart manufacturing, environmental sustainability, health and safety, data driven maintenance, innovation, and new business models. They also revealed that key industries in the research include food and beverage, manufacturing, and automotive.

In the remaining blogs in our series, we will review how Quality 4.0 principles have been applied to a selection of industries.


ASQ. (2015). 2015 Future of Quality Report. Quality throughout (report from ASQ, American Society for Quality).

Dombrowski, U., Richter, T., & Krenkel, P. (2017). Interdependencies of Industrie 4.0 & lean production systems: A use cases analysis. Procedia Manufacturing, 11, 1061-1068.

Durana, P., Kral, P., Stehel, V., Lazaroiu, G., & Sroka, W. (2019). Quality Culture of Manufacturing Enterprises: A possible way to adaptation to Industry 4.0. Social Sciences, 8(4), 124.

Radziwill, N. (2020) Connected, Intelligent, Automated: The Definitive Guide to Digital Transformation and Quality 4.0. Quality Press: Milwaukee, WI. 545 pp. Available from

Watson, G.H. (2020). The Infrastructure of Quality 4.0. Quality Progress (forthcoming).

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