Where to Start: Implement an Industry 4.0 Project in Six Simple Steps

Arthur Laszczewski
Contributing Writer

In this blog, we explain how to implement Industry 4.0 to reap the manufacturing benefits of digital transformation. These six steps will ensure your team avoids the missteps many process manufacturers make. 

Take a deep breath: it’s going to be okay. You don’t need an existing manufacturing network, a dedicated IT person, a background in networking, or a big budget to spend on networking — in fact, the method we’ll show you are mostly free!

In our recent webinar, Untangling the Knots in Your Digitization Implementation, Arthur Laszczewski, VP of Operations at mode40, shows how anyone can do this through extremely simple practices to save over $100k by future-proofing your systems today. Mode40 helps manufacturers turn IT into profit specifically around digital transformation products and how to implement Industry 4.0.

In this blog, we’ll outline the essentials Laszczewski covers in his talk to help you streamline your current or future network.

Topics include:

  1. The Anatomy of a Manufacturing Network

  2. Six Critical Internal and External Requirements You Must Include in Your Industry 4.0 Framework

  3. Future-proofing Starts Today

The Anatomy of a Manufacturing Network

Operational technology (OT) connects machines on the back-end production for seamless monitoring, management, and security for manufacturing operations. OT is critical for predictive maintenance, one of many manufacturing benefits of digital transformation.

Let’s start with some basic vocabulary:

  • Information technology (IT): data management and security on the front end.

  • Primary OT Network: where you want most of your smart devices living (PLCs, computers, etc.)

  • Network segment: each network segment should connect to the primary OT network.

  • Programmable Logic Controller (PLC): computers used to control and monitor industrial equipment.

  • Input/Output (IO or I/O) devices: hardware components (sensors) that capture data and send it to the PLC for data collection, interpretation, or analysis and interface with industrial equipment.

  • Hops: network devices that data has to pass (or “hop”) through to go from the source to the destination.

  • Documentation: You may be surprised to see this term on the list, but people seem to forget what it means when they’re setting up and maintaining their networks. Document everything: start gathering existing documentation now and store it in a central repository.

Six Critical Internal and External Requirements You Must Include in Your Industry 4.0 Framework

Network Architecture

Most control panels and field devices should connect directly to your Primary OT Network, or remote OT Panels that directly connect to the central cabinet. Keep point-to-point runs (daisy chaining) to a minimum to limit the number of network hops between devices to reduce points of failure, latency, lags, or difficult-to-diagnose issues within your network. The exception to this rule is PLC Panel to I/O Panel, because the I/O panel lacks a PLC.

Connect most control panels and field devices directly to your central cabinet to prevent errors and latency.

What's wrong here? There’s no central hub and no or limited connectivity between each network segment.


I/O traffic should only communicate with PLC. I/O belonging to PLC is segmented from the main network, which means you generally install PLCs with two network adapters. This optimizes your system by reducing network traffic and helping to protect your system from cyberattacks by limiting the attack area.

Reduce network traffic by segmenting I/O from the main network.

What's wrong here? The PLC was installed with only one network adapter.

IP Addressing

Create a standard for OT Network IP addressing within your facility. Make a master spreadsheet from which all installed devices — without exception — are assigned an IP address. An IP address required to communicate with other devices for purposes such as general troubleshooting, making changes, and adding to networks. This also reduces the risk of duplicate IP addresses being assigned and the potential resulting errors and downtime that can result. Having a centralized spreadsheet to refer to with all assigned IP addresses can save you from problem-solving headaches later.

Always reserve the “.1” IP Address for the default gateway (e.g., All other IP Addresses should be labeled as either available or in use and, if in use, contain important metadata to easily identify and physically locate the device (panel number or other identifier; more on this below in Physical Location).

IP addressing is often the greatest challenge of digital implementation.

Only by documenting everything can organizations make incremental changes easier and avoid silos that occur around different projects, groups, etc., or personnel/role changes.

There should be one central person to drive this initiative, but a centralized repository of information that anyone can access should this person leave the organization or change roles within the organization.

What's wrong here? Management is going through the roof: duplicate IP addresses were assigned, leading to downtime; the last project manager left the organization and provided no documentation to help troubleshoot which devices need to be reassigned or how to find them.

Device Configuration

All installed devices are configured with their assigned IP address from the spreadsheet (above) and use the reserved default gateway for the subnet they’re on — it’s up to you to make sure your installer does this. Do this even if the gateway doesn’t exist yet because it future-proofs your network as your facility grows and your network expands and becomes more complicated. There are different ways for how to implement predictive maintenance strategies, but the most modernized predictive maintenance tools include Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.

Assigning a default gateway can save your organization thousands of dollars from restructuring as your network grows.

What's wrong here? Management just got the bill for fixing the entire infrastructure because someone didn’t tell the initial installer to assign a default gateway.

Physical Location

Assigning panel numbers is an essential step to finding hardware quickly and easily. Not only that, but it’s also useful if someone wants information about a device they’ve found on the plant floor. Update existing or new plant layout drawings with panel numbers, and be sure that your master IP address spreadsheet contains the same panel numbers in the “Location” column.

A crucial but simple step: assign labels to physical locations and where these locations are and what’s stored in them. Keep this same information in your IP address spreadsheet so it’s easy to cross-reference and find assets fast. 

Machine Requirements

When ordering equipment, ensure the machine has an interface to access data via the ethernet or a converter; this is essential to pull data and integrate it with other systems. Be sure to get code backups for the latest code changes before the installer leaves the site: installers can go out of business, leave their company, lose their documentation, etc.

During purchasing, ensure your hardware has an ethernet or converter to connect to other systems. When installers perform updates, always get code backups of the changes they make before they leave the site.

Future-proofing starts today

Don’t wait until you have to go back and correct parameters that you could have set correctly from the start. Learn how to implement Industry 4.0 so you can glean the complete manufacturing benefits of digital transformation. Watch the webinar and download our free Executive Guide to Digital Plant Management to learn more.

Download the Executive Guide to Plant Management Software

About the author: Arthur Laszczewski has held leadership roles in engineering, client success, and smart manufacturing solutions for over 12 years. In 2022, he was named to Control Engineering’s "Engineering Leader Under 40" List, and today Arthur is helping manufacturers see realistic ROI and predictable outcomes through automation, secure connectivity, and machine safety.