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A majority of German companies expected networked manufacturing to have a positive effect on profitability (Photo: Robert Bosch)

Industrial companies in Germany expect Industry 4.0 to change their business models and most see the so-called "smart factory" as positive, according to a new study.

A poll by management consultants Staufen found that roughly a third of German companies are already adopting Industry 4.0 technologies either on a bigger scale or in individual projects. That's up from 2014, when only 15 pc said they were doing so. Fifty-seven pc say they expect the changes to impact their business models.

"Industry 4.0," also sometimes called the fourth industrial revolution, refers to new factory automation, which connects plants, exchanges data between them and deploys advanced robotics and other new manufacturing technologies.

According to the Staufen study, 72 pc of companies polled expect intelligent factories to boost their profitability, but they have differing opinions on whether new, connected manufacturing technologies can be adopted with their current product portfolios.

"About half of all companies assume that they can succeed here without major adjustments," said Staufen management board member Martin Haas. "But among Industry 4.0 early adopters a majority of 60 pc expects that the new industrial revolution will also force wide-reaching changes in the product portfolio."