29 Jul, 2021 / BY Neil Sharp

Industry 5.0 and the future of sustainable manufacturing

Industry 4.0 came with promises of sustainable and efficient manufacturing. But it has been criticised for being unable to deliver due to its focus on mass production rather than sustainability. However, sustainability and human wellbeing lies at the heart of what comes next--Industry 5.0.

A brief history of industry

The first Industrial revolution brought mechanical power, the second electrical energy, and the third automation. In the fourth industrial revolution, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and machine-to-machine learning was used for increased automation and better communication. Machines began to operate without the need for human intervention.

Industry 4.0

The Fourth Industrial Revolution changed manufacturers from being physical systems to a mix between cyber and physical systems. The concept behind Industry 4.0 revolves around cyber and physical systems communicating with each other via the IoT. 

This communication and the subsequent manipulation of data allows manufacturers to become adaptive, intelligent, and flexible. 

By embracing Industry 4.0, manufacturers have decreased:

  • Production costs by 10–30%
  • Logistic costs by 10–30%
  • Quality management costs by 10–20%

From 4.0 to 5.0

However, the methods used to measure industrial output have not changed since the first Industrial Revolution. Along with a turn towards a more customisable and personalised human-centred model, which we covered in this blog, a second key tenet of Industry 5.0 is sustainability. For manufacturing to be sustainable it must consider intangible measurements relating to:

  • The environment
  • Society
  • Fundamental human rights

Industry 5.0 harnesses the benefits of Industry 4.0 but extends it by taking a human-centred approach. Recovery from the current pandemic crisis relies on changes rapidly being made in the environmental and digital spheres--so we can build an economy that is both sustainable and resilient.

What is Industry 5.0 and how does it affect sustainable manufacturing?

Industry 5.0 is made possible through deliberately focusing on research and innovation as well as putting technology at the forefront of the transition. It is characterised as being defined by a purposefulness that is more than just manufacturing goods for profit. The three central tenets of Industry 5.0 are: human-centricity, sustainability, and resilience. 


A human-centred approach prioritises human needs over the production process. Manufacturers must identify what technology can do for the workers, and address how technology can adapt to the needs of the worker rather than the other way around. It is important that technology does not affect issues such as privacy and autonomy.


For manufacturing to be sustainable, it must develop circular processes that reuse, repurpose, and recycle resources. Environmental impacts need to be reduced. Sustainable manufacturers can harness the power of technologies such as AI and additive manufacturing to increase personalisation, which optimise resource-efficiency and minimise waste.


Manufacturers must develop a higher degree of robustness in industrial production to better protect themselves against disruptions and crises such as covid-19. 

Industry 5.0 is designed to empower humans, not to replace them 

“Excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake.” Elon Musk states the problems with Industry 4.0 in no uncertain terms. Robots replaced humans in droves, but industry is beginning to realise that it has made an error. The obsession with focusing on mass production backfired. 

While robots can complete repetitive tasks far more consistently and precisely than humans, they are unable to problem-solve and intuitively address issues. This is invaluable in manufacturing where making judgements is a key component to ensuring the correct functioning of the whole system. 

Industry 5.0 makes the shift from robots to cobots--robots that collaborate with humans, who are at the centre of the process. Humans can use robots to carry out repetitive tasks such as tightening screws while they are free to critically think about the bigger picture. Human creativity is needed in Industry 5.0--problems can be solved by humans and fixed by robots. 

Sustainable manufacturing - Saint-Gobain

The materials manufacturer Saint-Gobain uses an enormous quantity of energy to serve its clients, including SpaceX. The company has fully embraced Industry 5.0--becoming sustainable and profitable. It reduces energy consumption through smart digital innovation.

Saint-Gobain uses Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure platform, which uses cloud-based software to provide an integrated view of energy and sustainability data; it then makes recommendations on how to reduce energy consumption. By using this system, the manufacturer has saved millions of dollars in energy. It then channels this saving into research and development to make further sustainability improvements and educate employees.

The benefits of Industry 5.0 for sustainable manufacturing

  • Manufacturers can become more competitive by cutting manufacturing costs.
  • Manufacturers, workers, and society are the net winners.
  • Workers are empowered through being put at the centre of industry through up-skilling and re-skilling.
  • Manufacturers can focus on solutions including conserving resources, tackling climate change, and promoting social stability while continuing to be profitable.
  • Sustainable manufacturing is promoted through circular production models, supported by advanced technologies that efficiently use resources.
  • Focusing on sustainability, industry becomes more resilient against external shocks, such as Brexit, pandemics, and financial crises.


We use email rather than post because it’s efficient; there is no way we are going to turn the clock back and start to use antiquated systems. “The proliferation of robotic automation is inevitable.” The question is not whether we use robots but how we use them to maximise benefit for consumers, manufacturers, workers, and the planet.  

Manufacturers must advance cautiously. The potential pitfalls of excessive automation have been well documented and can lead to the inadvertent creation of new social and political structures

The challenge for Industry 5.0 is to get the balance right. Manufacturers should balance their needs against the expected outcomes. How can technologies and machines be used to benefit humans and the planet? Asking this question is the difference between Industry 5.0 and the previous revolutions--it symbolises the shift in our relationship with technology and the planet.

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Written by Neil Sharp

Neil has over 25 years’ experience in Electronics Manufacturing Services and Component Distribution. During his career, Neil has held a range of leadership positions in sales, marketing, and customer service. Neil is currently part of the ESCATEC Senior Management Team and is responsible for setting and delivering the overall Group Marketing strategy. Neil heads up the marketing department and is responsible for both the strategy and the implementation of innovative marketing campaigns designed to deliver high quality content to those seeking outsourcing solutions.