Akzeptanz von Industrie 4.0 (Adoption of Industry 4.0)

Akzeptanz von Industrie 4.0

 (Adoption of Industry 4.0)

2019 – The Forschungsbeirat (research advisory board) of the Industry 4.0 Platform in Germany has issued an interim report on the adoption of digital technology in the context of Industry 4.0. It is the result of an explorative study (literature, interviews, case studies) in the context of an assignment from the Bundes Ministerium for Bildung und Forschung (BMBF).

Research questions
The research questions are:
Which adoption problems live at the workplace?
What are the reasons for these problems?
In which phase of the implementation of new technology in the company do they arise and in what form?
What are the starting points for solutions? Are there any success stories and best practices?

Importance of attention to adoption
The implementation of Industry 4.0 requires adoption of innovations by employees and an attractive work system and user-friendly design. This does not happen automatically because digital technology: is accompanied by 1) virtual cross-links above companies, in
networks, 2) structural changes in work and qualification requirements that transcend machines and processes, and because 3) scientists describe various scenarios that do not yet make clear or unambiguous what opportunities for good and fair labor relations and work situations will arise; science cannot (yet) remove the uncertainty of employees. Adoption must therefore be actively achieved. Adoption is not a “whether or not" matter. It goes in phases; it can increase if positive effects become visible and suddenly disappear.

Analysis and design framework required
Adoption requires an analysis and design framework that encompasses and distinguishes the total system of social, organizational and personnel factors. The model includes an “adoption subject", an “adoption object" and an “adoption context." To the subject observed options for action, alternatives and options for influencing are important. About the object (an IT system for example) it is important to know what the purpose of it is, what the costs and utility are, the risks and the user-friendliness. The context is determined by the corporate culture, the experiences with previous implementations of new technology, the introduction strategy of the company (in consultation with the works council and with employee participation) and also ideas and prejudices about the technology (as “job killer", for example).

Recommended approach
The chance of adoption is increased by the following actions aimed at adoption subject, object and context. The subject, the employees, must be informed from the start. The communication must include the objective, the costs and benefits, the possible consequences for work and employment and the risks. Furthermore employees must participate in the implementation process. In addition to education and training, this means taking part in tests and taking part in decisions about design alternatives. It is essential that management react to feedback from employees who have taken part in the tests. With regard to the object, the Forschungsbeirat advocates the following. A user-friendly design must be made. As a solution to the question “how is the control of the process and the control of the employees?", the Beirat proposes to make agreements with the works council about which data, how, by whom and for what purpose may be collected. This can possibly be laid down in an agreement with the works council. In the context of Industry 4.0, a standard applies: “privacy by Design" (???). Finally, an “integral socio-technical design" of technology, organization and work is advocated. The most important in the context is an implementation process characterized by 1) a consistent strategy: clear goal, costs and benefits transparent for the company, employees and works council involved, 2) involvement of all groups of employees who are directly or indirectly affected by the changes 3) good consultation with the works council and possibly inclusion of an agreement in a ‘Betriebsvereinbarung’, 4) a long-term vision for the process.

Questions for the follow-up investigation
The following questions require attention in the second phase of the study: To what extent do company-specific circumstances influence adoption? Consider: the qualification and age structure, the sector, degree of digitization, the innovation culture, function and scope of the technology to be implemented. To what extent and how is adoption affected by informal communication and work relationships and can related practices also be used for a successful implementation of Industry 4.0? What influence do motivation and attitude of lower and middle management have on adoption? How should leadership style and management roles change?
The general conclusion is: anchoring Industry 4.0 in most cases requires a change in corporate culture and internal communication. And it is essential to involve all at an early stage.

Forschungsbeirat, Platform Industrie 4.0. “Akzeptanz von Industrie 4.0". 2019. Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung & Acatech Deutsche Akademie der Technikwissenschaften. 

Theme: Innovation & Innovation capacity
Sector: Industry
Source: Research report