Industry 4.0 – organizing routines or innovations?

Date14 May 2018
Publication Date14 May 2018
AuthorMaximiliane Wilkesmann,Uwe Wilkesmann
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Knowledge management,Knowledge management systems
Industry 4.0 organizing routines
or innovations?
Maximiliane Wilkesmann
Faculty of Business and Economics, TU Dortmund University,
Dortmund, Germany, and
Uwe Wilkesmann
Center for Higher Education, TU Dortmund University, Dortmund, Germany
Purpose The rise of new information and communication technologies forms the cornerstone for the
future developmentof work. The term Industry 4.0 refers to the vision of a fourth industrial revolutionthat is
based on a network of autonomous, self-controlling, self-conguring, knowledge-based, sensor-based and
spatially distributed production resources. All in all, different forms of the application of the Industry 4.0
concept can be observed, rangingfrom autonomous logistic transport systems drawn upon the idea of swarm
intelligenceto smart knowledge management systems. This paper aims to developa theoretical framework to
analyze different applications of Industry 4.0 on an organizing continuum. The general research questions
are: What forms of organizing digitalizedwork lead to the reproduction of routines, and what forms foster
innovation within Industry 4.0?The authors thus analyze the consequences of different forms of organizing
work on workersperceptionsand the results of the working process.
Design/methodology/approach This paper provides case studies for different stages of the
organizing continuum in the context of Industry 4.0. The cases and a further analysis of all 295 funded
projects are basedon the Platform Industry 4.0 Map, which is part of the Industry4.0 initiative of the German
Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy and the German Federal Ministry of Education and
Research. The consequencesfor people acting in such organizational and digitally supportedstructures are
Findings A variety of applications of Industry 4.0 can be found. These applicationsmainly vary in the
dimensions of the degree of formalization,the location of control authority, the location of knowledge and the
degree of professionalization. At the right side of the organizing continuum, the digitalization organizes a
work environment that supports highly qualied humans. They have broad leeway and a high degree of
autonomy to design and create innovative forms of digitalization for tomorrow. At the left side of the
organizing continuum, Industry 4.0 structures a work environment with narrow leeway, a low degree of
autonomy and a top-down structure of control authority predetermined by digital applications.In this case,
employeesll the gaps the machines cannot handle.
Research limitations/implications As the paper focuses on Industry 4.0 developmentsin Germany,
the comparability with regard to other countries is limited. Moreover, the methodological approach is
explorative, and broader quantitative verication is required. Specically, future research could include
quantitativemethods to investigate the employeesperspectiveon Industry 4.0. A comparison of Industry 4.0
applicationsin different countries would be another interestingoption for further research.
Practical implications This paper shows thatapplications of Industry 4.0 are currently at a very early
stage of development and momentarily organize more routines than innovations. From a practical point of
view, professionalvocational and academic training will be a key factorfor the successful implementation of
digitalization in future. A joint venture of industryand educational institutions could be a suitable way to
meet the growing demand for qualied employees from the middle to the right-hand of the organizing
continuumin the context of Industry 4.0.
Social implications Industry 4.0 is designedby men, and therefore, humans are responsible for whether
the future work situation will be perceivedas supportive or as an alienated routine. Therefore, designers of
Industry 4.0, as well as politiciansand scientists, absolutely must take the underlying outcomesof digitalized
work into accountand must jointly nd socially acceptable solutions.
Received7 April 2017
Revised4 June 2017
24July 2017
27September 2017
Accepted8 October 2017
VINEJournal of Information and
KnowledgeManagement Systems
Vol.48 No. 2, 2018
pp. 238-254
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/VJIKMS-04-2017-0019
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Originality/value This paper provides a promising avenue for future research on Industry 4.0 by
analyzing the underlying organizationalstructures of digital systems and their consequences for employees.
Moreover, the paper shows how Industry4.0 should be organized to simply reproduce routines or to support
Keywords Digitization, Digitalization, Knowledge management, Industry 4.0, Digital Taylorism
Paper type Research paper
In recent discussions about the development of new information and communication
technologies, we can observe a paradigm shift marking the transition of work from a real-
physical world to a virtual world. In this vein, real products are linked to Web-based
applications and are increasinglyintegrated into production processes. The rise of these new
information and communication technologies forms the cornerstone for the future
development of work. Since the beginning of industrialization, technological leaps have led
to paradigm shifts and have had a strong impact on the functionalareas of individual work
systems; in retrospect, these changes can be dened as industrial revolutions. The term
Industry 4.0 refers to the vision of a fourth industrial revolution, which is currently
considered a future project (Lasi et al.,2014). The vision of Industry 4.0 can be understood as
a comprehensive digitalization and linkage of production processes, starting from the
customers order, through the creation of production processes, to downstream product
services. In this regard, predominantly self-organized value-creation networks are expected
to lead to profound changes in economic interactions. Therefore, considerations in the
context of Industry 4.0 go beyond the mere optimization of IT-supported processes.
According to Kagermannet al. (2013,p.5):
Industry 4.0 enables continuous resource productivity and eciency gains to be delivered across
the entire value network. It allows work to be organised in a way that takes demographic change
and social factors into account.
This phenomenon can be observed in various countries all over the world (for an overview
see Gausemeier and Klocke, 2016, p. 14f.), yet discussed under different terms, such as the
so-called Second MachineAgeby Brynjolfsson and McAfee (2014) in the USA or Made in
China 2025(Zhang et al.,2014). Nevertheless, the term Industry 4.0 is increasingly used to
encompass these developments(Zhang et al.,2016).
On the one hand, particularly in the initial phase of a sociotechnical change, there are
great expectations and visionsrelated to the arising possibilities. On the other hand, there is
a high degree of uncertainty about the social consequences of these new technologies. This
discrepancy seems explicable given that different scientic disciplines are involved in the
research and implementationof Industry 4.0. The understanding of Industry 4.0 isbased on
the disciplines of computer science, engineering,political science, sociology and economics ,
which impedes a uniform denition.A denition upon which representatives from different
backgrounds (politics, business, science and trade unions) agree was created within the
framework of the Industry Platform 4.0, initiated by industrial associations, companies,
the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the Federal Ministry of
Education and Researchin Germany in 2015 and reads as follows:
The term Industrial 4.0 stands for the fourth industrial revolution, a new stage in the organization
and management of the entire value chain over the life cycle of products. This cycle addresses the
increasingly individualized customer requirements and extends from the idea of the development
and manufacturing, the delivery of a product to the customer up to the recycling, including
Industry 4.0

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