Why Industry 4.0 needs Workplace Innovation: a critical look at the German debate on advanced manufacturing

Ralf Kopp, Jürgen Howaldt, Jürgen Schultze

Abstract


Behind labels in the international debate such as “autonomics” and “advanced manufacturing” hides the attempt to accelerate the digitalisation of production. In Germany, the future of manufacturing is intimately bound up with the vision of Industry 4.0. Despite considerable uncertainties and risks, and despite negative experiences with such technology-centred approaches in the past (e.g. with concepts such as the “fully automated factory” or “Enterprise 2.0”), there is a broad, almost unbroken consensus between social partners and policy-makers. Widespread implementation of this technology-centred vision appears to be necessary and crucial for competitiveness, and without alternatives, so that only the question of its socially acceptable design remains to be answered. Our article aims to show, however, that there are alternatives to a concept based on a one-sided, technology-oriented understanding of innovation. It therefore makes an important difference whether Industry 4.0 or Workplace Innovation stands at the centre of such far-reaching plans for the future.

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