Work 4.0

Solutions in the interplay between people, the organization and technology

Work 4.0 describes the change in the world of work that is associated with digital transformation. With the advent of new technologies, the working environment is becoming more networked, more digital and more flexible. Task profiles, work processes and job profiles are either changing or being recreated from scratch. This applies to both production work and knowledge and development work. In this context, work 4.0 goes beyond the purely technological perspective and leads to profound changes in organizational and management structures as well as changes in corporate culture. This is often referred to as new work. The term work 4.0 is primarily concerned with solutions for managing the digital transformation. New work, on the other hand, refers to a change in questions of meaning and values resulting in changes in employees’ expectations of the world of work. Both approaches have an impact on each other.

Work 4.0 affects all industries and company departments. In the case of manufacturing companies, new technologies offer them opportunities to ensure their competitiveness by reducing the workload of their employees and increasing their productivity. Given the shortage of skilled workers, work 4.0 can help to counter demographic change and keep employees in employment for longer. New forms of work as well as greater participation and creative freedom often go hand in hand with greater employee satisfaction. At the same time, the challenges of occupational safety and mobile working, such as data security and permanent accessibility, must be met. Employees also need to be trained to perform new tasks, and willingness to accept change needs to be fostered. Effective work 4.0 solutions therefore take equal account of organizational, technological and employee-related factors.

 

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Two engineers work with a cell phone using holographic augmented reality.
© Gorodenkoff Productions OU / Adobe Stock
Work 4.0: The transition to a digitalized working world.

What we are researching and working on

Together with companies and research partners, we are working on aligning the design of workplaces, structures and processes with the needs of people and making the best possible use of the potential offered by networked systems. We are investigating potential applications and the impact of modern technologies, work equipment and methods. These include new forms of human-machine interaction through AR/VR solutions, agile working methods such as Scrum, digital learning platforms or applications based on artificial intelligence. For example, the KIAM project is currently developing an AI-based workforce scheduling system for the production department, which optimally assigns employees to work tasks in real time based on the preferences and qualifications of the workforce as well as the current order status.

In industrial companies, we focus our solutions on three employment groups in particular, as they have a major impact on the success of Work 4.0 measures: HR officers, employee representatives and managers. Human Resources is responsible for developing expertise within the company by training and recruiting new employees. Employee representatives, i.e. works councils and trade unions, are consistently involved in change processes by virtue of their role. Managers define the strategic guidelines for the digital transformation of a company and contribute directly to the implementation of change processes. This approach results in sustainable solutions that contribute to a long-term corporate and digitalization strategy. We always keep the requirements of small and medium-sized businesses in mind so that concepts and measures can also be applied to SMEs.