Current and future Industry 4.0 capabilities for information and knowledge sharing
Journal article, 2019
Humans are indispensable in the manufacturing industry as its complexity increases in an Industry 4.0 context, mainly due to changing customer demands. Managing the challenges of increased complexity can create a competitive advantage for SMEs. Technologies which enable the emerging phenomenon of Industry 4.0 have the possibility to simplify the sharing of information and knowledge among people at work, especially for Operator 4.0. However, few SMEs have actually implemented such technologies for this purpose. Therefore, this paper aims to create an understanding of the current state and challenges which need to be overcome, and further, to provide some insights on future possibilities by identifying the stages of Industry 4.0 development of SMEs with regards to their capabilities. This qualitative interview study focuses on how human-centered production processes are currently supporting assembly and office work. Two Swedish SMEs were studied, where almost all of their operators and management team on site were interviewed individually concerning their views on their current capabilities. The interviews were thematically analyzed with regards to the state-of-the-art research, and results show that the case companies are in some aspects digitized with regards to computerization and connectivity, but have some challenges in making the shared production-related information more visible and transparent, especially on shop-floors where most information and knowledge are shared through word of mouth or with pen and paper. Conclusively, the studied SMEs have started their digitalization journey, but further Industry 4.0 development needs to align with their respective conditions and needs. While Industry 4.0 enabling technologies that support information and knowledge sharing are emerging, organizational development can support the implementation of such technologies, which should be the focus for future research.