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Working World in Transition

Industry 4.0 needs social innovations

After two years of research into "Digitization and Industry 4.0", the VDI (Association of German Engineers) Technology Center has now presented its initial report. Although the conclusion – "Technology alone is not enough" – sounds rather terse, it is worth taking a closer look.

25 Dec. 2017
Michael Triadan
VDI Technologiezentrum GmbH
Industry 4.0 needs social innovations (graphic: VDI Technologiezentrum GmbH)

The study examines a number of sectors: the chemical, pharmaceutical, glass, ceramic, rubber and plastics industries. The industry reports have an identical structure. They help compare industry situations, referred to as "Highlights" in the chapter title, sector-specific digitization opportunities ("Strategic Opportunity"), implementation trends ("Digitization Concepts"), workplace influences ("Transition of Work") and finally forecasts ("Outlook").

An extensive introductory section discusses topics that include the effects of digitization on employment , the labor market and qualifications. Demands on economic, research, labor market and education policy are soundly formulated. In the concluding section, works councils from four companies report on practical experiences with the topic. Professor Enzo Weber emphasizes, inter alia, that there is a need for economic, educational and labor market policies in order to take advantage of the new situation and promote a "digital economic and labor market model". According to the Head of Research at the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), the further development of vocational training, significant strengthening of further education, and organization of social security and operational flexibility are decisive factors.

The social discussion about the working world of tomorrow is in any case already in full swing. The White Paper Working 4.0 , published by the Federal Ministry of Labor in 2017, provides a well-founded basis. Whether and which of its ideas will be implemented in the coming years could depend, among other things, on the outcome of ongoing efforts to form a government in Germany.