Human-Centred Production: The role of Competences and Learning for Industry 4.0

Publikation: Bog/antologi/rapport/Ph.d. afhandlingBogForskningpeer review


In recent years, the so-called fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) has received much attention as the one to connect manufacturing technologies, integrating machines, supply chains, and data to enable informed decision-making and increased automation. Now, a new paradigm is emerging – the fifth industrial revolution (Industry 5.0). This phase places humans at the centre of production technology, adopting a capability-driven perspective with a profound focus on human centricity, resiliency, and sustainability. While it may be debatable whether Industry 5.0 is a new revolution or a mere reaction to the shortcomings of the highly technology-driven focus of Industry 4.0, Industry 5.0 represents a shift towards a more holistic and integrated approach, signalling a transformative era where the role of humans in manufacturing takes precedence over technology as Industry 4.0 has struggled to become operationalised as visioned. Digitalisation in Denmark has experienced widespread adoption but is now encountering a notable slowdown, particularly evident in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The digitalisation trajectory in SMEs lags behind that of larger enterprises, which is a critical issue given that SMEs constitute most of the manufacturing sector. Complicating matters is an anticipated shortage of the workforce for current manufacturing operations, a situation expected to intensify in the coming years. The demographic trends in Denmark, marked by an ageing population and population decline, further emphasise the need for increased digitalisation and automation to maintain current living standards sustainably amid a diminishing workforce. Adding to the complexity, manufacturers are grappling with a significant deficiency in the knowledge and competences required for effective digital transformation. As such, there is a pressing need for approaches that guide responsible, sustainable, and human-centred digitalisation.

With these challenges in mind, the objective of this dissertation is to provide actionable insights about the role of competences and learning in advancing digitalisation within manufacturing and production environments. This is presented through five appended research contributions. The empirical results arrive both from desk research and empirical case research from multiple Danish SMEs through the Innovation Factory North research program. This program provided a unique insight into 90 manufacturing companies.

The results are centred around three main parts that firstly identify crucial competences needed for digital transformation and tie them to the process of digital transformation. The findings arrive at a novel competence typology in three categories: management, backend, and frontend and connect them in a necessary feedback loop to support the journey towards digital transformation. Secondly, organisational prerequisites and hindrances for competence development for digital transformation are explored to explain the slow digitalisation observed in SMEs. It is found how specific foundational knowledge areas hinder SMEs in their digitalisation efforts.
Lastly, exemplary case studies illustrate how adopting a human-centred perspective helped mature the SMEs’ foundational knowledge and promote learning and understanding of digital transformation. The results also challenged the idea that a digital transformation always needs a long-term strategy to succeed – for SMEs, a more incremental approach seems suitable. Other researchers may use the results to increase the understanding of the sociotechnical challenges related to digital transformation in SMEs. Practitioners may use the results to focus their operations around the specific highlighted knowledge areas.
ForlagAalborg Universitetsforlag
Antal sider114
ISBN (Elektronisk)978-87-94563-14-7
StatusUdgivet - 2024
NavnPh.d.-serien for Det Ingeniør- og Naturvidenskabelige Fakultet, Aalborg Universitet