Writing this blog-post has been highly motivated by this year’s blog parade of KnowTech 2015, one of the biggest German-speaking conferences for knowledge management with more than 300 participants. The #knt15 blog parade is dedicated to the ‘future of work’ – and so is this blog post.

Recent years have not only brought up a new term – “Industrie 4.0” – but also a huge number of essays and studies on the future of production work. To cite one of those, a recent essay from Deloitte for instance argues that manufacturing is no longer simply about making physical products. Moreover, products become increasingly smart by adding sensors and connectivity to them.

The essay names four shifts in manufacturing,

  • the changing nature of products (from dumb to smart; from product to platform; from product to service),
  • the changing consumer demands (personalization and customization; consumers as creators),
  • the changing economics of production (exponential production technologies, e.g. additive manufacturing; eroding barriers to learning, entry and commercialisation; emerging manufacturing models, e.g. distributed local manufacturing), and
  • the changing economics of the value chain (eroding value proposition for intermediaries; direct consumer engagement; faster speed to commercialisation; built to order vs. build to stock).

Such essays are interesting, because they capture recent developments and trends. However, most of those remain on a very high-level, linking technology to business models and vice versa.They can act as a guidance for clever decision makers, but they do not answer current questions in a pragmatic way. Similar to the well-known article from Porter and Heppelmann in Harvard Business Review (How smart, connected products are transforming competition), they are dedicated to the interests and challenges of strategy makers. And they do not really support the ‘technology in search of a solution’ perspective of artefact-driven research projects.

Besides such visionary articles, two European Projects, FACTS4WORKERS and SATISFACTORY, funded by the Horizon 2020 Factory of the Future Programme, research and develop concrete technical solutions to make the current manufacturing work more attractive, by transferring modern and appealing information and communication technologies to the shop floor. FACTS4WORKERS for instance aims to leverage the large added value of manufacturing data, information and knowledge in a worker-centred way to achieve worker empowerment, resulting in both, higher worker satisfaction, and increased worker productivity.

The FACTS4WORKERS project, backed-up by a series of renowned industry partners, considers the *real* human worker as the most flexible element in current and future production work and takes a human-centred approach, focusing on usefulness, usability, and user experience of developed solutions. FACTS4WORKERS emphasizes on empowering the human production worker to cope with future challenges in manufacturing. It pushes the human worker back in the  loop for designing smart factories powered by even smarter human workers. Smart factory technologies in FACTS4WORKERS will be developed according to four industrial challenges, personalized augmented machine operator, rich-media knowledge management for shop-floor workers, self-learning manufacturing workplaces, and in-situ mobile learning in the production.

With 15 partners from seven different EU member states and a project budget of more than 8 Mio EUR, FACTS4WORKERS will contribute to actively developing  worker-centric workplaces in future smart factories.The talk of Alexander Richter, Ann-Kathrin Lang, and Martin Wifling at Knowtech 2015 is therefore dedictated to introducing the FACTS4WORKERS project including a presentation of ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe’s project use case.




5. October 2015

FACTS4WORKERS at KnowTech 2015 Conference

Writing this blog-post has been highly motivated by this year’s blog parade of KnowTech 2015, one of the biggest German-speaking conferences for knowledge management with more […]