Industry 4.0

Industrial Revolution: Are machines taking over?

| Author / Editor: Rosemarie Stahl / Janina Seit

While many manufacturers are already automating their processes, or at least some of them, they may have bigger problems inviting their employees on the journey towards Industry 4.0. Many workers in the industry fear for their jobs. But do they have to? And how can manufacturers prepare their workforce for digitalisation?

The fear of a lot of workers: Machines making real people obsolete
( Source: Pixabay / CC0 )

While it is often relatively easy for manufacturers to implement automated processes, another part of manufacturing is harder to transform: Digital transformation does not only affect machines and their technical surroundings, it also influences the way we work. All in all, not every employee is looking forward to the future of manufacturing.

The greatest insecurity related to the topic of Industry 4.0 – besides data security – is probably the fear of jobs becoming obsolete. According to a recent survey by the International Data Corporation (IDC), many of the challenges companies have to face in their digitalisation process are related to the attitudes of employees. Besides technical and financial barriers like IT law and the lack of financial resources, many companies face real problems in connection with organisational structures.

One of these barriers is the cultural resistance to change. While 84% of European enterprise organisations are already on the path of digitalisation, 43% stated that the cultural resistance to change is a barrier to successful transformation, especially a disruptive one as this, the IDC survey states.

The fourth industrial revolution is called revolution for a reason. Its impact could be massive if it is carried out in full. Imagine an employee that has been operating machines for the last decade or two: How will he feel if he is assigned the task of monitoring a system that is able to operate more machines than he could have ever operated by himself? While he probably was proud of his expertise before, he now might feel like an assistant to a machine that does his job much better. Moreover, a couple of his colleagues might even have lost their jobs to the software behind it.

Understandably, the employee in this theoretic example will not welcome the digital transformation with open arms. If employees value their work today, it is a company’s duty to enable them to be proud of the way they work in the future, too. Companies have to react to the fears and insecurities of their employees early to keep them on board – especially skilled workers.

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