Digitalisation in Small German Metal-Working Companies Appropriation of Technology in a “Traditional” Industrial Domain

Bernhard Nett Jennifer Bönsch

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Abstract

To explore today ́s relationship of digitalisation to work and qualification, small metal-working companies were studied by project ethnography and via a survey. The cases show that digitalisation is expected to promote product quality, flexibility, systematic use of labour, and equipment utilisation. Digitalization in the North Rhine-Westfalian SMEs today hardly follows the full-automation vision of “industry 4.0”. In spite of the adaptability of digital technology, it is difficult for SMEs to tailor it according to their particular demands. In terms of qualification, such appropriation of technology obviously strongly depends upon organisational competences of evolutionary learning.