WZL Enables Companies and Employees to Shape the Digital Transformation


Successful Implementation of in-house learning projects and first Industry 4.0 solutions in the SME 4.0 Research Project

  Three people in front of a display Copyright: © WZL Through the experiential learning approach, companies and employees could be empowered to actively shape the Digital Transformation

The advancing Digital Transformation, often associated with the much-discussed term Industry 4.0, is leading to new technical challenges and changes in the working environment of numerous manufacturing companies. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular often lack the resources and capacities to cope with the new requirements resulting from technological change, as well as a technical infrastructure that is integrated into the company. It is therefore very difficult for these companies in particular to cope with the Digital Transformation on their own.

Against the background of this problem, the project "Companies and Employees Shape the Digital Transformation - SMEs 4.0" was realized at the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) of RWTH Aachen University within the framework of the New Quality of Work Initiative (INQA) of the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (BMAS). The project took place in a close three-year cooperation with the German MTM Association e.V.. Individual technological solutions were developed and implemented for the participating companies. They were based on a concept developed with the German MTM Association for knowledge and competence development in the following three fields of activity:

  • Company Learning Projects
  • Qualification of Staff
  • Cooperation

Particular emphasis was placed on empowering company employees and building up internal resources that would lay the foundation for the step towards Digital Transformation. The approach of experiential learning was intended to enable companies and employees to play an active role in shaping the Digital Transformation. The project goals set for this purpose were fully implemented over the course of the three-year project phase.

In-house learning projects were successfully carried out and the first Industry 4.0 solutions were implemented, such as digital tutorials, content management systems or warehouse management tools, which are individually tailored to the needs of the user companies involved in the project:

  • Julius Montz GmbH
  • periplast GmbH & Co. KG
  • PhMECHANIK GmbH & Co. KG
  • Polierscheibenfabrik Gustav Adolf Spaeth eK
  • RheinGetriebe GmbH

After completion of the research phase in September 2019, the project was extended by a one-year transfer phase in order to make the gained knowledge and research results available to a broader mass. This ensured a long-term anchoring of the results. With the digital clos-ing event in mid-December 2020, the WZL of RWTH Aachen University was able to successfully conclude the project "Companies and Employees Shape Digital Transformation - SME 4.0".

Information about the developed contents is still available on the website (www.kmu-4-0.rwth-aachen.de). The brochure is also available for download free of charge.