Select Page
© Norbert Kreuzkamp, August 2016

© Norbert Kreuzkamp, 2016

Industrial relations and social dialogue under the pressure to adapt to increasing digitisation of economy and industry (industry*4.0). Scientific studies with a comparative approach including communication and transfer of results – Smart Factory [SF].

According to the concept “Industry 4.0”, production systems may be in the future able to steer and optimise processes in a largely autonomous way. This would result in a technological vi­sion of a “smart factory” – a fully automated and intelligent factory. Nevertheless, reality is still different and alternative development paths seem feasible.

This technological vision of a smart factory and the digitisation processes in economy and in­dustry generally are a considerable challenge and put the industrial relations and the social dialogue of European countries under quite a strong pressure of adaptation.

The objective of this Project is to raise – on a scientific basis – the level of knowledge on possible changes to the industrial relations caused by digitisation and technologisation and the relative innovative digital concepts of production (industrial 4.0). The collection of knowledge on these issues will be implemented with a comparative approach in four selected European regions and countries: Baden-Wurttemberg (Germany), Lombardy (Italy), Catalonia (Spain) and Västsverige-Gothenburg (Sweden). Because of their industrial character, those regions are especially suited to help to identify expert and factual knowledge in the area of industrial relations with regard to digitisation and technologisation of the economy.

The elements of the project are (1) scientific surveys with (2) communication and (3) transfer (dissemination) of the results.

The target group for the surveys consists of labour experts; such as regional employee’ re­pre­sen­tatives on plant level (work councils) and trade union representatives. The transfer of fin­dings is aimed at employees of mid-sized companies.

With its wide scope of branches, the industry sector offers the best opportunities for the scien­tific research. Depending on the access options of the regional partners, they can range from chemistry to manufacturing industry.

Concerning to digitisation of work and industry as well as to the assumed effects on collective labour relations, up to now, just a few findings are available. This holds true whether we are talking about Germany, other European countries or several European regions respectively. The same applies when it comes to the impact of digitisation on employees and their working conditions with the exception of the implementation of concept “industry 4.0”.

Taking into account the country specific framework, the research focuses on potential changes in industrial relations. In this context, we highlight forms of work organisation, qualification requirements and needs, trends in decentralization, delimitation of work as well as basic and advanced training.

The surveys are conceptualized as region/country case studies with a strong comparative connotation.

To answer the research questions, we are going to undertake a multi-staged online-survey, using the Delphi method. With the help of our partners, we are going to interview regional ex­perts (labour representatives and employees) from selected sectors, related to the con­se­quen­ces of digitisation and technologisation.

The Delphi method includes iterative group interviews. With this method, it is possible to use individual survey results to create consensus-oriented solutions to solve complex problems. The Delphi method is often used for expert interviews, when we are dealing with estimations and forecasts about issues we cannot describe directly because they do not exist in presence but in the future. Moreover, Delphi enables us to develop structured future scenarios with the help of the scenario method. With those future scenarios, we can describe in a coherent way, possible trends and tendencies, identify hypothetical questions and estimate their probability of occurrence. The scenario method provides three basic types of scenarios: a best-case scenario, a worst-case scenario and a trend-scenario, which shows a future continuation of the contemporary situation.


Eberhard Karls University Tübingen
Institute of Political Science
Chair of Policy Analysis and Political Economy Research
Prof. Dr. Josef Schmid


acli e. V.
das Selbsthilfewerk für interkulturelle Arbeit

CISL Lombardy 
Confederazione italiana sindacati dei lavoratori Lombardia

CCOO of Catalonia 
Confederació Sindical de la Comisió nacional de Catalunya

LO West Sweden 
LO-distriktet i Västsverige


Forschungsinstitut für Arbeit,
Technik und Kultur


Katholische Arbeitnehmerbewegung
der Diözese Rottenburg-Stuttgart

Katholische Betriebsseelsorge
der Diözese Rottenburg-Stuttgart

DGB Baden-Württemberg
Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund
Bezirksverband Baden-Württemberg

Kirchlicher Dienst in der Arbeitswelt
Evangelische Landeskirche Württemberg

Federazione energia, moda, chimica ed affini CISL Lombardia
Sesto San Giovanni


With financial support from the European Union

Project Duration
1 March, 2016 – 31 December, 2017