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The paper is devoted to the topic of Industry 4.0 and it’s being a systemic innovation interplay between technical and social innovation. It focuses on possible social innovations associated with its implementation that can play an important part in the further development of society. To collect the data and fill the knowledge gap that exists in the discussed field, it was decided to conduct qualitative research and apply the method of a semi-structured interview. Having interviewed ten specialists in the field of manufacturing technology, the researchers found that there were a large number of positive consequences of the implementation of Industry 4.0 related to the life of society. In the end, the authors concluded that Industry 4.0 could really be called a concept connecting technical and social innovation. The results can be used in further research focusing on certain aspects related to this system in particular.
There is no doubt that humanity continues developing newer technologies in order to implement certain findings related to manufacturing and science and propel the life of the society to the next level (Fukuda-Parr & Lopes, 2013). Nowadays, there are a lot of tendencies related to this sphere of human activity, and it is necessary to understand that a wide range of changes that are proposed by ones encouraging the development of these ideas touches upon not only technical but also social innovation (Borrás & Edler, 2014). The paper studies Industry 4.0 and its role as an interplay between technical and social innovation. Speaking about the topic, it is also necessary to understand that the research question chosen is justified by the research gap that exists in the field. Although there is a range of sources devoted to the concept of Industry 4.0, the role that it plays in connecting social and technical innovations has been thoroughly studied by previous researchers.
In order to study the topic of Industry 4.0 and define the number of features that make it a system at the confluence of technical and social innovation, it is necessary to summarize the data reported by previous researchers in the field. To begin with, it is important to mention that Industry 4.0 presents an important tendency related to the field of process technologies that involve the development and further extensive use of such innovations as the use of embedded systems, networks allowing different types of physical devices to exchange the information and provide people with extended opportunities and easier access to data and control (Oesterreich & Teuteberg, 2016). Apart from that, the discussed idea is closely interconnected to the popularization and growth of cloud computing allowing us to save resources. The problems related to the role of Industry 4.0 were studied by a wide range of researchers; for instance, Lasi, Fettke, Kemper, Feld, and Hoffmann (2014) describe it as a project with great potential in spheres related to politics, society, and economics.
Lee, Bagheri, and Kao (2015) suppose that cyber-physical systems may help to improve manufacturing processes but the concept needs additional improvements. The great role of the system in the further development of the German industry and society is also discussed by Brettel, Friederichsen, Keller, and Rosenberg (2014). The concept of Industry 4.0 involves a range of technical concepts but many works such as ones by Jazdi (2014) and Wang, Wan, Zhang, and Li (2016) support the opinion that the system will have a significant influence on every family and the market in general. According to Kolberg and Zühlke (2015), many people are skeptical towards the discussed approach but it possesses the potential to optimize value chains and implement a lean automation system. A great interest to the system is demonstrated by a few works proposing possible ways of its implementation; the latter is written by Schlechtendahl, Keinert, Kretschmer, Lechler, and Verl (2015), Stock and Seliger (2016), and Ivanov, Dolgui, Sokolov, Werner, and Ivanova (2016). The topic of interconnection between social and technical innovations has been studied by many researchers including Cajaiba-Santana (2014), Yearley (2014), and Schubert (2014) who regarded these two components to be interdependent. Taking these facts into consideration, it is possible to state that Industry 4.0 and a wide range of proposed innovations that remain essential parts of this system are supported by many specialists due to the possibility of technical progress that they may involve. Nevertheless, its possible effects related to social changes have not been studied thoroughly.
In order to study the role of Industry 4.0 project in changing the lives of common citizens of the countries where technologies proposed by its developers can be implemented, it is necessary to conduct qualitative research with the help of semi-structured interviews. This method is supposed to be really helpful when it comes to understanding the concepts (Brinkmann, 2014). In order to collect the data, the researchers decided to interview ten specialists working in the field of manufacturing technologies (Rao, 2013). According to the type of interview, certain questions required the participants to be objective whereas the last one encouraged them to describe their own expectations (Galletta, 2013). The interview included three questions; as for the first one, the respondents were supposed to evaluate whether Industry 4.0 could have a significant impact on social life. Answering the second question, the respondents were supposed to name a few possible effects that it would provide on social life. In the end, the participants were supposed to express their opinions on the practical significance of the discussed project in connection with social life.
Within the frame of the research, a series of interviews devoted to social innovation in connection with Industry 4.0 was conducted. According to the answers to the first question, all the participants agreed that the implementation of innovations related to the project will have a significant influence on social life. As it is clear from the answers to the second question, its effects mentioned by the majority of the participants included the ability to decrease the necessity for solving routine problems at work, to use information technologies to prevent criminal activity and to propel customer service to the next level (Jing, Vasilakos, Wan, Lu, & Qiu, 2014). What is more, the majority of participants (80%) estimated the practical significance of the discussed project as very high, and all of them supported the idea of its importance for both technical and social development.
In the end, it needs to be said that studying the concept that needs further development is quite a difficult task; nevertheless, the interviews conducted within the frame of the given research allowed to prove that Industry 4.0 is seen as a concept uniting technical and social innovation. In general, the data retrieved with the help of the discussed interviews aligns with the statements made by some of the researchers discussing possible social effects of the implementation of innovations related to Industry 4.0. Nevertheless, it may be necessary to increase the number of participants during further research in order to improve the credibility of the data and evaluate the opinions on particular measures listed by the authors of the discussed project (Miguel et al., 2014).
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