Shadowing Industry 4.0: an empirical study of digitalisation in a German/Italian automotive firm

Type de publication:

Journal Article


International Journal of Automotive Technology and Management, Inderscience Publishers, Volume 23, Number 2-3, p.303 – 321 (2023)



Automotive industry, Case method, Commerce, digitalization, German/italian automotive industry, Human resources development, industry 4.0, kaizen, Lean augmentation, lean production, Lean trap, Operation, Personnel, Single-case method, trade unions


In line with the recent debate, the general aim of this paper is to explore the interplay of human intervention and digital technologies in lean production. In particular, we present an empirical analysis of how digitalisation is introduced into a lean system within a German owned firm located in the Italian ‘motor valley’, where technological innovation is theoretically inspired by the Industry 4.0 (I4.0) approach. The analysis of this single-case study brought to light that production is becoming more and more digital-intensive, but it appears to be informed by a digital shadow rather than a digital twin paradigm. Indeed, workers appear to hold a steady control over the work process, although digital self-configuring systems are beginning to be introduced. At the same time, the analysis identifies two elements allowing to maintain the balance between automation and human intervention: on one hand, the type and market positioning of the product, which leaves a wide scope for profit and, on the other hand, the important role played by trade union at company level in influencing the way digitalisation is introduced. Copyright © 2023 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.

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