Study visit – Aachen

    September 7, 2018

    On Friday 7 September, the social partners of Flanders visited Aachen to learn more on the challenges the digital transformation holds for SME’s and on the opportunities that digitalisation entails for a more intense collaboration between humans and robots. The delegation consisted not only of members of the SERV, but also members of the cabinet of the Flemish minister of Labour, Economy, Innovation and Sport Philippe Muyters and VDAB, the public employment service of Flanders.

    The study visit fits within the ongoing ESF project ‘Social partners on the digital fast track’. A specific focus of the study visit was on ‘work-oriented modernization of SME’s’, i.e. that management and employees work together on modernising strategies on an organisational level in a participative way

    After a general introduction by Andreas Bendig (G.I.B Bottrop) on the policies of Northrein-Westphalia concerning the link between the labour market and digitalisation, some specific projects that focus specifically on SME’s were presented.

    • SME 4.0 is a project to develop and implement qualification concepts within SME to build up knowledge and skills. The project focuses on operational learning projects for digital transformation, which are carried out at the user companies of the consortium. The insights gained into organisational learning are then transferred into a guideline for action.
    • Digital Excellence in SME’s is a project that aims to develop tailor-made solutions for SME’s. With the involvement of employees, suitable technologies are selected and working processes are further developed and tested. This serves to further develop of SMEs and of the skills of the employees.
    • Reverse Engineering is regarded as an innovative tool for reproduction of rare spare and wear parts for historical cars, airplanes or machinery. The case study shows how a SME established Reverse Engineering as part of its service portfolio. It required the development of technical knowledge and employee skills through all steps of the process chain from digitization and feature recognition to additive manufacturing.

    In the afternoon, the delegation visited the Smart Logistics Cluster of RWTH Aachen. At the demonstration factory the offer includes on the one hand the production of prototypes and products in pre-series. On the other hand, the production environment of the demonstration factory offers partners from industry and research the unique opportunity to jointly investigate industrial 4.0 issues in real-life operation.