Digitalisation changes all areas of life, such as leisure time, consumption patterns and the working environment. On one hand, more than 50,000 IT expert jobs are vacant in Germany, on the other hand, about 3.4 million people have to learn to revise their way of thinking. No doubt, the working environment is in flux. Both chances and risks wait to be addressed.
Shifts and new orientations of different positions are inevitable in this situation. Companies and government agree that digitalisation will offer great chances to employees in Germany. And the German economy is booming. The unemployment rate in Germany is lower than it has been for decades.
There are reservations that jobs will be replaced by robots and computer algorithms. But should we not see the current situation as an invitation to respond to the change and find our own role therein?
Standing still while this "4th industrial revolution" takes place is certainly not advisable. According to the industry association, there are currently only 20,000 jobs available in communication technology. For comparison: In the mid-1990s, there were ten times as many. "Within only fifteen years, we have lost 90 percent of jobs in this area – due to digitalisation", states Achim Berg, president of Bitkom.
Hartmut Hirsch-Kreinsen, economics professor at TU Dortmund University, has a completely different opinion: According to him, there is no doubt that the working environment is changing, but the general statement that digitalisation will lead to massive unemployment is far-fetched. After all, the "4th industrial revolution" will create new jobs some of which we cannot even foresee today. Hirsch-Kreinsen's theory is supported by the figures of Bitkom Research GmbH and the market research institutes IDC and GfK.
They indicate that digital change is a driving force: With more than 45,000 additional jobs in IT and telecommunications, the biggest job growth within one year in history took place in 2017. New professions such as security managers, who deal with the company's internal IT safety architecture, or big data scientists were particularly in demand.
Experts are convinced that new jobs will not only arise in the typical IT environment. In the context of autonomous driving, for example, there will have to be machine ethicists who decide what rules autonomously driving cars are to follow.
According to experts, the most important prerequisite for this trend are intelligent products and innovations as well as new business models, which only become possible through digitalisation. In order to remain competitive, companies (regardless of their size) will have to invest in digital technologies, explains Berg. On the one hand, they have to develop in an agile way, on the other hand they have to support their employees and focus on the requirements of the "networked customer".
Digitalisation specialists think that particularly small and medium-sized companies will have to become active. Despite reservations and initial difficulties, the companies have come to the same conclusion, as becomes visible in a Bitkom survey: In spite of the impression that digitalisation may be a threat, 86 percent of those asked stated that Industry 4.0 is more a chance than a risk.
Nevertheless, being aware of the potentials offered by digitalisation is not enough: "It is not enough to see opportunities, you also have to seize them", says Berg. And that is exactly the challenge.
Those wanting to be successful need digitalisation strategies. From thinking outside the box to the required know-how of qualified employees: There is a wide range of strategies to deal with digitalisation. According to experts, the key to success lies in developing new business models. Nevertheless, new innovations require analysable data to compete in the "Internet of Things" (IoT) market.
For the industry, this means: New business models may emerge from evaluated machine data, the use of sensors and real-time processing of vast data volumes. The information gained helps companies of all industries to improve their value chains and optimise their processes.
To make this possible, the ifm group of companies supports other companies with industrial automation technologies such as sensors, control systems and communication solutions, acting as a "link" in the digital value chain.
For example, industrial customers can generate data from the sensors developed and gain important information. This information then helps to detect machine damage at an early stage and avoid consequential damage.
In addition, the technology provider offers complete solutions in the B2B area – including project planning and implementation, explains Dr. Thomas May, member of ifm's Board of Directors. In spite of technical abstraction, the traditional company attaches great importance to close customer contact: "We support each customer in person – wherever in the world and in whatever language", says May. Symptomatic: The service-oriented sensor specialist has been rated "top employer" in Germany several times.
Even if the fear that machines might replace humans is probably as old as mechanisation itself: Expect the unexpected. After all, the third industrial revolution and the resulting increased automation proved that change can generate new chances.
The prerequisite for new chances is that companies, in the interest of their employees, recognise their potential and exploit it, developing intelligent products and services tailored to the requirements of the market by means of data.
This is exactly what ifm managed to accomplish: The group of companies, which develops, manufactures and distributes automation technologies for measuring and controlling, employs more than 6,700 employees in 70 countries – from ABAP developers to forecast planning managers. This proves that digital technologies do not only change job profiles, but generate numerous new jobs.