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Industry 4.0 and Project Management

Industry 4.0 and Project Management 24.05.2017 - The digitalisation of our world, particularly in the world of work, is marching forward every day. The term Industry 4.0 describes a development that is expected to lead to a new fourth industrial revolution and is fundamentally characterised by digitalisation. Some observers even believe that digitalisation will have as much impact on economic affairs as the introduction of mass production or the invention of the steam engine, which is why it has been named a digital revolution. It is currently not possible to say whether this is true or not. It is certainly the case that virtually all companies are affected by digitalisation and are increasingly trying to fully realise its benefits.
Evidence of Industry 4.0 can be seen by the fact that networks are growing, the internet is used as a major source of information and the most important means of communication, virtual representations of the real world are being created and used, and cyber systems are increasingly being developed, which act autonomously to a certain degree and are able to make their own decisions.
 
Digitalisation in the Economy
 
For half a decade, the concept of Industry 4.0 has already had time to gain traction across the business world. Production processes and procedures within companies have changed during this time and are continuing to develop. Advantages of digitalisation include more simplified data management, greater opportunities to create less expensive and more individualised solutions, the automation of labour intensive processes or the introduction of measures that simplify these processes. These benefits are naturally likely to be realised in both conventional manufacturing companies and also in businesses operating in the service sector.
 
The subject of Industry 4.0 is therefore ever-present in project management. First and foremost, project management is involved with companies that are going through digitalisation and need to be able to manage this process. Project managers themselves are also affected by digitalisation and increasingly organise their internal structures using digital products.
 
Digitalisation in Project Management
 
Project management must respond more and more quickly and operate more proactively in the digital world. However, what does this specifically mean for a project manager who is responsible for leading a project on a construction site? Firstly, it is apparent that most project managers use smart phones. This allows them to have constant access to their emails, the internet, instant messaging services, cameras, plans and reports. All company statements can be reviewed directly during a construction site meeting. Has the appropriate plan been received by the architect? Has the data sheet been sent to the supervisory office and which RAL colour should the window frames have? All this information can be answered directly thanks to digitalisation and does not need to be investigated or confirmed once again over the following days.
 
Increasingly, project managers can be seen using a tablet and drafting reports during site inspections. They can take photos of a door, a missing windowsill or a damaged or incorrectly labelled cable and then insert the photograph directly into their report along with relevant annotations. It is very quick and simple to generate a site inspection report, which can then be sent immediately to all the stakeholders. Digitalisation saves time and a great deal of telephone calls.
 
Digital Project Platforms
 
Project management platforms have now become commonplace in many areas of project management. There are many different providers of these platforms and it is also possible to develop your own. Platforms of this type can be individually created for each project and designed to include different functions to suit the task or project. Information such as plans, meeting reports, acceptance reports, photographs, contracts, construction schedules, bills of materials, data sheets, specifications, designs and correspondence are generally stored here. A dedicated rights management process can be specified for each of these categories, for example who is allowed to upload content, who needs to authorise it, where appropriate, and who can finally call up this information and amend it. In addition, each user can receive information when a new report is published within a specific category. Meeting invitations can be sent via the project platforms, which can take over the function of scheduling tools such as  Doodle. Meeting reports can also be matched to individual meetings. Plans can be uploaded without the need for paper and they can also be annotated, authorised and edited. It is always possible to determine which is the most recent version of the plan, depending on the particular settings, and to see how many amendments have been made so far.
 
Switching Over to Digital Project Management
 

On the other hand, it is true to say that paper will continue to play an important role in project management. In many cases, it is simply unavoidable and also advisable to print something out to enable project participants to write notes on a plan, which will help to determine the best solution. This also enables drawings to be compared or hard copy versions of reports to be read because no one really wants to spend the whole working day staring at a screen. However, it is definitely true to say that digitalisation simplifies many things and will be completely indispensable in the future. 

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