“When They Start the Smart Factory, We Don’t Notice That Here in Production” - the Dispositif of “Industrie 4.0” and the Staging of Digitalisation

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Johan BUCHHOLZ, Technical University of Munich, Germany
Simon SCHAUPP, Technical University of Munich, Germany
“Industrie 4.0” is a label coined by the German government and private sector actors organized in the “Plattform Industrie 4.0”. It promotes the introduction of digital technology into industrial production and thereby proclaiming a fourth industrial revolution. A few years after the invention, a massive hype developed around the label in Germany. Additionally, the discussion of the label in international contexts underlines its relevance as a current research area. We researched empirically, how this hype is “performed” in actual industrial production. Therefore we conducted a series of semi-structured interviews with managers and engineers of companies that consider themselves as part of “Industrie 4.0”. Ethnographic fieldwork at a medium-sized company which is proclaimed a “Industrie 4.0” model company allowed additional insights. Based on this material, we argue that, rather than describing a pre-existing technological development, the label “Industrie 4.0”, explicitly tries to create the reality it describes as a political program. As the “Plattform Industrie 4.0” is successful in creating a discursive trend, it is establishing a dispositif, which forces organisations in the field to position themselves toward it in rejecting or performing its postulates. In our case study, the demands of the dispositif were met by staging digitalisation: A highly advanced “smart factory” was implemented, which was, however, at one point in time completely detached from production and only used for visitors. Thereby, a process of coupling and decoupling can be observed between the rhetorical promotion and expectation of digitalisation on the one hand and the organisational practices of digitalisation on the other hand. Within this paper, we aim to develop a theoretical framework to analyse the relationship between the discursive and the material elements of the dispositif “Industrie 4.0”.