Our office in Saarbrücken hosted the kick-off for the research project Readi on March 1st, 2023. To celebrate and to explain the project a little further, we conducted a little interview with project manager Katharina Roos and researcher Dr. Verena Rheinstädter.
Katharina: Readi is an abbreviation for strengthened resilience in manufacturing SMEs through agile, human-centered digital systems and system design (Gestärkte Resilienz in produzierenden KMU durch agile, mensch-zentrierte digitale Systeme und Systemgestaltung). Sounds pretty abstract at first, doesn't it? (laughs)
There are currently a variety of challenges in the world, such as the shortage of skilled workers, the consequences of the Corona crisis, and the energy crisis. Under the influence of these challenges and crises, small and medium-sized and especially manufacturing companies in Germany, are finding it difficult to deal with change as a permanent condition. Companies also face significant challenges in producing increasingly complex systems and products in ever shorter development and production cycles. This often leads to the question of where to start and, unfortunately, often ends in failed initiatives.
For more than two decades, we have successfully supported organizations in the transformation towards an independent human-centered development of digital products and services. We are happy to bring this experience to the research project, particularly to reduce the aforementioned hurdles for manufacturing SMEs.
Verena: With Readi, we specifically try to enrich existing change and maturity models with our human-centered design approach and our collaborative and agile methods. As Katharina already said, we want to make it easier for companies to get started with digitalization in the future - with a balanced consideration of human focus, technology, and efficiency.
Katharina: Resilience is often used as a synonym for perseverance, flexibility, or durability and is currently one of the most frequently used terms. Resilience can be viewed at the human, team, and organizational levels.
Regardless of the level, resilience is always characterized by effectively handling crises and challenges and balancing agility and stability. Of course, it is exciting to see what makes some organizations more resilient than others and what factors contribute to adaptability and resilience. As already mentioned: Today, we are confronted with internal and external changes – from outside, for example, due to the energy crisis or the planned end for combustion engines, especially manufacturing SMEs in Germany. It is inspiring to see how companies counter these changes without losing their original meaning – i.e., their purpose.
Verena: In addition to increasing the adaptability and resilience of companies, one goal is to develop a maturity model. This should help us and the businesses themselves in an advisory capacity concerning their adaptability and the extent of human-centricity. The classification happens through a self-assessment tool, which will show concrete next steps and options in the evaluation. There are then certain building blocks and measures that companies can use to increase the level of maturity in the desired areas and thus become more versatile and resilient. And in addition to the theoretical and methodological development, we naturally want to test and implement the application in practice with our industrial partners. Thus, the research supports the practice and vice versa.
Katharina: The Readi research project is part of the "Future of value creation - research on production, services and work" program funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The call for tender went well with various topics and measures we initiated internally a long time ago, which we often encounter with our customers. It quickly became clear that we would participate in the tender, and we are thrilled that the project will be funded.
Now, as part of a research project, we can deepen what we have already worked out, apply it across the board and, above all, make the results publicly available so that as many companies as possible can benefit from them. On March 1st, 2023, the official kick-off and the first consortium meeting took place in Saarbrücken, and it was exciting to see how quickly we gathered insights as a team.
Verena: The consortium comprises nine partners: three industrial partners, three research partners, and three so-called suppliers. Ergosign is one of these suppliers as well as the consortium leader, i.e., we take care of the overall project management. From our point of view, the diversity of the three industrial partners is particularly exciting in the consortium. With Ellenberger, we have a small company on board with 21 employees, while Leffer, with 480, and Adient, with over 1150 employees, bring very different challenges and yet similar problems to the project.
Through professional associations such as PfalzMetall e.V., which support us as transfer partners, we can expand our projects as much as possible. Of course, we will also bundle our competencies internally and work on the project with the close involvement of our Solution Manager Industry, Jan Groenefeld, our experts for Organizational Design, and in close cooperation with our Service Design experts.
Esther: Thank you very much for the great interview! That sounds exciting, and we look forward to meaningful research results and further updates on the project. Above all, we hope that many companies will benefit from the Readi project.
Funded by the BMBF as part of the funding line "Industry 4.0 - adaptability of companies in the value creation of tomorrow (InWandel)" as part of the program "Future of value creation - research on production, services and work", accompanied by the project management organization Karlsruhe.