Competency management and development in manufacturing companies : results from survey and simulation studies

  • Kompetenzmanagement und -entwicklung in Produktionsunternehmen : Ergebnisse aus Umfrage- und Simulationsstudien

Schinner, Matthias Michael; Letmathe, Peter (Thesis advisor); Piller, Frank Thomas (Thesis advisor)

Aachen : RWTH Aachen University (2022)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Dissertation, Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, 2022


Companies and their employees will have to adapt to a changing working environment in the future. Global megatrends are particularly responsible for this, and new technologies are certainly an important factor. As a consequence, some jobs will be replaced by automation, while others will be enriched by more complex activities. Additionally, a large part of the employees, particularly in industrialized countries, will leave the labor market due to progressing demographic effects. Therefore, companies will be left without important competencies that they had relied on for years. On the other hand, these technologies will help to cushion the newly emerging complexity through virtual assistance systems. However, it is expected that the average older population will find it more challenging to work with new technologies. Furthermore, globalization is resulting in increased dynamics and competitive pressure through global markets, which will also lead to a higher volatility in business operations (e.g., in demand). These trends will greatly change the world of work, especially requirements for employees and their competencies. Therefore, this dissertation addresses the increased importance of managing employee competencies for manufacturing companies. The decision to obtain the appropriate employee competencies is an investment decision for companies which enables them to survive under these changed competitive conditions. On the one hand, companies need to know which competencies they require. On the other hand, they have to decide whether to train their existing employees for these competencies or to look for new employees who already possess them. Both are very time-consuming and cost-intensive processes. This dissertation contains two parts. First, a comprehensive overview of this dissertation is provided. Within this overview, the motivation of the topic, an overarching research model, theoretical concepts, selected research methods, key findings and contributions as well as a summary of findings and the conclusion are outlined. Second, the four Research Papers, based on simulation studies, as well as a large survey with managerial participants are presented. Both approaches propose solutions and insights for competency management and development in manufacturing companies in order to enrich the theoretical and practical knowledge in this area. A short summary of each Research Paper is given below. Research Paper 1 - Competence management in the age of cyber-physical systems:The first paper provides profound theoretical contributions to the existing body of literature. The so-called cyber-physical systems are one fundamental part of Industry 4.0 technologies. As the environment of manufacturing companies is changing, the role of the employees, the content of their tasks, and their duties are also changing. The automation and connection of simple manufacturing processes will increase the number of jobs with high technological and contextual complexity. Within this article, the impact on competency management of cyber-physical systems and how this influence can be represented in a competency rating instrument are elaborated. Research Paper 2 - The monetary value of competencies: A novel method and case study for smart manufacturing:Research Paper 2 also focuses on the working world of production and its changes due to new technologies. Therefore, the second article of this thesis provides two substantial contributions for the valuation of future competencies needed by mechatronic technicians in manufacturing companies. The first contribution is a monetary-based measurement method to determine the value of future work-related competencies. The second contribution is a case study. In this case study, the value of competencies of mechatronic technicians is assessed. The aim is to determine which competencies at which level bring additional monetary benefits in order to master the challenges posed by Industry 4.0 for this group of blue-collar workers. Especially the competency "complex-problem solving" is seen as very valuable. Several categories of knowledge also get higher monetary values than other groups. Noteworthily, different groups involved in the hiring and training process of mechatronics value competencies significantly differently. Research Paper 3 - Consequences of the interplay between volatility and capacity for workforce planning and employee learning: Demand fluctuations arising from customer requirements, new technological developments, individualization, shorter lifecycles etc. have an enormous impact on business processes. These developments also lead to an increasing number of production ramp-ups. For the success of ramp-ups learning is crucial. Therefore, within the third paper, the impact from demand volatility and the interplay with employee capacity on learning-by-doing, training, forgetting, achieved skill levels, and efficiency gains of shop-floor employees are analyzed. It is shown that demand volatility has a significant impact on skill development. In several cases, the impact of demand volatility on the learning behavior of employees depends on the available employee capacity. Research Paper 4 - Workforce planning in production with flexible or budgeted employee training and volatile demand: Investments in workforce learning and training measures are crucial for the success of production ramp- ups. In this phase, new requirements occur which often make the adaption of employee competencies necessary. Traditional training approaches are commonly limited to a defined period at the beginning of a production ramp-up and are restricted to the respective training units. Training concepts of a more flexible nature can help to overcome challenges for skill development during production ramp-ups. Therefore, budgeting and non-budgeting of training measures are analyzed in the same production scenario as in Research Paper 3. The budgeting of training has a negative impact on skill development. The interactions of budgeting with demand volatility and employee capacity show further interesting implications for the decision to implement employee training measures in shop-floor settings. In summary, the present dissertation extends the existing research in two thematic strands: competency ratings and value (Research Papers 1 and 2) and competency development (Research Papers 3 and 4) in manufacturing environments. It provides theoretical as well as managerial implications on how the employee’s competency development process is impacted by demand volatility and restrictions from employee capacity. Furthermore, it provides tools for organizations to steer the synchronization between their current organizational and employee competencies and the future needs resulting from the impact of various megatrends that will change how we work.