Special Issue "Industry 4.0 and the Internet of things: changes in business model, strategy formulation and implementation, firm operations towards sustainable development and sustainability"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Economic and Business Aspects of Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2018).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Corrado Gatti
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Management - Sapienza University of Roma 9, Via del Castro Laurenziano, 00161 Roma, Italy
Interests: corporate governance management; viable system approach; decision making processes; negotiations; performance measurement
Prof. Dr. Barbara Aquilani
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Enterprise and Engineering, Society, and Management (DEIM)—University of 'Tuscia' of Viterbo 47, Via del Paradiso, 01100 Viterbo, Italy
Interests: value co-creation; open innovation; sustainability; Industry 4.0; business strategy and management; marketing
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Michela Piccarozzi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Enterprise and Engineering, Society, and Management (DEIM)—University of 'Tuscia' of Viterbo 47, Via del Paradiso, 01100 Viterbo, Italy
Interests: innovation, university spin-offs (USOs), strategic planning, business plan and firms creation’s process, innovative start-ups, Industry 4.0
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue aims to collect theoretical and empirical studies that contribute to developing a better understanding of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of things, taking into account the key changes in management and emerging opportunities towards sustainable development and sustainability.  

Over the last few years, the fourth industrial revolution has attracted attention from all around the world. The evolution of digital technologies has put firms in the face of an anticipated change in paradigms and approaches to management. The new technological trends, the advent of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of things (IoT), make it necessary to reflect on corporate and business strategies and their effectiveness with respect to the new technological context. Businesses need to define new strategies, new implementation modalities, different methods and tools to success in this new scenario. Industrial automation, connection and aggregation of different data in corporate information systems are phenomena that need to be studied in-depth so make them contribute to the new business strategy bringing concrete benefits. However, it is not possible to talk about innovation and industry without reference to sustainable development and sustainability.

Indeed, Industry 4.0 and sustainability are linked twofold. On the one hand, Industry 4.0 can help in achieving sustainable development, also assuring, for example, the preservation of resources on behalf future generations. On the other hand, sustainability represents the main aim of achievement for firms willing to effectively competing in the nowadays scenario. Indeed, it is essential that technological and industrial developments allow the achievement of environmental, economic and, of course, social sustainability objectives. Therefore, firms should be able to effectively use tools and opportunities pertaining to Industry 4.0 in shaping their organization, strategies, policies and operations to achieve a sustainable development and/or foster sustainability at a more general level.

Despite the great interest regarding Industry 4.0, the topic is quite new and there is lack of literature about it, from both a theoretical and an empirical point of view. Moreover, the link between Industry 4.0 and sustainability has not been investigated under its different profiles until now.

This Special Issue intends to encourage novel theories and research able to enrich the scholars and firms knowledge, focusing on the analysis of changes in business models, strategy formulation and implementation, management approaches for firms operating in the new outlined scenario also willing to achieve a sustainable development and/or foster sustainability. Additionally, studies on computer systems, able to interact with physical systems in which firms operate, are of interest for this Special Issue. Contributions could also focus on consequent internal changes, operations modifications, and on how the firm interact with new ecosystems characterized by an important technological background. Papers can embrace each perspective deemed to the particular paper aim and can be developed also at an inter-disciplinary level. Theoretical, conceptual and/or empirical analysis (qualitative and/or quantitative methods) can be used, following the aim of the submitted paper. 

 

Prof. Corrado  Gatti
Prof. Barbara  Aquilani
Dr. Michela  Piccarozzi
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Industry 4.0

  • Internet of things

  • sustainability

  • sustainable development

  • strategy formulation

  • strategy implementation

  • innovation

  • business model

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

Article
Contextual Impacts on Industrial Processes Brought by the Digital Transformation of Manufacturing: A Systematic Review
Sustainability 2019, 11(3), 891; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11030891 - 09 Feb 2019
Cited by 31 | Viewed by 5759
Abstract
The digital transformation of manufacturing (a phenomenon also known as “Industry 4.0” or “Smart Manufacturing”) is finding a growing interest both at practitioner and academic levels, but is still in its infancy and needs deeper investigation. Even though current and potential advantages of [...] Read more.
The digital transformation of manufacturing (a phenomenon also known as “Industry 4.0” or “Smart Manufacturing”) is finding a growing interest both at practitioner and academic levels, but is still in its infancy and needs deeper investigation. Even though current and potential advantages of digital manufacturing are remarkable, in terms of improved efficiency, sustainability, customization, and flexibility, only a limited number of companies has already developed ad hoc strategies necessary to achieve a superior performance. Through a systematic review, this study aims at assessing the current state of the art of the academic literature regarding the paradigm shift occurring in the manufacturing settings, in order to provide definitions as well as point out recurring patterns and gaps to be addressed by future research. For the literature search, the most representative keywords, strict criteria, and classification schemes based on authoritative reference studies were used. The final sample of 156 primary publications was analyzed through a systematic coding process to identify theoretical and methodological approaches, together with other significant elements. This analysis allowed a mapping of the literature based on clusters of critical themes to synthesize the developments of different research streams and provide the most representative picture of its current state. Research areas, insights, and gaps resulting from this analysis contributed to create a schematic research agenda, which clearly indicates the space for future evolutions of the state of knowledge in this field. Full article
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Article
Sustainable Growth and Token Economy Design: The Case of Steemit
Sustainability 2019, 11(1), 167; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11010167 - 30 Dec 2018
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 3884
Abstract
Cryptocurrency blockchain technology is attracting worldwide attention, and the number of initial coin offerings (ICOs) is increasing rapidly. This new economic trend, called cryptoeconomics, can program human behavior through incentive design. A cryptocurrency-based incentive system is not only transparent, but also allows businesses [...] Read more.
Cryptocurrency blockchain technology is attracting worldwide attention, and the number of initial coin offerings (ICOs) is increasing rapidly. This new economic trend, called cryptoeconomics, can program human behavior through incentive design. A cryptocurrency-based incentive system is not only transparent, but also allows businesses to substitute initial investment costs with cryptocurrency tokens until they are on a sustainable growth trajectory in terms of network effects. This study aims to propose a process for building a desirable model of a token economy, based on the case of Steemit—a blogging and social networking website that is creating high values due to its efficient token economy model. We suggest the following design process of a token economy model: (1) Determine token-business fit, (2) determine the chance of success, (3) determine the properties of token, (4) give tokens intrinsic value, (5) establish strategies to raise token value, (6) establish operational strategies of token economy system, (7) establish strategies for token liquidation, and (8) continue modifying the operational base. Considering cryptoeconomics is still at an early stage, it is expected that the guidelines on the token economy model suggested in this paper will lay a significant foundation for the development of cryptoeconomics research. Full article
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Article
Exploring Organizational Sustainability of Industry 4.0 under the Triple Bottom Line: The Case of a Manufacturing Company
Sustainability 2019, 11(1), 36; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11010036 - 21 Dec 2018
Cited by 53 | Viewed by 6116
Abstract
There is an increasing interest in sustainability practices for organizations. Organizations act sustainably when they support the three dimensions \of the triple bottom line. Industry 4.0 (I40) promises to afford organizations to act sustainably. However, few empirical pieces of research targeted the impact [...] Read more.
There is an increasing interest in sustainability practices for organizations. Organizations act sustainably when they support the three dimensions \of the triple bottom line. Industry 4.0 (I40) promises to afford organizations to act sustainably. However, few empirical pieces of research targeted the impact of I40 on the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainability. Our investigation considered the adoption of I40 in a manufacturing company which we analyzed as a single case study. We describe the level of I40 adoption and the process through which the unit has adopted them. Our case confirms that I40 applications support the triple bottom line through the improvement of productivity and product quality (economic), continuous energy consumption monitoring (environmental), and safer work environment and less intense work-load and job enrichment (social). We contribute to the literature by identifying two trajectories of interaction among the three dimensions of the triple bottom line in the shift from a traditional manufacturing company to a knowledge-intense organization. In the trajectories found, the three dimensions of sustainability influence and reinforce each other. Full article
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Article
Co-Evolution of the University Technology Transfer: Towards a Sustainability-Oriented Industry: Evidence from Italy
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4675; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124675 - 08 Dec 2018
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1254
Abstract
Industry is continuously evolving, reflecting changes in society. An important aspect of this evolution concerns how new digital technologies are used and their effects on innovation and sustainability. Thus, the relationship between university, industry, and government grows stronger, shifting the focus on technology [...] Read more.
Industry is continuously evolving, reflecting changes in society. An important aspect of this evolution concerns how new digital technologies are used and their effects on innovation and sustainability. Thus, the relationship between university, industry, and government grows stronger, shifting the focus on technology transfer processes from university to industry, at local and national levels. To increase our understanding of how these processes take place, more theoretical and empirical research is required. This paper aims to respond to this call by examining the university technology transfer through a co-evolutionary approach. The study analyses the dynamics of the relationships at different organisational levels within universities able to create sustainability-oriented innovative university spin-offs and start-ups, through the Italian National Innovation Award case. The findings show that the creation of these spin-offs and start-ups are the result of effective multi-level co-evolutionary adaptations within universities, and among university, industry and government. The article contributes to the further understanding of the management of technology transfer by combining some elements from the literature about the co-evolution of social organisations and their environment with some elements from the Triple Helix model of innovation. Moreover, both theoretical and managerial implications emerge, together with suggestions for future research. Full article
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Article
Analysis of Influencing Factors of Big Data Adoption in Chinese Enterprises Using DANP Technique
Sustainability 2018, 10(11), 3956; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10113956 - 30 Oct 2018
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 1636
Abstract
Globally, many enterprises are currently focusing on big data technology to improve their performance and operations. Recent literature points out several factors that influence the adoption of big data. However, enterprises often resist using the business value of big data due to a [...] Read more.
Globally, many enterprises are currently focusing on big data technology to improve their performance and operations. Recent literature points out several factors that influence the adoption of big data. However, enterprises often resist using the business value of big data due to a lack of knowledge. The purpose of this study is to investigate the factors influencing big data adoption by Chinese enterprises and to develop an indicator system based on the Motivation–Opportunity–Ability (MOA) model. Moreover, the Decision-Making Trial and Evaluation Laboratory (DEMATEL) method is used to construct a network relationship map and to analyze its effects. Using the DEMATEL-based Analytic Network Process (ANP) (DANP) method to identify the weight distribution of index, this study quantitatively evaluates the influencing factors. The results show that leadership support, perceived usefulness, financial support, data resources, industrial development, data talents, and technical capability are key elements affecting the application of big data. Accordingly, some targeted suggestions are proposed. Full article
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Article
Industry 4.0 in Management Studies: A Systematic Literature Review
Sustainability 2018, 10(10), 3821; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10103821 - 22 Oct 2018
Cited by 140 | Viewed by 10752
Abstract
Recent developments in production processes and their automation have led to the definition of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, commonly known as “Industry 4.0”. Industry 4.0 is a very broad domain that includes: production processes, efficiency, data management, relationship with consumers, competitiveness, and much [...] Read more.
Recent developments in production processes and their automation have led to the definition of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, commonly known as “Industry 4.0”. Industry 4.0 is a very broad domain that includes: production processes, efficiency, data management, relationship with consumers, competitiveness, and much more. At the same time, obviously, Industry 4.0 has become a new theme for management scholars and business economics disciplines and a number of contributions covering various issues and aspects have been published. However, a systematic formulation of all these contributions is still lacking in management literature. Therefore, the aim of the paper is to analyze and classify the main contributions published on the topic of Industry 4.0 in management literature, seeking to give it a unique definition, discover the gaps still remaining in literature and outline future avenues of research in this domain. A systematic review of the literature of the major academic and research databases has been used as methodology to achieve the aim of the paper. This work contributes theoretically to the development of literature on Industry 4.0 and from a managerial perspective it could support entrepreneurs in better understanding the implications and fields of application of the Fourth Industrial Revolution as well as the interplay among them. Full article
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Article
Industry 4.0 and Sustainability Implications: A Scenario-Based Analysis of the Impacts and Challenges
Sustainability 2018, 10(10), 3740; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10103740 - 17 Oct 2018
Cited by 132 | Viewed by 6654
Abstract
The new evolution of the production and industrial process called Industry 4.0, and its related technologies such as the Internet of Things, big data analytics, and cyber–physical systems, among others, still have an unknown potential impact on sustainability and the environment. In this [...] Read more.
The new evolution of the production and industrial process called Industry 4.0, and its related technologies such as the Internet of Things, big data analytics, and cyber–physical systems, among others, still have an unknown potential impact on sustainability and the environment. In this paper, we conduct a literature-based analysis to discuss the sustainability impact and challenges of Industry 4.0 from four different scenarios: deployment, operation and technologies, integration and compliance with the sustainable development goals, and long-run scenarios. From these scenarios, our analysis resulted in positive or negative impacts related to the basic production inputs and outputs flows: raw material, energy and information consumption and product and waste disposal. As the main results, we identified both positive and negative expected impacts, with some predominance of positives that can be considered positive secondary effects derived from Industry 4.0 activities. However, only through integrating Industry 4.0 with the sustainable development goals in an eco-innovation platform, can it really ensure environmental performance. It is expected that this work can contribute to helping stakeholders, practitioners and governments to advance solutions to deal with the outcomes emerging through the massive adoption of those technologies, as well as supporting the expected positive impacts through policies and financial initiatives. Full article
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Article
The Evolving Role of IT Departments in Digital Transformation
Sustainability 2018, 10(10), 3706; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10103706 - 16 Oct 2018
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2231
Abstract
In the digital era, organizations are increasingly tasked with creating and utilizing new content, applications, and/or services through the use of advanced information and communication technologies (ICT) to sustain a competitive advantage. Indeed, sustainability is now an embedded and overarching feature of organizations’ [...] Read more.
In the digital era, organizations are increasingly tasked with creating and utilizing new content, applications, and/or services through the use of advanced information and communication technologies (ICT) to sustain a competitive advantage. Indeed, sustainability is now an embedded and overarching feature of organizations’ strategic planning. Research has shown that information technology (IT) departments are vital to organizations’ digital transformation. However, the role of IT departments in non-ICT-oriented organizations undergoing digital transformation has yet to be explored. Our study reveals that although the IT departments of non-ICT-oriented organizations play an important and proactive role in the early stages of organizational transformation and a dominant role in developing ICT capabilities, they will be unable to assume a leadership role within the organizations after transformation is complete. Full article
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Article
The Role and Impact of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things on the Business Strategy of the Value Chain—The Case of Hungary
Sustainability 2018, 10(10), 3491; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10103491 - 29 Sep 2018
Cited by 122 | Viewed by 11720
Abstract
In the era of industrial digitalization, companies are increasingly investing in tools and solutions that allow their processes, machines, employees, and even the products themselves, to be integrated into a single integrated network for data collection, data analysis, the evaluation of company development, [...] Read more.
In the era of industrial digitalization, companies are increasingly investing in tools and solutions that allow their processes, machines, employees, and even the products themselves, to be integrated into a single integrated network for data collection, data analysis, the evaluation of company development, and performance improvement. To study the impact of Industry 4.0 on the company we used Porter’s (1985) value chain model, which is particularly useful when paying particular attention to corporate areas which have a primary role in customer value creation. Since the primary impact of Industry 4.0 is perceived in value-creating processes, and has so far had the greatest transformative effect in this area, the model can be considered to be appropriate. The objective of our research is to discover how companies operating in Hungary interpret the phenomenon of Industry 4.0, what Internet of Things (IoT) tools they use to support their processes, and what critical issues they face during adaptation. We applied a dual methodology in our investigation: We sent an online questionnaire to manufacturing and logistical service companies to investigate the IoT tools they use, and the problems they face, and received 43 answers we could evaluate. We also conducted four expert interviews with manufacturing firms to get deeper insights into the application, critical issues and development phases of IoT tools. During our research, we found that the spread of real-time data across companies—given the availability of appropriate analytical tools and methods—can have a significant impact on the entire company. In the case of CPS (Cyber Physical System), CPPS and Big Data Technologies, companies using them have been evaluated as having a higher level of logistic service, more efficient processes with their partners, improved cooperation between certain logistic functions, and higher market and financial performance and competitiveness. Applying more efficient production processes, and achieving better productivity and economies of scale, might also result in increased economic sustainability. Furthermore, we have found that companies have started on the path to digital evolution, and investments of this type have already begun. Full article
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Article
The Relationship between BPR Strategy and Change Management for the Sustainable Implementation of ERP: An Information Orientation Perspective
Sustainability 2018, 10(9), 3080; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10093080 - 29 Aug 2018
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 2255
Abstract
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is an IT system that supports the business functions that firms adopt to gain advantages and development possibilities. However, some firms do not show positive financial performance after implementing ERP. Why is this the case? An ERP is an [...] Read more.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is an IT system that supports the business functions that firms adopt to gain advantages and development possibilities. However, some firms do not show positive financial performance after implementing ERP. Why is this the case? An ERP is an information system (IS) that brings about radical changes within organizations, changing both the IS environment and overall corporate business process, which may cause resistance from the organization’s members. Thus, change management is crucial, in operating a successful ERP, to addressing organizational changes after the adoption of ERP. The objective of this study was to examine the influence that the depth of business process reengineering (BPR) and change management have on ERP performances. To this end, KOSPI companies with more than a year of experience using ERP were analyzed using the structural equation method. This study confirmed mutual relationships between ERP success factors and its performance. In future research, it would be helpful to determine if companies with higher IT performances actually have better financial results. Full article
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Article
A Decision-Making Model for Adopting a Cloud Computing System
Sustainability 2018, 10(8), 2952; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10082952 - 20 Aug 2018
Cited by 19 | Viewed by 3478
Abstract
The use of big data, artificial intelligence, and new information and communication technologies has led to sustainable developments and improved business competitiveness. Until recently cloud services were classified as having special system requirements for a business organization, and was represented by different cloud [...] Read more.
The use of big data, artificial intelligence, and new information and communication technologies has led to sustainable developments and improved business competitiveness. Until recently cloud services were classified as having special system requirements for a business organization, and was represented by different cloud computing architecture layers like infrastructure, platform, or software as a service. However, as the environment of IT services undergoes successive changes, companies have been required to reconsider their business models and consider adopting a cloud computing system, which can bring on business achievements and development. Regarding a decision-making model for adopting a cloud computing system, this paper analyzes critical variables in a hierarchical structure of decision areas: technology, organization, and environment, as well as seven factors and 23 attributes based on underlying decision factors of cloud computing adoption by AHP (Analytic Hierarchy Process) and Delphi analysis. Furthermore, this research explores a comparative analysis between demanders and providers of cloud computing adoption. Resultantly, this study suggests several important factors for adopting a cloud computing system: top management support, competitive pressure, and compatibility. From the demander side, the high priority factor was compatibility and competitive pressure; in contrast, related advantage and top management support were regarded as priority factors for providers to service their cloud computing systems. Full article
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Article
What Drives the Implementation of Industry 4.0? The Role of Opportunities and Challenges in the Context of Sustainability
Sustainability 2018, 10(1), 247; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10010247 - 18 Jan 2018
Cited by 229 | Viewed by 16428
Abstract
The implementation of Industry 4.0 has a far-reaching impact on industrial value creation. Studies on its opportunities and challenges for companies are still scarce. However, the high practical and theoretical relevance of digital and connected manufacturing technologies implies that it is essential to [...] Read more.
The implementation of Industry 4.0 has a far-reaching impact on industrial value creation. Studies on its opportunities and challenges for companies are still scarce. However, the high practical and theoretical relevance of digital and connected manufacturing technologies implies that it is essential to understand the underlying dynamics of their implementation. Thus, this study examines the relevance of Industry 4.0-related opportunities and challenges as drivers for Industry 4.0 implementation in the context of sustainability, taking a differentiated perspective on varying company sizes, industry sectors, and the company’s role as an Industry 4.0 provider or user. A research model comprising relevant Industry 4.0-related opportunities and challenges as antecedents for its implementation is hypothesized. In order to test the model, partial least square structural equation modeling is applied for a sample of 746 German manufacturing companies from five industry sectors. The results show that strategic, operational, as well as environmental and social opportunities are positive drivers of Industry 4.0 implementation, whereas challenges with regard to competitiveness and future viability as well as organizational and production fit impede its progress. Moreover, it is shown that the perception of Industry 4.0-related opportunities and challenges as antecedents to Industry 4.0 implementation depends on different company characteristics. Full article
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