Digitalization in the Dutch manufacturing industry: Balancing between exploration and exploitation

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In the late 1900s, the third industrial revolution emerged and since 2010 a fourth industrial revolution has been developed in the manufacturing industry. This trend is defined as Industry 4.0 and is characterized by interconnection and integration between products, production processes and internal processes. As it often happens with disruptive changes, Dutch manufacturing firms are having difficulties to adopt the digital process technologies that are related to Industry 4.0. This study examines whether certain types of organisational behaviour, in the sense of organisational ambidexterity and collaborations, can facilitate adoption. At the heart of this is the question of whether a simultaneous approach affects the adoption of digital process technologies within the Dutch manufacturing industry. In addition to organisational ambidexterity, the role of collaborations has been examined. The study is based on a mixed-method design, meaning that both quantitative and qualitative research methods have been used. For the quantitative study, the sample of the European Manufacturing Survey 2018 has been used. The quantitative sample consists of five interviews with managers within the Dutch chemical manufacturing industry. Analyses were performed using linear regression in a quantitative manner and based on theoretical coding in a qualitative manner. Results between the quantitative and qualitative analyses differ from each other. However, it seems obvious that a simultaneous approach is not conducive and/or possible for the adoption of digital process technologies in the Dutch manufacturing industry. Adding to this, particularly in the quantitative analysis the importance of both exploration and exploitation activities is emphasized. In doing so, it seems that knowledge sharing can be a source of exploration and a tool for exploitation. Where external collaborations seem to be a challenge for the, somewhat conservative, chemical industry. Something that smaller companies, which are less likely to be able to do internal knowledge sharing, seem to suffer the most from. There will not be an ideal guideline for the adoption of digital process technologies, but making a long-term plan and including digitalization in their vision can make a significant contribution. In order to commit to both exploration and exploitation activities.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen