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NRW Forschungskolleg: Gestaltung von flexiblen Arbeitswelten
(Arbeit 4.0)

T1 - Flexible work processes

T1.1 Human-centered work processes

The Fortschrittskolleg successfully developed both a process description language that supports the modelling of flexible, adaptive work processes and a methodological approach to realise such flexibility with regard to different psychological justice aspects in decision-making processes.

This is to be generalized in the Forschungskolleg so that any characteristics of a human actor represented in a digital twin can form the basis for a flexibilization of work processes. To this end, a suitable structure of a digital twin will be developed in close cooperation with other disciplines.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Gregor Engels, Institut für Informatik, engels[at], Universität Paderborn

T1.2 Change Management

At the end of the first funding period, the validation environment for work 4.0 "Smart Automation Lab" is available in the product development department. In the planned doctoral project, the interface between Office and Shop Floor and the Systems Engineer as the "conductor" of the production system will now be investigated. For this purpose, the human being with his technical abilities and characteristics must be detached from the concept of the "resource" and mapped taking into account uncertainties and learning abilities. The research question is: How can work planning be automated with the help of feature-based product models and thus production plans be created that can be executed by humans and machines?

The potential to be tapped lies, among other things, in the automatic creation of individually adapted work plans for employees a well as the support of the system engineer in the creation of associated producible product models. The research findings will be incorporated into the ongoing revision of the V-model for cyber-physical systems in VDI Guideline 2206.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Iris Gräßler, Heinz Nixdorf Institut, iris.graessler[at],  Universität Paderborn

T1.3 Organisational justice

We know from our previous studies in the Fortschrittskolleg that "fairness" is also a criterion for the assessment of decisions when the decision is no longer made by managers but rather by technical systems. For intelligent technical systems to be accepted in operational use, for them to be trusted and for their decisions to be judged fair, they must be enabled to communicate decisions transparently.

The aim of the Forschungskolleg is to examine how technical decisions can be made and communicated fairly and to what extent the consideration of individual preferences through digital mapping leads to more positive assessments compared to normative decision-making and communication processes.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Günter Maier, Fakultät für Psychologie und Sportwissenschaft, ao-psychologie[at], Universität Bielefeld

T1.4 Ethical questions in the design of socio-technical systems using the example of conflicts of values in the distribution of work tasks

In previous research on the design of the interface between humans and technical systems, ethical issues such as conflicts of values have hardly been taken into account. They occur, for example, where decisions are made about the distribution of work tasks between humans and technical systems in the socio-technical constellation, which then as the "digital twin" decisively shape process chains of a real decision-making instance. The decisions made in this way between trade-offs of different control characteristics have a direct effect on the (change of) value and appreciation of human work in different professions and fields of activity as well as on possibilities of direct interpersonal interaction in process chains.
These "digital twins" can follow different preferences, images of people and ideas about technology; the advantages and disadvantages of algorithms as controllers and decision-makers are currently the subject of controversy. The technically feasible - and possibly also the most efficient - can prevent human-centred consideration of the strengths of man and the technical system and transfer decision-making authority to technical systems that contradict existing notions of responsibility and autonomy. Arguments in favour of more efficient control thus stand in the way of concerns about dehumanisation and concerns about the devaluation of employees.
For example, conflicts of values arise where decisions on the distribution of work tasks in socio-technical constellations favour certain working groups and disadvantage others.Opportunities for the elimination of discrimination, for example according to gender or migration background, in decision-making processes using algorithms are countered by the argument that algorithms establish discrimination and thereby consolidate existing inequalities or create new inequalities.
The reduction of direct interpersonal interaction in the distribution of work tasks in socio-technical constellations and the resulting lower chance of exchange of esteem and support in working life also represents a conflict of values. Within the framework of the doctoral project, variants of "digital twins" are to be examined, particularly with regard to the distribution of control and decision between the employee and the technical system. With the help of a vignette experiment, which illustrates these variants of "digital twins", on the one hand it is to be examined how different scenarios of the distribution of control and decision-making authority between employees and the technical system are evaluated by different interest groups (e.g. development, company management, trade union, employees).
On the other hand, it is asked to what extent the distribution of control between people and the technical system in socio-technical constellations is accompanied by a) an appreciation or depreciation of occupations (e.g. consequences for autonomy, income) and b) less interpersonal interaction in companies (e.g. loss of superiors, little personal exchange with colleagues) and how this is evaluated. In particular, the extent to which this c) varies between companies (e.g. from different sectors) and between different groups of employees within the same work context (e.g. depending on status, gender) is taken into account. One possibility of empirical access is to develop a spin-off project from the current data collection of the third wave of the linked employer-employee data set LEEP-B3. In the context of the spin-off project, companies in which digital control plays a role are to be identified on the basis of the new questionnaire for the digitisation of work in order to investigate the above-mentioned questions in more in-depth case studies. This will also allow conclusions to be drawn as to how value conflicts in the distribution of control between people and technical systems are decided as a function of occupational and company framework conditions.
In addition, initial conclusions can be drawn as to the extent to which mechanisms of inequality genesis (e.g. hoarding of opportunities) play a role in the distribution of work between people and the technical system and their effects on employees' opportunities for gratification chances.
In addition, the extent to which value conflicts occur in other doctorates of the Forschungskolleg and whether the results achieved in the above example can be transferred to other scenarios will be investigated.

Contact: Jun-Prof. Dr. Anja Abendroth, Fakultät für Soziologie, anja.abendroth[at}, Universität Bielefeld 

T1.5 Analysis of communication and organizational structures in socio-technical systems

With the digitalization of processes, socio-technical systems emerge where human and technical entities communicate interactively and equally with one another. They mutually refer to one another and support one another in order to fulfil selected tasks and contribute to the self-conception and identity of the system. The entities can be replaced by digital twins, resulting in far-reaching possibilities for mathematical analysis and design of socio-technical systems. With regard on these possibilities, mathematical methods will be developed to realize a human-centered design of cyber-physical systems.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Eckhard Steffen, Institute for Mathematics, es[at], Paderborn University

T1.6 Social embedding of the employment relationship and its consequences

Employment characteristics characterise the employment relationship, which is an essential determinant of the social position of employees in society. The design of employment characteristics or employment relationships in (partially) digitised working environments thus has an effect on the individual possibilities of employees to realise their personal life goals. On the other hand, they also bring about changes in the employment and social structure. In the foreground, the following basic employment characteristics are: Degree of autonomy, hierarchical position, flexibility of working time, place of work and exercise of activity as well as degree of automation and digitisation of work. The extent to which these affect both the change in the workforce and employment structure and the concrete working conditions at the level of work organisations and employment relations also depends on the view of the human image underlying digital twins and which actor interests are implemented here.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Martin Diewald, Fakultät für Soziologie, martin.diewald[at], Universität Bielefeld

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