Industry 4.0

Virtual Value Chains and Collaborative Projects


Dr. Brane Semolic (Slovenia)


Dr. Pieter Steyn (South Africa)

Cranefield College


The fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0)
 – characterized by the increasing digitization and interconnection of products, value chains, and business models – has arrived in the industrial sector (Source: Price Waterhouse Coopers, 2014).

Keywords: virtual organization, value chain, virtual innovation communities, innovation ecosystem, collaborative strategies, program and project management

  1. Drivers of Changes

The world is exiting the Industry 3.0 business environment where optimisation and automation of an organisation’s resources were the main issues. The Industry 4.0 business ecosystem shown in Figure 1 does not depend solely on innovation, optimisation, and competitiveness of their resources. It depends on the inter-organisational value chain innovativeness, complementarity partner technologies, products, digitisation and supporting services systems as a whole.

Together with partners, they are co-creating innovative inter-organisational value and supply chains operating in a global collaborative business ecosystem. Primary drivers and causes of these changes lie in the rapid development, availability and affordability of modern key enabling technologies (KETs). KETs are knowledge intensive and associated with high research and development intensity, rapid innovation cycles, high capital expenditure and highly skilled employment. They enable process, goods and service innovation throughout the economy and are of systemic relevance. They are multidisciplinary, cutting across many technology areas with a trend towards convergence and integration. KETs can assist technology leaders in other fields to capitalise on their research efforts (Source: Study for the ITRE Committee, 2014).

The KETs’ bottom line is overall digitisation with the internet of things (IoT) and services, which enable opportunities for introduction of new products and business models endlessly. The PWC 2016 Global Industry 4.0 Survey provides a brief illustration of the Industry 4.0 framework and contributing digital technologies (see Figure 2). There is no doubt that strategic transformation and change of Industry 4.0 are driven by modern ICT artifacts that allow for the introduction and integration of new business models of vertical and horizontal supply- and value chains. Moreover, to prevent going backwards in the new economy this importantly compels organisations to adopt transformation and change initiatives as a priority strategy.

Figure 2: Industry 4.0 framework and contributing digital technologies (Source: PWC’s 2016 Global Industry 4.0 Survey)

KMPG (2016) assert that when it comes to manufacturing in Industry 4.0, there is a paradigm shift from “centralised” to “local” production, and this is provided through networking and transparency. Unlike globalisation where the focus was on taking advantage of lower labour rates and thereby building factories in these locations, in Industry 4.0 the focus is on strengthening local production (see also Steyn and Semolic 2017). According to Msengana (2017), Roblek, Meško, and Krapež (2016) argue that Industry 4.0 will have an important influence on the complete transformation of industry because it represents progress in three areas:

  • Digitisation of production: information systems for management and production planning;
  • Automation: systems for data acquisition from production lines and using machines;
  • Linking manufacturing sites in a comprehensive supply chain: automatic data interchange (ADI).

Roblek et al (2016) aver that the distinguishing factor of Industry 4.0 is increased competitiveness through smart equipment, making use of information about high-wage locations, demographic changes, resources, energy efficiency, and urban production.


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About the Authors

Prof Dr Brane Semolic

Founder and Head of LENS Living Lab –
International living laboratory
Celje, Slovenia


Brane Semolic
studied mechanical engineering, engineering economics, and informatics; he holds a scientific master degree and doctorate in business informatics. His focus of professional interest is industrial and system engineering, innovation and technology management, virtual organizations and systems, project and knowledge management. He has 40 years of working experiences in different industries (industrial engineering, IT, chemicals, household appliances, government, and education), as an expert, researcher, manager, entrepreneur, counselor to the Slovenian government and professor.  He operates as head of the open research and innovation organization LENS Living Lab. LENS Living Lab is an international industry-driven virtual living laboratory. He is acting as initiator and coordinator of various research and innovation collaboration platforms, programs and projects for the needs of different industries (ICT, robotics, laser additive manufacturing, logistics, education). He was co-founder and the first director of the TCS – Toolmakers Cluster of Slovenia (EU automotive industry suppliers). Since 2004 he is serving as the president of the TCS council of experts. Besides this, he is operating as a part-time professor at the Cranefield College.

He was head of project and information systems laboratory at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Head of the Project & Technology Management Institute at the Faculty of Logistics, University of Maribor and professor of project and technology management at the graduate and postgraduate level. He acted as a trainer at the International »European Project Manager« post-graduated program, organized jointly by the University of Bremen.

He was the co-founder and president of the Project Management Association of Slovenia (ZPM), vice president of IPMA (International Project Management Association), chairman of the IPMA Research Management Board (2005-2012), and technical vice-chairman of ICEC (International Cost Engineering Council).  Now he is serving as a director of the IPMA & ICEC strategic alliance. He actively participated in the development of the IPMA 4-level project managers’ certification program. He introduced and was the first director of the IPMA certification program in Slovenia. He has been serving as the assessor in this certification program since 1997. He performed as assessor in the IPMA International PM Excellence Award Program in China, India, and Slovenia.

He is a registered assessor for the accreditation of education programs and education organizations by the EU-Slovenian Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

He was a Member of Strategic Advisory Board of European Competitiveness and Innovation, as well as the president of the Slovenian Chamber of Business Services.

He got the award as ICEC Distinguished International Fellow in 2008. He received the »Silver Sign« for his achievements in research, education, and collaboration with the industry from the University of Maribor in 2015.

Professor Semolic is also an academic advisor for the PM World Journal. He can be contacted at brane.semolic@3-lab.eu.   Additional information about the LENS Living Lab can be found at http://www.3-lab.eu/ .

To view other works by Prof Semolic, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/brane-semolic/


Prof Dr Pieter Steyn

Founder, Director, Principal
Cranefield College of Project and Programme Management
Pretoria & Western Cape, South Africa


Pieter Steyn is Founder and Principal of Cranefield College of Project and Programme Management, a South African Council on Higher Education / Department of Education accredited and registered Private Higher Education Institution. The Institution offers an Advanced Certificate, Advanced Diploma, Postgraduate Diploma, Master’s degree, and PhD in project and programme-based leadership and management. Professor Steyn holds the degrees BSc (Eng), MBA, and PhD in management, and is a registered Professional Engineer.

He was formerly professor in the Department of Management, University of South Africa and Pretoria University Business School. He founded the Production Management Institute of South Africa, and in 1979 pioneered Project Management as a university subject at the post-graduate level at the University of South Africa.

Dr Steyn founded consulting engineering firm Steyn & Van Rensburg (SVR). Projects by SVR include First National Bank Head Office (Bank City), Standard Bank Head Office, Mandela Square Shopping Centre (in Johannesburg) as also, Game City- and The Wheel Shopping Centres (in Durban). He, inter alia, chaired the Commission of Enquiry into the Swaziland Civil Service; and acted as Programme Manager for the Strategic Transformation of the Gauteng Government’s Welfare Department and Corporate Core.

Pieter co-authored the “International Handbook of Production and Operations Management,” (Cassell, London, 1989, ed. Ray Wild) and is the author of many articles and papers on leadership and management. He is a member of the Association of Business Leadership, Industrial Engineering Institute, Engineering Association of South Africa, and Project Management South Africa (PMSA); and a former member of the Research Management Board of IPMA. He serves on the Editorial Board of the PM World Journal. Pieter is also Director of the De Doornkraal Wine Estate in Riversdale, Western Cape.

Professor Steyn can be contacted at [email protected]. For information about Cranefield College, visit http://www.cranefield.ac.za/.

To view other works by Prof Steyn, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/dr-pieter-steyn/