Industry 4.0 and Building the Common Good

Barrett, Jennifer Eve orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-6795-1615 (2020) Industry 4.0 and Building the Common Good. In: Association of Researchers in Construction Management, 7-9 September 2020, Online.

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The Workshop on ‘Industry 4.0 and Building the Common Good’ comprised a panel discussion among Jenni Barrett (UCLAN, Cambridge and Director of CoLAB), Fred Sherratt (Anglia Ruskin University), John Spillane (University of Limerick) and Niraj Thurairajah (Northumbria University). There was a lot of convergence in the discussion, with panellists highlighting that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is NOT about technology but about people. Jenni Barrett suggested that Industry 4.0 provided a new opportunity and new tools to encourage gender diversity and inclusion, so that we do not just give voice to those who dominate and those who shout the loudest. Digital tools of communication during the Covid-19 crisis has started to show signs of encouraging psychological safety. For Niraj, Industry 4.0 is about connectivity not just between different professions but also between different academic disciplines. In particular, he also would like social scientists to embrace and not simply dismiss technological development. This is a gradual process of evolution, although Fred Sherratt thinks that we should be more radical in our approach so that we ask uncomfortable questions on power and what Industry 4.0 is for. Is it simply for the few who have the power and fortune to accumulate wealth? What about those who toil in their labour to produce the built environment for such wealth accumulation? How can we challenge existing market systems to ensure Industry 4.0 tools facilitate more democratic participation? And John closed the discussion by reminding us that there is a need to think about the left-behind. These include not only the workers who are deskilled in the process of technological progression, but also the SMEs who often do not have the head room to engage with ever-upgrading technological tools. In summary, there was a lot of energy in the discussion and this is also reflected in the Industry 4.0 track, which saw 23 papers accepted for presentation in ARCOM 2020. It is also interesting to see a broadening of the agenda so that the focus is not simply about productivity gains, but also about how we can use these tools to understand and address health and safety.

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