Issue: 02/2021

“Employee training of paramount importance”

Interview with Dr. Dominik Rohrmus on further training

The digitization of industry does not work without qualified employees. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) receive support from the non-profit association  Labs Network Industrie 4.0 (LNI). Dr. Dominik Rohrmus on the tasks of the LNI, digital training in SMEs and what role the pandemic plays in this.

Dr. Rohrmus, what is the LNI?

LNI is a pre-competitive association founded on the initiative of major German industry associations such as VDMA, ZVEI and Bitkom as well as major German industrial companies. The purpose of the association is to accompany and support SMEs and also small companies on the path to digital transformation. The L of LNI stands for Labs. These are test centers where use case projects have been taking place for six years now. In Hanover, for example, these labs are the L3S research center and the Mittelstand 4.0 Kompetenzzentrum Hannover. The results of the use cases support international standardization in the form of testbeds.

What does the LNI have to do with education and training?

LNI is non-profit and has an educational mission. We focus on vocational training and continuing education. The aforementioned use cases take place together with SMEs and educational institutions. These educational use cases are very broad: from train-the-trainer concepts within a company to large online projects like  OpenDigiMedia, which we were very happy to support in Hannover. OpenDigiMedia is a learning platform for Industry 4.0 that develops various online courses specifically for SMEs in the manufacturing environment. This is important because SMEs do not have the resources for education and training due to their size alone. Therefore, especially now in the pandemic period, online course offerings are of utmost importance for the Industrie 4.0 continuing education of employees.

What is the task of the LNI in the use cases?

LNI has the role of the broker. We refer small and medium enterprises to the mentioned labs, i.e. the test centers.

How do you find these small and medium-sized enterprises?

Essentially through the 79 chambers of commerce and industry. Most of them know about LNI and approach us when they hear about problems in one of their companies. Then we establish a connection. For example, to the OpenDigiMedia project. It is of the utmost importance that SME employees try things out, apply them, and gain experience in order to break down inhibitions. It is also important to constantly optimize the content and pedagogy. We are here in adult vocational training. This needs appropriate pedagogical concepts and approaches. It should not be underestimated that employees are very intensively involved in their professions. All the companies we deal with attach great importance to continuing education and give employees the necessary freedom. After all, I am allowed to speak here for almost 300 SMEs in the Federal Republic, with whom we are in regular exchange. OpenDigiMedia with its deliberately digital format facilitates many things here in practical implementation.

How has the Corona pandemic affected continuing education?

Due to the pandemic, demand for online educational content has skyrocketed, as company owners – often family-run businesses in our case – naturally immediately realized how important digital professional development is now. Offerings deliberately focused on digital pedagogy were in place before the pandemic. The trick is to make sure the pedagogical concepts and educational content fit the seasoned professionals. OpenDigiMedia has done this excellently for the industrial sector and Industry 4.0.

And that is one criterion why you offer the project to SMEs?

Exactly. No one can have a complete overview of all the offerings in the area of professional development. At any rate, LNI does not presume to do so. I myself have come to know OpenDigiMedia as a well thought-out concept and am really happy to recommend it to SMEs. Especially now in the pandemic time the format fits well into the increased screen work. Flexible time management is possible here and this fits in with the further training of employees in the direction of digitalization and Industry 4.0.

Which SMEs are particularly involved in the LNI?

The special focus is on family businesses, which often have only a small number of academically trained employees. These companies naturally have a certain inhibition threshold when entering university laboratories. At this point, LNI breaks the ice and opens paths into the aforementioned test centers for Industry 4.0.

Do SMEs actually find it easy to take up the training on offer?

It is still somewhat of a challenge for manufacturing SMEs to bring online training programs to employees. Not every employee has his or her own computer workstation. This is where the entrepreneur is challenged. In the day-to-day business of the company, this is a challenge, but not a reason to bury one’s head in the sand, but to consciously tackle the topic. Step by step.

Dr. Rohrmus, thank you very much for the interview!

Interview: Susanne Oetzmann