Voladigital –  Competences for a volatile, digital business world

Initial Situation

Relevant challenges such as volatility and uncertainty are constantly increasing in today's business environment, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).  For some years now, digitization has been one of the most promising ways to increase productivity in the manufacturing industry. The digital change is placing new demands on the skills of employees. In order to exploit the potential of digitization beyond the increase in productivity, the concept of agility offers an opportunity to proactively adapt to uncertainties and to react quickly to changes in order to optimize the economic situation by using the entire value chain. SMEs in particular have problems in exploiting the potentials of digitization, especially due to the lack of trained personnel. Currently there are few practical training courses on digitization and agility. Both learning factories and makerspaces offer effective hands-on learning environments.


The project aims to (1) identify the challenges SMEs face in today's digital, volatile times; (2) determine what skills are required from the workforce; (3) evaluate how these skills can be taught; and (4) design and test training courses on the use of digital technologies and digitization implementation projects.


In the first step of the research project, the analysis phase, challenges and competence requirements with regard to digitization will be investigated on the basis of knowledge from previously conducted projects as well as a qualitative preliminary study. During the preliminary study, experts from about 40 consulting firms and companies in the manufacturing industry were interviewed. Based on this, a questionnaire will be developed, in which competence requirements and challenges will be questioned. These will be evaluated with the help of descriptive statistical methods. In the solution development phase, it will be evaluated how these competences can be conveyed. Theoretical training contents are created, which are provided on an intelligent e-learning platform. These contents are to be made available to all SMEs free of charge in the future. The theoretical content will teach how digitization can be used and implemented sensibly. In addition, knowledge about digital technologies and other skills will be determined, depending on the survey. Based on the individual requirements, the intelligent learning system can personalize modules with teaching content as well as quizzes. In the practical part of the training concept, theoretically learned content is presented in the LEAD Factory, a learning factory, and the Schumpeter in the Laboratory for Innovation. Both infrastructures are used to cover the spectrum from product development (Schumpeter Laboratory for Innovation) to (serial) production (LEAD Factory). In the Schumpeter Laboratory for Innovation, digital applications are used and analyzed in the product development process, and the effects of product design on subsequent production are examined in terms of agility, etc. The LEAD Factory is a learning factory where digitalization solutions (e.g. Augmented Reality applications, Machine Learning, Shop Floor Management Boards, RFID applications and many more) can be implemented and where training participants can directly experience the influence of these applications and visualize them with key figures. Participants can thus identify and evaluate digitization potentials and implement their own ideas in a protected environment. Data integration is to be guaranteed from innovation to production. The training concept is also accompanied by immersive learning elements. In a further step (after the project) the training will be applied and SMEs in the manufacturing industry will be trained.

Project period: May 2020- April 2022



Hulla, M.; Herstätter, P.; Wolf, M.; Ramsauer, C.: Towards digitalization in production in SMEs – A qualitative study of challenges, competencies and requirements for trainings, 54th CIRP Conference on Manufacturing Systems, Athen (GRC), 22.-24.09.2021

Hulla, M.; Herstätter, P.; Moser, D.; Burgsteiner, H.; Ramsauer, C.: Competency Models for the Digital Transformation and Digitalization in European SMEs and Implications for Vocational Trainings in Learning Factories and Makerspaces, European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2021), Geneva (CHE), 06.-10.09.2021

Eder, M.; Hulla, M.; Auer, F.; Ramsauer, C.: Interactive Teaching Concept for a Data Analytics Workshop in Learning Factories, in: Proceedings of CLF 2021, 11th Conference on Learning Factories, Graz (AUT), 01.-02.07.2021

Hulla, M., Herstätter P., Moser D., Burgsteiner H., Ramsauer C.: Konzeption eines Trainings in einer Lernfabrikumgebung für KMUs in einer digitalen, volatilen Geschäftswelt, Poster, Skills4Future, Graz (AUT), 17.-18.09.2020


Maria Hulla
University Assistant

Institute of Innovation and Industrial Management
Kopernikusgasse 24/II
8010 Graz
+43 316 873 7095

Funded by
Project Partners