“Digitalisation-induced performance improvement: Don’t take it for granted!”, Andrea Szalavetz (IWE CERS, Hungary)

In a context of rapid technological change, digital manufacturing technologies bear the promise of enabling significant improvement in operational efficiency. However, evidence indicates that investing in smart digital solutions, per se, does not guarantee performance improvement. Smart factory projects may be derailed, failing to realise the expected operational benefits. This study addresses the gap between academic propositions regarding the unequivocally positive impact of digitalisation and the actual evidence.

It draws on data obtained from 18 interviews with technology providers, managers and front-line workers at 12 Hungarian manufacturing companies. We use the concepts of resource complementarity, task–technology misfit, and technology acceptance as a theoretical lens to categorise the seemingly idiosyncratic and context-specific operational problems.

We find that digital technology implementation produces inferior-to-expectations outcomes unless companies invest in and upgrade their complementary intangible resources. Four distinct, albeit strongly interrelated types of complementarities are identified: managerial, organisational, skill-related and technical complementarities. Managerial capabilities to adjust the organisational structure, improve workflows and develop a strategy to address technical problems are found to be paramount to eliminate task-technology misfit and enhance technology acceptance.

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