Routinising the adoption of radical innovations: An absorptive capacity case study of Industry 4.0 in the automotive industry

Nattermann, Torsten (2020) Routinising the adoption of radical innovations: An absorptive capacity case study of Industry 4.0 in the automotive industry. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.


This study aims to better understand how Industry 4.0 technologies are adopted by analysing organisational routines in the adoption process. The term Industry 4.0 concerns using multiple digital technologies such as collaborative robots in an interconnected operations environment in companies to achieve radical technological process innovations.

While a substantial body of research concerns technical aspects, adoption factors and implications of Industry 4.0, studies on Industry 4.0 technology adoption practices along the adoption process are still scarce. This gap is addressed by incorporating research calls and industry reports that underline this gap as being both academically and practically important. Conceptually, the study employs absorptive capacity (ACAP) to view the adoption process, thereby contributing to recent trends in technology adoption research. The unit of analysis are organisational routines, which is a novel viewpoint in the related literature.

Using the case of a multinational large-scale automotive tier one supplier, the study adopts a qualitative research design and leverages company insights through engaged research. The data include 24 semi-structured in-depth interviews, as well as over 200 relevant documents. Analysing the data involves established techniques such as coding and analysing code relations for inductively deriving organisational routines.

The key contribution concerns the identification of specific routines along the Industry 4.0 technology adoption process and their sequential patterns across ACAP dimensions. Further, the study reveals organisational practices and structures that affect the development of routines and in turn Industry 4.0 technology adoption. Finally, the study contributes to the analytical boundaries of the Industry 4.0 concept by offering original insights into Industry 4.0 at the case company.

For practitioners, the study highlights that Industry 4.0 technologies are adopted through a variety of routines. Practitioners can utilise the provided routine matrix as a management tool for mapping, coordinating and controlling the adoption process, while taking advantage of advices on potential facilitators and constraints when mobilising Industry 4.0 technology adoption. Lastly, the study recommends following a sequential approach by adopting Industry 4.0 technologies step by step to gradually achieve success with Industry 4.0.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Industry 4.0, digitalisation, technology adoption, innovation, absorptive capacity, organisational routines.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Management
Supervisor's Name: Finch, Prof. John and Morgan-Thomas, Prof. Anna and Möhring, Prof. Monika Maria
Date of Award: 2020
Embargo Date: 11 December 2023
Depositing User: Dr. Torsten Nattermann
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81860
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Dec 2020 13:40
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2022 17:04
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.81860

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item