ELIAS - Engineering and mainstreaming of learning-friendly industrial work systems

The objective of the ELIAS joint project, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), is to develop new approaches and concepts, taking into account the accelerated technological and demographic change, in order to design modern work and production systems in a way that is conducive to learning already during the development process or to modify existing systems accordingly. ELIAS will provide an interdisciplinary and design-oriented concept that makes it possible to plan a configuration conducive to learning already in the development process. New forms of learning in the process of work will be taken into account and the potential of the latest information and communication technologies will be exploited. New concepts and tools for the evaluation of learning technologies and methods are also being developed. The Institute for Innovation and Technology (iit) supports the consortium in transferring the design mandate of learning supportability beyond the ELIAS community from the perspective of and with a view to the significant engineering forums VDI and VDE.


January 2013 until September 2015


German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)



The progressive automation of the world of work, beginning in the production sector, the service sector and the knowledge sector, forces forms of work that are flexible, interactive, and structured independent of time and place. At the same time, demographic change is leading to a shortage of skilled workers, so that people will have to participate in working life for longer in the future. As a result, value-added processes are changing and the division of labour must be reorganized. A highly flexible production of individualized, digitally enhanced products and services now follows the paradigm of a decentralised and augmented organisation in the course of Industry 4.0.

Learning facilitation as a design criterion for the industry 4.0

The ability of industrial work and production systems to learn during this current fourth industrial revolution is a key factor for the future innovative ability of companies and can maintain work and employability despite demographic change. The task structures, i.e. the work content and its distribution and combination between workplaces and people, are crucial for the performance and development capability, well-being and health of working people. This touches on questions of work organisation. Favorably designed task structures are characterised, among other things, by the fact that planning, organizing, performing and controlling activities are integrated in one workplace and that there is an appropriate relationship between demanding routine tasks and more demanding, e.g. problem-solving tasks (complete activities). These aspects of work organisation cannot be considered completely independent of technical concepts and issues.

How does the division of functions between man and machine change? What must industrial workplaces look like so that people can work there for a long time? What new challenges arise when "man-machine interaction" becomes "man-machine cooperation"? What forms of interaction are there? How do these forms of interaction relate to the expectations and ideas of the users? How can users adapt the forms of interaction to their preferences or to the requirements of different tasks? With the help of innovative human-machine interactions, classical further education measures can be supplemented by new forms of learning that enable employees to qualify more quickly for short-term, less predictable activities in the work process. Learning facilitation thus becomes an explicit design criterion for Industry 4.0.

Transfer of the design task of promoting learning

The new technical systems that are currently emerging in the context of Industry 4.0 and the fundamental changes in the production, manufacturing and logistics sectors that are associated with them offer an outstanding opportunity to put work-oriented learning back at the center of the planning of new automation systems. In this context, the ELIAS project will develop standardised methods and tools for the creation of learning-friendly jobs. These methods should enable not only innovative large corporations but also small and medium-sized enterprises to create new forms of job-integrated competence development and competence maintenance. In order to achieve this on a broad scale, the perspectives and requirements of specific professional associations must be incorporated into the ELIAS project and the project results must be actively transferred to the relevant associations.

The iit supports the ELIAS consortium in this challenge by integrating the two engineering forums VDI and VDE, which are most important for Germany. On the one hand, the existing guidelines and regulations are to be analysed with regard to their significance for the generation of jobs that promote learning and, on the other hand, the results and developments of the project are to be disseminated in these forums. In close cooperation with the VDI and VDE associations, the iit will work out the requirements necessary to create new guidelines or position papers that focus on learning in the process of work.