As all technologies come to pass, change by innovation is needed both ways, exploiting current knowledge to do better and exploring new knowledge to do differently. Due to years of continuous improvement (CI), exploitation of current knowledge in production development is rather well investigated, exploration is less. It could be argued that not utilizing the potential explorative operator contributions to production innovation is a lost opportunity to increase a company’s innovation capability. Simultaneously, operators are facing great changes when manufacturing is adopting to digitalization and sustainability challenges enhancing the need for production innovation. This study focused on a team of operators through a workshop series of five sessions about explorative activities in a format using structured and semi-structured interviews. The study provided a basis for constructing a model for positioning operators’ both digital and explorative maturity level. Through the empirical data and the model, the conclusion is illustrated as alternative pathways to reach a desired level of operator maturity. It was concluded that approaching digital and explorative maturity for operators should be done as a two-step process. Increasing both maturities simultaneously, as with the studied team, showed difficult due to the digital and explorative maturity being co-dependent. The suggested two-step process contributes to a better understanding of prerequisites and opportunities for operators to participate and contribute to production innovation in digitalized work environments, ultimately increasing the company’s innovation capability.
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