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What drives the implementation of industry 4.0? The role of opportunities and challenges in the context of sustainability

The implementation of Industry 4.0 has a far-reaching impact on industrial value creation. Studies on its opportunities and challenges for companies are still scarce. However, the high practical and theoretical relevance of digital and connected manufacturing technologies implies that it is essential to understand the underlying dynamics of their implementation. Thus, this study examines the relevance of Industry 4.0-related opportunities and challenges as drivers for Industry 4.0 implementation in the context of sustainability, taking a differentiated perspective on varying company sizes, industry sectors, and the company’s role as an Industry 4.0 provider or user. A research model comprising relevant Industry 4.0-related opportunities and challenges as antecedents for its implementation is hypothesized. In order to test the model, partial least square structural equation modeling is applied for a sample of 746 German manufacturing companies from five industry sectors. The results show that strategic, operational, as well as environmental and social opportunities are positive drivers of Industry 4.0 implementation, whereas challenges with regard to competitiveness and future viability as well as organizational and production fit impede its progress. Moreover, it is shown that the perception of Industry 4.0-related opportunities and challenges as antecedents to Industry 4.0 implementation depends on different company characteristics.