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Athene 4.0: Person-centred digitisation to secure the future of the craft sector


Key words: work organization, small and medium-sized enterprises, sectors and branches

Project duration: 01.08.2018 - 31.07.2021


Project funding:

This research and development project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the “Innovations for Tomorrow’s Production, Services, and Work” Program and implemented by the Project Management Agency Karlsruhe (PTKA).


Project description (short):

Athene 4.0 will contribute to digitisation of craft sector by developing a service platform. The platform will be used for internal order processing and communication with customers and between different trades.


Co-operation partner:

  • IML der Fraunhofer Gesellschaft e.V. Dortmund
  • Cobago GmbH
  • Elektro J. Organista GmbH
  • Goertz e.K.
  • Malerbetrieb Markus Massmann

Project goals:

Aim of project is the development of a digital service platform, which enables communication and exchange between the different trades as well as between crafts businesses and their customers. In addition, a low-threshold digitalisation of order processing within the craft businesses will be made possible.

Members of sfs are responsible for analysis and design of working conditions with the new technology as well as for the digital competence and qualification development.


Project description (long):

The ubiquitous digitalisation has only slowly made its way into the crafts sector so far: The sector traditionally mostly consists of small businesses, only half of which have a website or offer services online. Customers, who want to discuss material variants or technical execution details with their craftsman using new media, have at present little chances to actively participate in the process as “prosumers”. Also the flow of information within craft businesses is often laborious. Coordination between customers and craftsmen, within the crafts businesses or between different companies working together on larger customer projects is traditionally characterised by personal dialogue till now.

The research project Athene 4.0 is developing a digital service platform to bring together customers and various craft businesses. The platform is designed to be used by every craftsman in an uncomplicated way and without new burdens and it contains a so-called "digital coach", who will provide online assistance and explanations during operation.

Primarily requirements for the platform are systematically identified and specified. The analysis focuses on the later users – the craftsmen and customers – whereby the customers take on the role of co-producers. Crafts businesses, research institutes and software companies jointly design and develop the platform on this basis. Subsequently, a pilot application is created, which is tested in the model companies and accompanied and optimized by scientific acceptance studies. As work processes change as a result of the tool developed and employees are confronted with extended requirements in their daily work, measures are developed for adapting qualification and work design accordingly.

With the help of this new platform, communication channels are shortened, customers can express additional wishes and requests and share information about the status of the project quickly and easily, e.g. with real-time photos of the construction site or product samples. From this direct competitive advantages for crafts businesses can arise. The early involvement of multipliers such as chambers and associations as well as the development of a business and financing model guarantee the broad evaluation and dissemination of the service platform.

Methodological approach:

In order to determine the requirements for the service platform, the Sozialforschungsstelle Dortmund (sfs) - Central Scientific Institute of the Technische Universität Dortmund will carry out work situation analyses in the companies. The goal of these observations will be the analysis and documentation of operational processes that are affected by digitisation. The state of art of technology used in the companies and their areas of application will also be recorded. Based on this, the business needs and possibilities and the requirements and wishes of the customers are determined in cooperation with the crafts businesses.

After the service platform is available in an operational version, the sfs will accompany the test and pilot phases in the companies. In addition to user-friendliness and the possibility of intuitive operation, particular attention will be paid to changes in operational processes and application difficulties. Think-Aloud methods, in which the users articulate their impressions during the testing process and reflection discussions will be held at the end of the working day.

The changes in the work processes that are determined by the developed tool are analysed in terms of ergonomics and designed in such a way that the potentials for employees and companies can be exploited without causing restrictions in the quality of life and work. The sfs will develop counselling and coaching services on work organisation, test them in companies and validate them in reflection talks. To ensure that the tool can be used by all participants beyond the duration of the project, a "digital coach" will be integrated into the platform/app on the basis of the pilot experience, containing qualification elements and design notes. Sfs will develop the necessary learning content and forms for the digital coach, coordinate them with the software partner and the crafts businesses and optimize them in an iterative process. In addition, introductory seminars are developed and carried out for the crafts businesses. 

Research area:

Primary Labour Policy and Health


Project leadership

Foto von Kerstin Guhlemann Kerstin Guhlemann,

Telephone: +49 231 755-90235

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