Industry 4.0 HUB: A Collaborative Knowledge Transfer Platform for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises - MDPI

 
Industry 4.0 HUB: A Collaborative Knowledge Transfer Platform for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises - MDPI
applied
              sciences
Article
Industry 4.0 HUB: A Collaborative Knowledge Transfer
Platform for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises
Alberto Cotrino * , Miguel A. Sebastián                     and Cristina González-Gaya

                                          Department of Construction and Manufacturing Engineering, Universidad Nacional de Educación a
                                          Distancia (UNED), C/Juan del Rosal 12, 28040 Madrid, Spain; msebastian@ind.uned.es (M.A.S.);
                                          cggaya@ind.uned.es (C.G.-G.)
                                          * Correspondence: acotrino3@alumno.uned.es; Tel.: +49-175-815-6948

                                          Abstract: Industry 4.0 brings opportunities for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), but
                                          SMEs are lacking Industry 4.0 knowledge, and this might result in a challenge to support SMEs’
                                          competitiveness and productivity. During recent years, the European Commission and some govern-
                                          ment initiatives have been fostering the transition toward Industry 4.0 for SMEs through the creation
                                          of Digital Innovation Hubs, the Plattform Industrie 4.0, and some other initiatives. Nonetheless, the
                                          authors consider that the lack of knowledge is still a risk toward Industry 4.0 transformation for
                                          SMEs. New ways to improve Industry 4.0 knowledge management and especially the knowledge
                                          transfer must be developed. When SMEs start the transition to Industry 4.0, first of all, they do not
                                          want to start from scratch, and secondly, it can be easy to get lost in the multitude of technologies
                                          and tools that are available in today’s market. There is a gap in which to provide a collaborative
                                          Industry 4.0 knowledge transfer platform or hub designed for SMEs. Therefore, this research aims to
                                enhance Industry 4.0 knowledge transfer through the development of a collaborative, web-based
         
                                          knowledge transfer Industry 4.0 platform. The outcome of this research is a developed platform that
Citation: Cotrino, A.; Sebastián,         will be referred to as Industry 4.0 HUB.
M.A.; González-Gaya, C. Industry 4.0
HUB: A Collaborative Knowledge            Keywords: Industry 4.0; knowledge transfer; hub; platform
Transfer Platform for Small and
Medium-Sized Enterprises. Appl. Sci.
2021, 11, 5548. https://doi.org/
10.3390/app11125548
                                          1. Introduction
Academic Editor: Albert Smalcerz                The Fourth Industrial Revolution is profoundly changing the structures and processes
                                          within companies. Industry 4.0 is a one-time event that brings opportunities and chal-
Received: 24 May 2021                     lenges for large-sized enterprises, as well as for SMEs [1,2]. Big companies have deployed
Accepted: 11 June 2021                    investment plans, roadmaps, and worldwide investigation groups to support the tran-
Published: 15 June 2021                   sition toward Industry 4.0. The close relationship between a large-sized enterprise and
                                          an SME requires both advancing and progressing at the same speed. Therefore, SMEs
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral      must adapt to Industry 4.0 developments proposed by large companies. To cope with this
with regard to jurisdictional claims in   transformation and be able to adopt Industry 4.0 innovations, SMEs must demonstrate
published maps and institutional affil-   flexibility and adaptability. However, many SMEs still find it difficult to know which
iations.                                  Industry 4.0 technologies to invest in [3–5].
                                                Research and European initiatives in recent years proved that SMEs must be consid-
                                          ered independently from large-sized enterprises regarding Industry 4.0 implementation,
                                          because they are less capable of handling the financial, technological, and staffing chal-
Copyright: © 2021 by the authors.         lenges than large companies [6–10]. The Fourth Industrial Revolution could end up being
Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.        an obstacle to support firm competitiveness and productivity if the SMEs’ peculiarities are
This article is an open access article    not properly identified and supported. To gain a better insight into the characteristics of
distributed under the terms and           SMEs adopting Industry 4.0 technologies, the authors performed a systematic literature
conditions of the Creative Commons        review to understand the challenges and problems that SMEs are facing during the Industry
Attribution (CC BY) license (https://     4.0 transformation. Some authors refer to financial resources and technology awareness as
creativecommons.org/licenses/by/          the primary challenges that the SMEs are facing.
4.0/).

Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5548. https://doi.org/10.3390/app11125548                                            https://www.mdpi.com/journal/applsci
Industry 4.0 HUB: A Collaborative Knowledge Transfer Platform for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises - MDPI
Appl.Sci.
Appl.  Sci.2021,  11,5548
            2021,11,  5548                                                                                                               2 2ofof12
                                                                                                                                                 12

                                  Other
                                   Otherresearch
                                           research   points  outout
                                                         points    high costs,
                                                                      high      a lack
                                                                            costs,   a of
                                                                                       lackinformation,   complexity,
                                                                                              of information,             and theand
                                                                                                                  complexity,        abun-
                                                                                                                                         the
                              abundance
                             dance         of technologies
                                    of technologies      as theas thechallenges
                                                                key    key challenges    and problems.
                                                                                   and problems.          However,
                                                                                                     However,     all ofall of them
                                                                                                                         them    agreeagree
                                                                                                                                        on
                              on one
                             one      challenge:
                                  challenge:        a lack
                                               a lack       of knowledge
                                                        of knowledge        [1–5,11,12].
                                                                         [1–5,11,12].   SMEsSMEs   have
                                                                                                have     problemsaccessing
                                                                                                       problems      accessingIndustry
                                                                                                                                  Industry
                              4.0knowledge
                             4.0  knowledgedue   duetotothe
                                                          thelack
                                                              lackofofknowledge
                                                                       knowledgemanagement
                                                                                     managementand   andtransfer.
                                                                                                           transfer.
                                   Knowledgemanagement
                                  Knowledge         management(KM)  (KM)isisaafield
                                                                               fieldofofstudy
                                                                                         studythat
                                                                                                 thathas
                                                                                                      hasexisted
                                                                                                           existedforformore
                                                                                                                         morethanthanfour
                                                                                                                                       four
                              decades[13].
                             decades    [13].ItItcan
                                                   canbe
                                                       bedefined
                                                           definedas asthe
                                                                        theprocess
                                                                            processof  ofcreating,
                                                                                           creating,sharing,
                                                                                                      sharing,using,
                                                                                                                 using,andandmanaging
                                                                                                                                managing
                              theknowledge
                             the  knowledgeand    andinformation
                                                       informationofofan anorganization
                                                                             organization[14,15].
                                                                                              [14,15].KM
                                                                                                       KMhas hasfour
                                                                                                                 fourprimary
                                                                                                                        primaryactivity
                                                                                                                                    activity
                              areas or  knowledge       flows,  as shown   in  Figure   1: knowledge     creation,
                             areas or knowledge flows, as shown in Figure 1: knowledge creation, retention, transfer,retention,    transfer,
                              andutilization
                             and   utilization[16,17].
                                                 [16,17].

                             Figure
                              Figure1.1.Knowledge
                                         Knowledgemanagement
                                                   managementand
                                                              andthe
                                                                  thefour
                                                                      fourknowledge
                                                                           knowledgeflows.
                                                                                     flows.

                                   This
                                    Thisresearch
                                           researchfocuses
                                                     focuseson  onIndustry
                                                                     Industry4.0 4.0knowledge
                                                                                     knowledgetransfer transfer(KT)
                                                                                                                  (KT)within
                                                                                                                         withinSMEs,
                                                                                                                                 SMEs,as    asthis
                                                                                                                                               this
                             was
                              wasthetheprimary
                                         primarychallenge
                                                    challengeidentified
                                                                  identifiedduring
                                                                                 duringthe theliterature
                                                                                                 literaturereview.
                                                                                                              review. KT,KT,sometimes
                                                                                                                               sometimesalso   also
                             known
                              knownasasknowledge
                                            knowledgesharing
                                                           sharing(KS),
                                                                      (KS),refers
                                                                             referstotosharing
                                                                                         sharingknowledge
                                                                                                      knowledgefrom  fromone
                                                                                                                           oneindividual
                                                                                                                                 individualor    or
                              groupofofindividuals
                             group         individuals    (e.g.,
                                                       (e.g., ananSME)SME)    to another
                                                                          to another          individual
                                                                                        individual           or group
                                                                                                         or group         of individuals.
                                                                                                                    of individuals.     KT pur- KT
                              pursues
                             sues        to create,
                                   to create,       organize,
                                                organize,    andand    distribute
                                                                   distribute       knowledge
                                                                                 knowledge           between
                                                                                                  between        differentusers
                                                                                                              different    usersandandseeks
                                                                                                                                          seekstoto
                              ensureits
                             ensure    itsavailability
                                           availabilitytotofuture
                                                             futureusers
                                                                      users[15–18].
                                                                             [15–18].KTKTisisaacomplex
                                                                                                    complexfield
                                                                                                               fieldbecause
                                                                                                                     becauseofofthetheplurality
                                                                                                                                         plurality
                             ofofsources,
                                  sources,including
                                             includingindividuals,
                                                          individuals,organizations,
                                                                           organizations,the     theinternet,
                                                                                                      internet,andand books.
                                                                                                                        books. Some
                                                                                                                                 Someaspects
                                                                                                                                          aspects
                              hinderingsuccessful
                             hindering      successfulKT  KTarearecommunication
                                                                    communicationissues,  issues,aalack lackofofnetworking
                                                                                                                 networkingand   anddifficulty
                                                                                                                                       difficulty
                              accessingthe
                             accessing     theknowledge
                                               knowledge [19,20].
                                                              [19,20]. Therefore, the the ability
                                                                                             abilityto totransfer
                                                                                                          transferknowledge
                                                                                                                     knowledgeeffectively
                                                                                                                                     effectivelyin
                              the  networks    of SMEs    is of paramount      importance       for  supporting
                             in the networks of SMEs is of paramount importance for supporting the transition      the  transition   to Industry
                                                                                                                                            to In-
                              4.0. Several    studies  suggest    the   development       of  online     platforms
                             dustry 4.0. Several studies suggest the development of online platforms to optimize      to optimize     KT [21,22].
                                                                                                                                               KT
                              These kinds
                             [21,22]. Theseofkinds
                                                 platforms    promotepromote
                                                       of platforms       a knowledge-sharing
                                                                                    a knowledge-sharing culture through
                                                                                                                   culturediscussion       forums
                                                                                                                             through discus-
                              andforums
                             sion   other transfer   tools
                                             and other       so thattools
                                                          transfer     SMEs socontribute
                                                                                that SMEsto       the overall
                                                                                               contribute    to success.
                                                                                                                 the overall success.
                                    Theauthors
                                   The    authorsconsider
                                                    considertwo twoaspects
                                                                      aspectstotobebecrucial
                                                                                       crucialfor  forthe
                                                                                                        thesuccess
                                                                                                            successofofSMEs:
                                                                                                                          SMEs:thetheimprove-
                                                                                                                                        improve-
                              ment   of  the  access  to  Industry     4.0 knowledge        and    Industry    4.0 KT.
                             ment of the access to Industry 4.0 knowledge and Industry 4.0 KT. For that reason, this     For  that  reason,    this
                              research    aims  to fulfil the  following    research
                             research aims to fulfil the following research objectives:objectives:
                             1.1. Analyze
                                    Analyzethe
                                             theexisting
                                                 existingKT
                                                          KTinitiatives
                                                              initiativesand
                                                                          andplatforms
                                                                               platformssupporting
                                                                                          supportingthe
                                                                                                     theIndustry
                                                                                                          Industry4.0
                                                                                                                    4.0transi-
                                                                                                                         transi-
                                    tion within SMEs;
                                  tion within SMEs;
                             2.2. Propose
                                    Proposeaanew
                                              new collaborative
                                                    collaborativeonline
                                                                   onlineplatform
                                                                           platformtoto
                                                                                      improve Industry
                                                                                        improve         4.0 KT
                                                                                                 Industry   4.0 between   SMEs.
                                                                                                                 KT between
                                  SMEs.
Industry 4.0 HUB: A Collaborative Knowledge Transfer Platform for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises - MDPI
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5548                                                                                         3 of 12

                            2. Materials and Methods
                                 In this work, we applied a research approach in two phases:
                            •    The first phase was a literature review conducted in 2019 and 2020 to evaluate current
                                 Industry 4.0 knowledge transfer initiatives and platforms. This will be described in
                                 Section 2.1.
                            •    For the second phase, by the end of 2020, the collaborative online platform Industry
                                 4.0 HUB for knowledge transfer for SMEs was developed. This phase will be explained
                                 in Sections 2.2 and 2.3.

                            2.1. Literature Review
                                  The authors performed a systematic literature review using several databases such
                            as the Web of Science, Google Scholar, and Scopus to identify existing Industry 4.0 KT
                            initiatives and platforms.
                                  The foundation of Plattform Industrie 4.0 by several German associations with more
                            than 6000 member companies in April 2013 was the first attempt to create a platform
                            supporting industry KT and the further development of the recent trend in manufacturing
                            technologies, termed as Industry 4.0. The platform, officially announced and kicked off at
                            the Hannover Fair in 2013, seeks to promote the development of Industry 4.0 in Germany
                            and thus strengthen the competitiveness of Germany as a production location [23,24]. In
                            this context, the excellent Industry 4.0 map is worth highlighting due to its transformation
                            of knowledge related to successful and sustained Industry 4.0 test cases and support of
                            other SMEs accessing Industry 4.0 technologies by providing already proven solutions and
                            saving the initial trial and error phase. In addition, the SME Transfer Network submodule
                            organizes meetings and workshops to promote KT within SMEs.
                                  Using the benefits of the digital transformation, the Digital Innovation Hub (DIH)
                            from the European Commission is another excellent initiative to further promote Industry
                            4.0 KT within SMEs. It intends to build a European network of DIHs that are one-stop
                            shops to help companies improve their processes, products, and services by using digital
                            technologies. DIHs provide access to technical expertise and experimentation by acting as
                            knowledge transfer platforms [25–27]. To support this initiative, the European Commission
                            has proposed the creation of the first-ever Digital Europe Programme, which will invest
                            EUR 9.2 billion to align the next long-term EU budget (2021–2027) with increasing digital
                            challenges [27–29]. The current numbers show the astonishing progress of the DIHs,
                            as shown in Figure 2. By May 2021, there were 350 fully operational DIHs in Europe.
                            Countries like Spain and Italy already have more than 50 DIHs fully operational, while
                            other countries like Germany and France have more than 20 DIHs in preparation that will
                            open their doors in the following months [30]. The Digital Europe Programme will foster
                            the creation of new DIHs even further.
                                  During recent years, a new trend has been observed: some DIHs are getting connected
                            and creating a cluster to expand their area of influence to a national level and to lead the
                            development not only of a region, but also of a nation or even a pan-European area [31].
                            One example of this development is the cluster de:hub, which comprises twelve DIHs
                            creating one digital ecosystem [29]. Furthermore, a relevant part of the DIHs is the project
                            DIHNET.EU, which aims to create a sustainable pan-European network of networks to
                            interconnect the regional DIHs and promote networking and collaboration [32]. This
                            project might help to create a great online community to foster interaction among hubs,
                            information exchange, and peer learning.
                                  To conclude, and to highlight the relevance of the abovementioned platforms, the
                            interest and research in recent years on the DIH and Plattform Industrie 4.0 is growing, as
                            shown in Figure 3. Moreover, the number of searches for DIH in Google in the last four
                            years shows popularity peaks during the last two years, which emphasizes the need for
                            Industry 4.0 knowledge transfer platforms, as shown in Figure 4.
Industry 4.0 HUB: A Collaborative Knowledge Transfer Platform for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises - MDPI
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5548                                                                                                                        4 of 12

Sci. 2021, 11, 5548                                                                                                                                               5 of 12
                                                                                        Figure 2. Top 7 EU countries by number of fully operational DIHs.

                                                                                                              2017       2018   2019    2020
                                                                          30,000
                                                 Number of results in Google

                                                                          25,000

                                                                          20,000
                                                         Scholar

                                                                          15,000

                                                                          10,000

                                                                               5,000

                                                                                    0
                                                                                                Digital Innovation Hub                  Plattform Industrie 4.0

                                                Figure 3. Development
                                 Figure 3. Development                  during
                                                           during the last four the lastoffour
                                                                                years          years of the
                                                                                           the number       number
                                                                                                        of results in of results
                                                                                                                      Google     in Google
                                                                                                                               Scholar      Scholar
                                                                                                                                       related      re- and Plattform
                                                                                                                                               to DIH
                                 Industrie 4.0. lated to DIH and Plattform Industrie 4.0.

                     100
                      90
                      80
Interest over time

                      70
                      60
                      50
                      40
                      30
                      20
                      10
                       0

                                                                                1

                                        Figure 4. Interest over the last four years in DIH, generated via Google Trends.
Industry 4.0 HUB: A Collaborative Knowledge Transfer Platform for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises - MDPI
Numb
                                                 5,000

                                                     0
                                                                   Digital Innovation Hub                       Plattform Industrie 4.0
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5548                                                                                                                     5 of 12
                                         Figure 3. Development during the last four years of the number of results in Google Scholar re-
                                         lated to DIH and Plattform Industrie 4.0.

                            100
                             90
                             80
       Interest over time

                             70
                             60
                             50
                             40
                             30
                             20
                             10
                              0

                                  Figure 4. Interest over the last four years in DIH, generated via Google Trends.
                                  Figure 4. Interest over the last four years in DIH, generated via Google Trends.

                                        2.2.
                                         2.2. Industry
                                               Industry 4.0
                                                         4.0 HUB
                                                             HUB
                                               In
                                                In summation,SMEs
                                                  summation,     SMEsarearebeing
                                                                             beingsupported
                                                                                    supportedby  byEuropean
                                                                                                     Europeaninitiatives
                                                                                                                  initiativesin inorder
                                                                                                                                   ordertotoimprove
                                                                                                                                             improve
                                        KT
                                         KT in regard to Industry 4.0. Moreover, there are even Industry 4.0 KT platforms, clusters,
                                             in  regard  to Industry  4.0. Moreover,     there are even    Industry    4.0  KT platforms,    clusters,
                                        and
                                         and hubs     for SMEs,
                                                hubs for   SMEs,like
                                                                  likethe
                                                                        theDIHs
                                                                             DIHs or or Plattform
                                                                                     Plattform      Industrie
                                                                                                Industrie   4.0, 4.0,
                                                                                                                 whichwhich    will increase
                                                                                                                          will increase         their
                                                                                                                                          their influ-
                                        influence
                                         ence and and     support
                                                     support   SMEsSMEs    in following
                                                                      in the  the following    years
                                                                                           years       through
                                                                                                 through          European
                                                                                                             European          investment
                                                                                                                           investment         plans.
                                                                                                                                         plans.
                                               In
                                                In the case of DIHs, the European Commission is creating a complex, regional, multi-
                                                  the  case of DIHs,  the  European     Commission      is creating   a complex,    regional,  multi-
                                        layered,
                                         layered,andandheterogeneous
                                                          heterogeneousinnovation
                                                                            innovationecosystem
                                                                                          ecosystem thatthatwill
                                                                                                             willpromote
                                                                                                                   promoteits  itsexpansion
                                                                                                                                   expansionin  inthe
                                                                                                                                                   the
                                        following
                                         following years. Some studies have suggested the importance of addressing Industry4.0
                                                     years.  Some   studies   have  suggested    the  importance      of addressing    Industry    4.0
                                        at
                                         at aaregional
                                                regionallevel
                                                          levelto
                                                                tofoster
                                                                   fosterinnovation
                                                                           innovationlocally
                                                                                          locally[33–35].
                                                                                                  [33–35]. However,
                                                                                                             However, given given the
                                                                                                                                   thenumber,
                                                                                                                                        number,the the
                                        different focus, and the specialization of DIHs at the regional, national, and EU levels,
                                         different focus, and the specialization of DIHs at the regional, national, and EU levels,
                                        new strategies to coordinate, control, and optimize communication through those levels
                                         new strategies to coordinate, control, and optimize communication through those levels
                                        are necessary. DIHs are regionally based, supporting the local industry. Nonetheless,
                                         are necessary. DIHs are regionally based, supporting the local industry. Nonetheless, col-
                                        collaboration and networking between the DIHs are essential to ensure that knowledge
                                         laboration and networking between the DIHs are essential to ensure that knowledge re-
                                        related to the best practices can be transferred.
                                         lated to the best practices can be transferred.
                                               Industry 4.0 technologies are evolving fast, and knowledge must be collected in real
                                                Industry 4.0 technologies are evolving fast, and knowledge must be collected in real
                                        time. Moreover, the inclusion of new technologies, and especially the advent of Industry
                                         time. Moreover, the inclusion of new technologies, and especially the advent of Industry
                                        4.0, are facilitating collaboration while at the same time accelerating the development
                                         4.0, are facilitating collaboration while at the same time accelerating the development of
                                        of innovation outcomes and setting new challenges for SMEs [25,28,31,36]. New KT
                                         innovation outcomes and setting new challenges for SMEs [25,28,31,36]. New KT strate-
                                        strategies must be developed considering the dynamics resulting from the implementation
                                         gies must be developed considering the dynamics resulting from the implementation of
                                        of Industry 4.0. Consequently, promoting a collaborative atmosphere by boosting the
                                        synergies between SMEs and promoting networking through the different levels previously
                                        mentioned will enhance a culture of innovation.
                                               When SMEs start the transition to Industry 4.0, first of all, they do not want to start
                                        from scratch, and secondly, it can be easy to get lost in the multitude of technologies and
                                        tools that are available in today’s market. There is a lack of an essential Industry 4.0 collab-
                                        orative knowledge platform for every SME at every level, as shown in Figure 5. There is a
                                        gap for providing a collaborative web application Industry 4.0 KT hub without borders and
                                        without the level of granularity that initiatives like DIHs have created (European countries,
                                        European regions, and specialized DIHs).
                                               The KT of Industry 4.0 technologies and projects, as well as the networking of SMEs,
                                        can be facilitated via the creation of a collaborative hub. This research aims to fill this gap
                                        and has its focus on developing a collaborative, web-based KT hub for the implementation
                                        of Industry 4.0 components in the supply chains of SMEs.
Industry 4.0 HUB: A Collaborative Knowledge Transfer Platform for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises - MDPI
from scratch, and secondly, it can be easy to get lost in the multitude of technologies and
                            tools that are available in today’s market. There is a lack of an essential Industry 4.0 col-
                            laborative knowledge platform for every SME at every level, as shown in Figure 5. There
                            is a gap for providing a collaborative web application Industry 4.0 KT hub without bor-
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5548   ders and without the level of granularity that initiatives like DIHs have created (European
                                                                                                                   6 of 12
                            countries, European regions, and specialized DIHs).

                            Figure 5. Industry 4.0 knowledge transfer for SMEs.
                            Figure 5. Industry 4.0 knowledge transfer for SMEs.
                             2.3. Development of the Industry 4.0 HUB
                                   The KT of Industry 4.0 technologies and projects, as well as the networking of SMEs,
                                   The web-based KT hub developed during this research is called Industry 4.0 HUB.
                            can be facilitated via the creation of a collaborative hub. This research aims to fill this gap
                             It is a full software stack platform (frontend, backend, and database). There are several
                            and has its focus on developing a collaborative, web-based KT hub for the implementation
                             alternatives of web application software stack solutions that might be selected based on
                            of Industry 4.0 components in the supply chains of SMEs.
                             different decision criteria for each project, including the project size, scalability, maintain-
                             ability, and security [37]. To support the decision-making, recent results from the Developer
                            2.3. Development of the Industry 4.0 HUB
                             Survey 2020 from Stack Overflow were analyzed. Nearly 65,000 developers from over
                                   The web-based
                            180 countries                KT hubindeveloped
                                                participated            the survey, during   thisresults
                                                                                       and the     research  is called
                                                                                                          show           Industry 4.0
                                                                                                                  that JavaScript,      HUB. or
                                                                                                                                       HTML     It
                            is  a full  software     stack    platform     (frontend,    backend,    and  database).
                             CSS, and SQL are the top three programming, scripting, and markup languages used [38].     There    are  several  al-
                            ternatives
                            As this projectof web     application
                                                 is still  in its earlysoftware
                                                                          stages, thestack  solutions
                                                                                        authors         that might
                                                                                                  have selected        be selected
                                                                                                                   the following       based on
                                                                                                                                    alternatives
                            different    decision    criteria     for  each  project,  including    the project
                             based on their experience and the current usage between web developers. Other than  size,  scalability,   maintain-
                            ability,   andcriteria
                             that, other     securitywere [37].notTo taken
                                                                      supportintothe  decision-making,
                                                                                    consideration.          recent
                                                                                                      For the        resultsdevelopment,
                                                                                                                frontend      from the Devel- the
                            oper    Survey
                             following         2020 from Stack
                                           programming          languagesOverflow
                                                                               were were
                                                                                      used: analyzed. Nearly 65,000 developers from
                            over
                             • 180 HTML  countries    participated
                                             5: the latest     versioninofthe thesurvey,
                                                                                   markup  and  the results
                                                                                             language         showpages;
                                                                                                         for web      that JavaScript, HTML
                            or
                             •  CSS,
                                   CSS 3: a style sheet language used for describing the presentationlanguages
                                       and    SQL    are   the  top    three  programming,       scripting,  and    markup                 used
                                                                                                                                of a document
                            [38]. As   this  project    is  still  in its early
                                   written in a markup language such as HTML;    stages,  the authors   have   selected   the  following   alter-
                            natives
                             •         based on4:their
                                   Bootstrap           HTML, experience
                                                                     CSS, andand JavaScript
                                                                                   the currentframework
                                                                                                  usage between      web developers.
                                                                                                               for developing             Other
                                                                                                                                     responsive
                            than web
                                   that, pages.
                                          other criteria were not taken into consideration. For the frontend development,
                            the following programming languages were used:
                                   The backend development was performed using the following programming languages:
                            •      HTML 5: the latest version of the markup language for web pages;
                             •     PHP: a server scripting language and a powerful tool for making dynamic and inter-
                            •      CSS
                                   active 3: web
                                             a style    sheet language used for describing the presentation of a document
                                                   pages;
                             •     written
                                   JavaScript: high-levellanguage
                                              in  a markup                     such as HTML;
                                                                    and multi-paradigm        programming language.
                                  Finally, MySQL was used for the creation of the database. Moreover, several libraries,
                            such as the JavaScript library jQuery, were used to simplify the programming and expand
                            the capabilities of the Industry 4.0 HUB. The full software stack architecture is shown in
                            Figure 6.
                                  The source code editor used for the development was Visual Studio Code. The first
                            phase of the development was performed locally on the laptops of the authors on a local
                            test server without interaction with a live server. Once the platform was running in a
                            stable state and the first dry runs were completed, it was uploaded to a web server, and the
                            Industry 4.0 HUB has been live since January 2021 from the following link: i40-hub.com.
Industry 4.0 HUB: A Collaborative Knowledge Transfer Platform for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises - MDPI
•    PHP: a server scripting language and a powerful tool for making dynamic and inter-
                                  active web pages;
                             •    JavaScript: high-level and multi-paradigm programming language.
                                  Finally, MySQL was used for the creation of the database. Moreover, several libraries,
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5548                                                                                             7 of 12
                             such as the JavaScript library jQuery, were used to simplify the programming and expand the
                             capabilities of the Industry 4.0 HUB. The full software stack architecture is shown in Figure 6.

                             Figure6.6.Frontend,
                            Figure     Frontend,backend,
                                                 backend,and
                                                          anddatabase
                                                              databasedevelopment.
                                                                       development.

                            3. Results
                                   The source code editor used for the development was Visual Studio Code. The first
                             phase of Industry
                                  The             4.0 HUBwas
                                       the development      is aperformed
                                                                   website that aimson
                                                                             locally   to the
                                                                                           support   SMEs
                                                                                               laptops       in authors
                                                                                                        of the   selectingonthe   ap-
                                                                                                                              a local
                            propriate  Industry   4.0 technologies   and  projects.  The  website   intends   to work
                             test server without interaction with a live server. Once the platform was running in a sta-as an  SME
                            collaborative
                             ble state and network    for KT,
                                            the first dry runswhere
                                                                 wereSMEs   can access
                                                                       completed,        theuploaded
                                                                                    it was    latest knowledge,     expertise,
                                                                                                        to a web server,    andand the
                            technology   to access Industry   4.0. The Industry 4.0  HUB    wants  to eliminate   impediments
                             Industry 4.0 HUB has been live since January 2021 from the following link: i40-hub.com                 to
                            accessing Industry 4.0 knowledge; it wants to offer open access to Industry 4.0 knowledge.
                                  This platform does not pretend to gather single Industry 4.0 technologies, but instead
                             3. Results
                            collects Industry 4.0 use cases, real solutions, and projects in SMEs. The Industry 4.0 HUB
                                   The Industry 4.0 HUB is a website that aims to support SMEs in selecting the appro-
                            is based on three pillars: the SMEs accessing the platform, the website offering the front end
                             priate Industry 4.0 technologies and projects. The website intends to work as an SME col-
                            capabilities, and a database, as the backend, where Industry 4.0 use cases are stored (see
                             laborative network for KT, where SMEs can access the latest knowledge, expertise, and
                            Figure 7). The Industry 4.0 HUB is designed with a modular architecture that guarantees
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5548    technology to access Industry 4.0. The Industry 4.0 HUB wants to eliminate impediments          8 of  12
                            great advantages in terms of flexibility and extensibility. The Industry 4.0 HUB offers            four
                             to accessing Industry 4.0 knowledge; it wants to offer open access to Industry 4.0
                            modules, which will be explained in the following subsections.
                             knowledge.
                                   This platform does not pretend to gather single Industry 4.0 technologies, but instead
                             collects Industry 4.0 use cases, real solutions, and projects in SMEs. The Industry 4.0 HUB
                             is based on three pillars: the SMEs accessing the platform, the website offering the front
                             end capabilities, and a database, as the backend, where Industry 4.0 use cases are stored
                             (see Figure 7). The Industry 4.0 HUB is designed with a modular architecture that guar-
                             antees great advantages in terms of flexibility and extensibility. The Industry 4.0 HUB
                             offers four modules, which will be explained in the following subsections.

                            Figure 7.
                            Figure     Industry4.0
                                   7. Industry 4.0HUB
                                                   HUBarchitecture.
                                                      architecture.

                             3.1. The HUB
                            3.1. The HUB
                                   This module is the core of the KT. The HUB enables the SMEs to access the Industry
                                  This module is the core of the KT. The HUB enables the SMEs to access the Industry
                             4.0 database and gain the information and awareness necessary to implement Industry
                            4.0 database and gain the information and awareness necessary to implement Industry 4.0
                            use cases. Each use case is presented from a practical viewpoint, with a detailed dataset
                            including the fields presented in Table 1.

                            Table 1. Dataset of the Industry 4.0 use cases.
Industry 4.0 HUB: A Collaborative Knowledge Transfer Platform for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises - MDPI
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5548                                                                                                           8 of 12

                                   4.0 use cases. Each use case is presented from a practical viewpoint, with a detailed dataset
                                   including the fields presented in Table 1.

                                             Table 1. Dataset of the Industry 4.0 use cases.

                   Field                                                          Description
  Name of the Industry 4.0 Project      Unique identification of the Industry 4.0 use case, which is used as a key for the SQL database.
                                        The literature about technologies related to Industry 4.0 is extensive [39–42]. Considering the
                                        large number of technologies related to Industry 4.0, the authors have selected six of these
       Industry 4.0 Technology
                                        technologies to classify the use cases: Internet of Things, machine learning, automation, big
                                        data, cloud computing, augmented reality, and other.
                                        Short introduction of the Industry 4.0 solution, including the use case of the project and the
                                        improvement achieved. With this information, other SMEs can gain a quick understanding of
               Description
                                        and easily and quickly comprehend the key usage of the solution and implement it in
                                        their organizations.
                                        Several research works have highlighted that SMEs do not have the economic resources to
                                        implement Industry 4.0 technologies [5,8]. For the Industry 4.0 HUB, the authors included
                  Budget                this category so that microenterprises and small enterprises with turnover ranges between
                                        EUR 0.5 million and EUR 10 million can carefully select the solution based on the costs and
                                        the investment.
                  Picture               This allows the user to upload a picture of the use case to support rapid visual recognition.

Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5548               This is a field to include links to provide additional information, such as the website of 9the
                                                                                                                                      of 12
   Additional     Information (Link)
                                        vendor of the technologies used.

                                        Some examples
                                       Some   examples of
                                                        of Industry
                                                           Industry 4.0
                                                                    4.0 use
                                                                        use cases
                                                                            cases in
                                                                                  in SMEs
                                                                                     SMEs related
                                                                                          related to
                                                                                                  to the
                                                                                                     the Internet
                                                                                                         Internet of
                                                                                                                  of Things
                                                                                                                     Things
                                   presented using the abovementioned   dataset are shown in Figure
                                   presented using the abovementioned dataset are shown in Figure 8.8.

                                          Figure 8. Industry 4.0 HUB desktop user interface.
                                          Figure 8. Industry 4.0 HUB desktop user interface.

                                   3.2. Roadmap
                                   3.2. Roadmap
                                         The HUB enables Industry 4.0 KT and allows SMEs to gain the Industry 4.0 practical
                                         The HUB
                                   knowledge      enables
                                               required  to Industry
                                                            implement4.0the
                                                                         KTprojects
                                                                            and allows  SMEs
                                                                                    in their   to gain However,
                                                                                             facilities. the Industry
                                                                                                                   the4.0 practical
                                                                                                                       implemen-
                                   knowledge required to implement the projects in their facilities. However, the implemen-
                                   tation could be tortuous sometimes, and therefore, the authors provide in the Industry 4.0
                                   tation could be tortuous sometimes, and therefore, the authors provide in the Industry
                                   HUB an additional module to support the SMEs: Roadmap.
                                   4.0 HUB an additional module to support the SMEs: Roadmap.
                                         Roadmap aims to facilitate decision-making and access to Industry 4.0 technologies
                                   by the production areas of the SMEs. The six-step roadmap presented is based on the
                                   roadmap for SMEs published in November 2020 by the authors [8]. The main differences
                                   between the roadmap proposed within this paper and the roadmaps presented in previ-
                                   ous research are its focus on SMEs and the practical viewpoint.
Industry 4.0 HUB: A Collaborative Knowledge Transfer Platform for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises - MDPI
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 5548                                                                                           9 of 12

                                  Roadmap aims to facilitate decision-making and access to Industry 4.0 technologies by
                            the production areas of the SMEs. The six-step roadmap presented is based on the roadmap
                            for SMEs published in November 2020 by the authors [8]. The main differences between
                            the roadmap proposed within this paper and the roadmaps presented in previous research
                            are its focus on SMEs and the practical viewpoint.

                            3.3. Community
                                 Following the networking trend being observed during recent years in other platforms
                            like DIH, the Industry 4.0 HUB proposes a module called Community. It aims to be a forum
                            where SMEs can share experiences on Industry 4.0 implementation and where collaboration
                            can appear.

                            3.4. Collaborate
                                 This module allows SMEs to contribute to the Industry 4.0 HUB, introducing use cases,
                            real projects, and implementations of SMEs in the database. Every DIH has a different
                            focus and specialization on a regional level, which makes access to the knowledge for SMEs
                            from other regions or nations within the European Union and outside of it difficult. On
                            the other hand, Plattform Industrie 4.0 focuses mainly on the use cases in Germany. Both
                            platforms have already defined structures and procedures. Single users or SMEs are not
                            able to collaborate; they cannot transfer Industry 4.0 knowledge with other SMEs. The
                            Industry 4.0 HUB aims to create a platform without regional or national barriers and where
                            everyone has the right to share Industry 4.0 knowledge and experience.

                            4. Discussion and Conclusions
                                 The result of this research is the Industry 4.0 HUB platform, which has been com-
                            pletely developed and online since January 2021 at the following link: i40-hub.com. This
                            research presents the qualitative advantages of using the collaborative KT platform Indus-
                            try 4.0 HUB:
                            •    The Industry 4.0 HUB creates a single source for Industry 4.0 KT for SMEs. Every
                                 SME willing to implement Industry 4.0 technologies does not need to seek hundreds
                                 of papers, books, and platforms as everything is available in just one website, which
                                 covers the lack of knowledge highlighted in Section 1. Additionally, the resources
                                 needed to start the Fourth Industrial Revolution are minimized.
                            •    The HUB provides real-time SME access to an immense collection of Industry 4.0 use cases.
                            •    The Collaborate and Networking modules allow SMEs to enter use cases and share
                                 Industry 4.0 knowledge and resources, creating a collaborative network.
                            •    The Roadmap module helps SMEs enter the new era of manufacturing using a simple
                                 process that does not require complex expertise or big teams.
                                 Industry 4.0 KT must be simplified for the SMEs, especially for the microenterprises,
                            and therefore, a single source platform like the Industry 4.0 HUB could provide the solution
                            to the deficiency identified. As was previously mentioned, DIHs and Plattform Industrie
                            4.0 are great initiatives and key enablers for the transition toward Industry 4.0 and digital
                            transformation for European SMEs. The European network of DIHs will help companies
                            to improve their processes, products, and services using digital technologies, and they
                            will provide access to technical expertise and experimentation, but the authors wanted to
                            propose a different way to improve the Industry 4.0 KT between SMEs. Table 2 highlights
                            some of the differences between the Industry 4.0 HUB, the Plattform Industrie 4.0, and the
                            DIHs. In conclusion, the Industry 4.0 HUB supports the transition toward Industry 4.0
                            for SMEs by using a different approach than the one used in Plattform Industrie 4.0 and
                            the DIHs. The Industry 4.0 HUB aims to eliminate unnecessary barriers and to simplify
                            Industry 4.0 KT.
                                 However, this study has some limitations which may be addressed through future
                            studies. The first limitation is that further analysis of the quantitative results for the
                            Industry 4.0 HUB is still required. A representative number of SMEs need to start using
Industry 4.0 HUB: A Collaborative Knowledge Transfer Platform for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises - MDPI
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                                                    Acknowledgments: This paper has been produced                                                    the scope           the doctoral        activities    carried
s a content
         work,
             management
                such as a content
                               system
                                   work, management
                                          (CMS)
                                            such as  like
                                                        a  content
                                                            Drupal,
                                                               system   management
                                                                          which
                                                                           (CMS)      could
                                                                                       like   Drupal,
                                                                                                system
                                                                                                simplify       which
                                                                                                                (CMS)
                                                                                                                   the      could
                                                                                                                             like
                                                                                                                          work,      Drupal,
                                                                                                                                        simplify
                                                                                                                                     such      as
                                                    out by the lead author at the International Doctorate School of the Spanish National Distance-   awhich
                                                                                                                                                          the
                                                                                                                                                        content   could
                                                                                                                                                               work,         simplify
                                                                                                                                                                      management
                                                                                                                                                                          such     as   a    the
                                                                                                                                                                                           content
                                                                                                                                                                                               system    management
                                                                                                                                                                                                           (CMS)      like Dru
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             sy
 d maintainability
         scalability and
                       of the
                            maintainability
                               platform.
                                   scalability and  of themaintainability
                                                              platform.               of the   platform.                  scalability         and
                                                    Learning University (EIDUNED_ Escuela Internacional de Doctorado de la Universidad Nacional de     maintainability
                                                                                                                                                               scalability        and
                                                                                                                                                                                   of  themaintainability
                                                                                                                                                                                              platform.              of the  pla
                                                                        Educación a Distancia). The authors are grateful for the support provided by this institution.
                                                                        Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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