Miren Estensoro, Miren Larrea, Julian M. Müller, Eduardo Sisti
European Management Journal
The integration of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within the concept Industry 4.0 represents one of its main challenges, as they play a vital part in industrial value chains that shall be digitized from suppliers to the end customer. However, what the implementation stages for Industry 4.0 in SMEs should be as well as the respective resources for achieving the next stage are scarcely understood. In response, this paper proposes a framework using a resource-based review for Industry 4.0 implementation according to the stage of development in SMEs, created between researchers, policy makers, and 354 manufacturing SMEs in the province of Gipuzkoa (Basque Country, Spain). The paper applies a mixed-method approach, combining qualitative (interviews) and quantitative elements (survey data). The results are used to develop a model with four stages of SMEs that are characterized by having distinct preconditions and conditions for Industry 4.0. Thereupon, the required measures to achieve the next stage of Industry 4.0 implementation are derived. This highlights Industry 4.0 for SMEs as a process with different stages toward achieving sustainable competitive advantage and offering insight into how the different resources operate. The high importance and advanced position regarding industrial value creation and SMEs in Gipuzkoa allows to generalize and transfer the findings to other European regions.