Sustainable Industrial Value Creation in SMEs: A Comparison between Industry 4.0 and Made in China 2025


The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) confronts industrial manufactures with economic, ecological, as well as social benefits and challenges, referring to the Triple Bottom Line of sustainability. So far, research has mainly investigated its dimensions in isolation or economic aspects have not been compared with ecological and social perspectives. Further, research misses studies that are devoted to the special characteristics and requirements of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). This study aims to contribute to close this research gap, providing a research context that encompasses all three dimensions of sustainability. The results are based on data obtained from 329 SMEs, 222 in Germany and 107 in China, therefore allowing for a comparison of the concepts “Industrie 4.0” and “Made in China 2025” in the context of SMEs. In general, German SMEs expect a lower impact through “Industrie 4.0”, perceiving the concept as more beneficial for larger enterprises. We further find that Chinese SMEs foremost see social benefits. Challenges whilst introducing “Industrie 4.0”by German SMEs as well as several frame conditions are perceived more relevant than for “Made in China 2025”, as seen by Chinese SMEs. The paper closes with implications for research and practice based on these findings.


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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Julian M. Müller.

Additional information

Julian M. Müller Professor for Logistics and Operations Management, Salzburg University of Applied Sciences, Austria. His research interests include Industry 4.0, Sustainability, SCM and SMEs.

Kai-Ingo Voigt Professor for Industrial Management, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany. His research interests include Industry 4.0 and technology & innovation management.

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Müller, J.M., Voigt, K. Sustainable Industrial Value Creation in SMEs: A Comparison between Industry 4.0 and Made in China 2025. Int. J. of Precis. Eng. and Manuf.-Green Tech. 5, 659–670 (2018).

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  • Industry 4.0
  • Industrial internet of things
  • Made in china 2025 sustainability
  • Triple bottom line
  • Small and medium-sized enterprises