Digital Workplace – where we work in the future
© gorodenkoff (iStock)
October 2023

Digital Workplace – where we work in the future

By Carsten Paulun
Modern workplaces enable flexible, efficient and attractive collaboration.

Virtual reality instead of model building, cloud instead of filing cabinet – digital innovations turn the office into a flexible, cooperative and highly efficient Digital Workplace. A holistic and, above all, user-focused strategy is essential when it comes to providing employees with the best working conditions. This article describes the tools used by Schaeffler, a motion technology company, to leverage the potential of digitalized work.

In the era of New Work and New Normal, the workplace is no longer a physical location attended by employees. In many companies, people are increasingly working together via digital platforms. However, such a Digital Workplace means more than the mere availability of digital tools – it also adapts to the work to be done and the processes required.

Digitalized work – how companies and employees benefit from the Digital Workplace

The Digital Workplace is not about overloading every office with a plethora of digital tools. “Our goal at Schaeffler is to equip workplaces with practical resources that meet actual needs,” says Katrin Thausing, Head of Employee IT at Schaeffler. The focus here is on autonomous work and the agility of the teams concerned. Employees at Schaeffler have access to the latest IT solutions, including digital collaboration and communication technologies designed to promote agile, efficient collaboration pooled in a sustainable, digital workplace.

Digital Workplace – where we work in the future
Teamwork remains key in the Digital Workplace. Even when workshops are held on site, Schaeffler employees use digital tools for joint project organization and documentation© Schaeffler

With the aid of collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams, the employees involved can work together on projects simultaneously. Everyone then has simultaneous access to documents and plans. A wide variety of conference rooms and tools for analog, digital and hybrid communication are available to employees for their collaboration and communication.

Augmented and virtual reality solutions

Using augmented and virtual reality solutions such as mixed reality glasses, Schaeffler was able to commission whole new production series despite corona-related travel restrictions. Teams from Germany trained colleagues on site with augmented reality glasses to prepare them for commissioning. “Digital Workplaces have been an important topic at Schaeffler for some time now. During the corona pandemic, our wide range of products proved its worth, and we were quickly able to leverage new fields of application,” reports Marc Votteler, Head of IT & Digitalization and CIO of the Schaeffler Group.

Innovative technologies have also been deployed in training. With the aid of virtual reality, Schaeffler trains technical staff in product assembly and machine operation. This covers modification, repair and operation, for example. Schaeffler can teach its employees without interfering with everyday production, regardless of whether machines are available or not. But the new technology also supports training in communication, leadership or in dealing with stress – and also has a worldwide reach.

“Virtual reality enables us to provide training anytime, anywhere, in very high and consistent quality without depending on the availability of a real-life trainer,” explains Jens Ebert, Productivity & Applications Product Owner at Schaeffler.

New Work promotes collaboration

The New Work concept pursues similar aims to those of the Digital Workplace. It envisages an open working environment in which employees can interact with greater speed and flexibility. New Work has proved particularly valuable in the context of agile methods. “At Schaeffler one aspect of New Work is that the working environment is adjusted to employees’ needs, and hybrid working – on site, at home or on the road – is supported,” explains Sandra Köllner, Head of Corporate Real Estate Projects, Space Management & New Work at Schaeffler.

Digital Workplace – where we work in the future
New Work creates the right working environment for agile, flexible and digital collaboration© Schaeffler

One example of New Work at Schaeffler is the new Automotive Aftermarket headquarters, not far from Frankfurt Airport. At this location, an open, multi-functional working environment facilitates collaboration, promotes creative processes and reinvigorates staff. “By implementing the Schaeffler New Work standard, we are adjusting to the new requirements of the changing world of work and providing space for agile, flexible and digital collaboration,” emphasizes Jens Schüler, Automotive Aftermarket CEO at Schaeffler.

The architecture promotes open communication. One welcome aspect is that walking distances and, more importantly, decision-making channels are short despite an office size of over 6,000 square meters. Spread over three stories, the new headquarters provide space for teamwork, project rooms, think tanks, conference rooms, “gravity points” – open collaboration spaces with kitchenettes – and conventional workplaces. “This new working environment helps employees to interact quickly and with a large degree of flexibility. An agile approach is taken to work, and space is created for new ideas. We regard this new communication basis as a major factor in the future success of our company,” says project manager David Rottstedt.

Using digital tools to develop digital solutions for customers

Schaeffler is also using its constantly and ever faster growing store of digital expertise to develop innovative automotive and industry solutions and services for its customers. These include, for example, the innovative OPTIME condition monitoring solution and the products created by Schaeffler Digital Solutions GmbH, which, thanks to their high degree of compatibility with existing systems, sensors and control units, can retrieve and process a wide range of data from a wide variety of different machines.

Digital Workplace – where we work in the future
Schaeffler offers its customers a wide range of service with digital solutions such as OPTIME© Schaeffler

Such product ideas are made possible by a combination of Digital Workplaces and the digital expertise of the company’s cross-functional teams. Employees from all parts of the company can continuously develop the required skills with the courses offered by the Schaeffler Academy’s “Fit4Digital” program.