Jump label

Service navigation

Main navigation

You are here:

Main content

STEPS (Project of the cooperation partner RIF e.V., Department for Production Systems).)

Socio-technical design and implementation of Cyber-Physical Production Systems in non-R&D-intensive companies

(Project duration: november 2015 to Oktober 2018; Project of the cooperation partner RIF e.V., Department for Production Systems)



Problem Defintion

The increasing application of information and communication technology (ICT), networked production units and new Internet technologies enable industrial companies to successfully introduce and operate Cyber-Physical Production Systems (CPPS). The importance of CPPS for the future competitiveness of German industry is undisputed among computer scientists, engineering scientists, industrial associations and political actors. These elements are summarised under the term "Industry 4.0". The general aim of this approach is to manage growing flexibility requirements, increasing product individualisation, shorter product life cycles, increasing complexity of process flows, products and requirements as well as challenges of demographic change by decentralisation and self-regulation via automation and connectivity of production systems.

Industry 4.0-based production systems are designed to be self-regulating through the use of ICT, such as networked, embedded systems, and the introduction of monitoring and decision-making processes. Through their successive implementation to create CPPS, further functional and economic potentials of existing production systems can be exploited. At the same time, it is undisputed that this will lead to major changes in the design of work, technology and organisation in production, which pose major challenges for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular. Limited management capacities and a lack of personnel and resources for research and development are bottlenecks in the introduction and implementation of process innovations in general and CPPS solutions in particular that should not be underestimated for SMEs. Thus, it is crucial to give these companies access to CPPS solutions and to enable them to implement the new technologies under consideration of economic and employee-oriented aspects. Socio-technical challenges associated with the introduction of Industry 4.0 and the design, introduction and operation of CPPS solutions according to operational requirements are particularly relevant and focussed within this project.



In this context, the joint research project STEPS has the goal of developing a concept for CPPS design and implementation for non R&D-intensive SMEs and developing the strategies necessary for the introduction and implementation of an employment-oriented, economic production system.

This requires the consideration of special requirements of non R&D-intensive companies. The design and implementation system should show SMEs suitable CPPS solutions that allow to achieve the operational goals while taking into account the requirements and capabilities of socio-technical systems. Suitable organisational structures support a permanent process organisation and technology adaptability of the enterprises and lead to an increase in productivity as well as to a shortening of the reaction time to varying customer requirements. The technical, organizational and personnel challenges and their interdependencies that appear in the process are addressed at an early stage with the help of the systemic approach. This concept aims at supporting the socio-technical design of CPPS by focusing on the interaction and the combination of the three components human, technology and organisation.

Parallel to the development of the design and implementation concept, socio-technical production systems will be designed and implemented in the companies of the application partners within this project. Therefore, teams of application and development partners will be formed and supported by the research partners. The CPPS-solutions will be designed to achieve specified operational goals and implemented as demonstrators in the companies. The overall concept will be validated and enriched by the experience gained in design and implementation of the CPPS-demonstrators. With the expertise in the consortium, demand-oriented solutions in the form of demonstrators in the central fields of the industry 4.0 initiative Big Data, Smart Components and Human-Robot Collaboration will be developed and implemented allowing a capability-based allocation of work contents. 



Approach to develop the design and implementation concept for CPPS


Procedure and Division of Labour

The joint research project is designed for a term of three years and is structured in six work packages. The pursued research results will be developed in the form of six work packages. First, the state of the art in technology and science will be analysed. To this end, CPPS solutions will be catalogued and the effects on operational key figures and corporate goals will be investigated. Based on this, an SME-oriented selection system for CPPS solutions will be developed. Success factors and obstacles in CPPS implementation will then be analysed based on requirements of SMEs. The results will be converted into a taxonomy according to the socio-technical approach. Based on this preliminary work, a design and implementation system for CPPS solutions will be developed. Simultaneously, four application scenarios of CPPS will be implemented in the applications partner`s companies with support of the system developers. The experience gained will be specifically incorporated into the further development of the overall concept. In addition to project validation of the overall concept and the demonstrators with regard to their suitability for low-cost adaptation for other companies, project results will be transferred to the industry.

For successful implementation of the joint project, project tasks are distributed between project partners according to their respective core competencies. Due to the expertise of the development partners, the CPPS-demonstrators address the fields of Big Data, Smart Components and human-robot collaboration. They are selected according to the requirements and objectives of the application partners, implemented on site and ensured that they are adaptable to other companies. The research partners develop and validate the overall concept and support the industrial partners in the implementation and validation of the prototypes.


Overview of the consortium


Research, Development and Application Partners

  • TOPSTAR GmbH (consortium leader)
  • RIF e.V. – Institut für Forschung und Transfer, Abteilung Industrial Engineering (project coordinator)
  • Technische Universität Dortmund, Forschungsgebiet Industrie- und Arbeitsforschung
  • InSystems Automation GmbH
  • LP-Montagetechnik GmbH
  • RapidMiner GmbH
  • intrObest GmbH & Co. KG
  • MSP Material Synchronisation and Packaging GmbH
  • Steiner-Optik GmbH


Sub content


Secretariat IPS
Tel.: 0231 755-2652



promotional note

This research and development project is/ was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education

and Research (BMBF) within the Program “Innovations for Tomorrow’s Production, Services, and

Work” (funding number 02P14B101) and managed by the Project Management Agency Karlsruhe

(PTKA). The author is responsible for the contents of this publication.







Additional Links