Hilmar-Dunker.automotiveIT

Hilmar Dunker is editor-in-chief of automotiveIT magazine

Automakers and their suppliers are putting a lot of knowhow into the development of state-of-the-art products, but technological change at the companies themselves is slow to arrive.

There is somewhat of a digital divide in many companies.

Whereas products are most often of the very highest quality, the back offices of many automakers and suppliers appear stuck in the 1990's. Or to put it more strongly: From a technology point of view, many a workplace is still in the digital Stone Age.

New technologies and devices are only gradually being introduced into work processes. Many employees are using outdated e-mail and other programs. Hardware and software on people's desks has trouble coping with today's digital requirements. The end-user devices people live with in their private lives are often banned from the office.

The reasons are obvious: Security risks, cost pressures, manageability.

But a major change is sweeping the workplace and every company is affected. That change is coming from the end users themselves. IT bosses no longer are the sole players when it comes to deciding whether a technology enters the workplace.

The days are over when an electric typewriter or fax machine or mobile phone would first be used at work and then be gradually introduced at home.

The situation today is the opposite: Young staffers want adequate tools in the workplace. They want the hardware and software they use at home to be available in the office or on the shop floor as well. And if they don't get their wishes granted, they become disenchanted and often leave the company.

Corporate reputations can take a beating if Generation X or Y feels workplace technologies are lagging.

Just visit a university and listen to today's students. They are the ones who will go to work in the auto industry and elsewhere tomorrow. And none of them is the least bit interested in the Stone Age.

-By Hilmar Dunker