The impact of the demographic transition on manufacturing: Effects of an ageing workforce in German industrial firms

Jörn‐Henrik Thun (Industrieseminar, Mannheim University, Mannheim, Germany)
Andreas Größler (Industrieseminar, Mannheim University, Mannheim, Germany)
Switbert Miczka (Industrieseminar, Mannheim University, Mannheim, Germany)

Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management

ISSN: 1741-038X

Publication date: 30 October 2007



The purpose of the paper is twofold: to discuss characteristics and potential effects of an ageing workforce and to present the perception manufacturing managers have of the influence of demographic change on the manufacturing function.


The phenomenon of demographic change and the characteristics of ageing workers are presented based on a literature study. In addition, the results of a survey within German industrial firms are put forward, in which operations managers were asked about their perception of older workers in manufacturing.


Effects of the demographic transition will influence manufacturing companies in every economy. An ageing workforce is well suited to support quality‐focussed manufacturing strategies. Yet, the adoption of new manufacturing technologies might be hampered by the older employees' unwillingness to learn that is assumed commonly.

Research limitations/implications

The empirical research provides a first look at the substantial impact that demographic change will have on manufacturing companies. The discussion is based on trends in Germany and on the reported perceptions of German manufacturing managers; however, it is argued that implications can be transferred to other economies.

Practical implications

Practitioners will see the necessity to consider the impact of demographical change in future decisions. It is discussed which commonly held beliefs about older workers are justified based on scientific research.


Focusing on the demographic transition, this paper adds an important aspect to the academic discussion of the future of manufacturing, highlighting the significant consequences that demographic change will have on manufacturing and suggesting concepts for addressing the challenge in practice. Furthermore, it provides first empirical results of the perception of manufacturing directors about this topic.



Thun, J., Größler, A. and Miczka, S. (2007), "The impact of the demographic transition on manufacturing: Effects of an ageing workforce in German industrial firms", Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 18 No. 8, pp. 985-999.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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