Digitization is the central social, business and technological development of our time. The 5G mobile radio network, the 3D print and smart services are much more than purely technical innovations: They change the way people work and arrange their lives.
Products and services are increasingly individualized and are aligned to the personal needs of the customer. Thereby the boundaries between physical products and digital services that enrich the products are blurred. Also customers nowadays want a range of services that supports them consistently instead of arranging their demand out of the portfolio of various suppliers by themselves. Trends as »Shareconomy« visualize a new set of values in which people rather share resources than own them for exlusive use.
These digital developments have the potential to change ancestral sectors fundamentally in their mechanics and not just provide for an incremental advancement. For example, it is to question to what extent car manufacturers can keep their dominant role in the value chain as Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) or if they rather run the risk of turning into hardware suppliers for providers of mobility services.
Consequences for companies
For a digital advancement of the product and service portfolio to be successful, companies must internally create the conditions in three fields of action.
- The interaction with the customer, often even with the consumer, is gaining in importance. Companies that don’t interact with the end customer are threatened to fall behind. Their services become interchangeable. Therefore consumer goods manufacturers as Nestlé, Beiersdorf and L’Oreal experiment with own web shops, own stores and digitally enriched products.
- It requires the command of complex manufacturing and service networks to produce individualized products worldwide at equal unit costs as standardized mass products. This is where Industry 4.0 comes in: an organizational principle for the industrial company of the future, which is currently intensely discussed in science as well as in research and in practice. The core of Industry 4.0 is the autonomization of production and logistics processes, that is the ability of machines, vehicles and products to make decisions indepentently.
- The third field of action is the compliance of official and legal requirements as well as transparency about flow of information and goods, proofs of origin, ingredients of products etc. In the past, these requirements were considered as »necessary evil«, but nowadays they result in new business opportunities. For example, ALDI Nord is differentiating itself from competition since autumn 2014 by servicing the consumer requirements of proofs of origin via the ALDI Transparenz Code.