In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, Industry 4.0 has become the keyword for a new era in manufacturing and production. This fourth industrial revolution represents a shift towards digital manufacturing utilizing many emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and additive manufacturing. Factories can react in real-time to changes in production and adapt quickly to new products or different specifications.
With these changes, factories will become more flexible in their production capabilities. In addition to improvements in efficiency, this also allows more product customization at a mass production scale. This promise of mass customization relies heavily on the seamless collaboration of many different actors, an ecosystem too complex in size and relations to be described by the traditional supply chain view. Consequently, the ecosystem view has been increasingly adopted to help us explain the new setting in the industry. Such innovation ecosystems consist of loosely coupled and interdependent actors who jointly contribute to a common value proposition.
Nevertheless, navigating an ecosystem is a collaborative task. Firms must be well aware that it is their duty to coordinate and help steer the ecosystem to ensure stability and the exchange of knowledge. It is not seldom that crucial success factors of a company transcend its borders. Hence, we must rethink the role of suppliers in this new setting, as they critically impact the overall value created in the ecosystem.
The new challenges are apparent: Suppliers and customers in the ecosystem must be able to coordinate quickly and efficiently to meet production speed and quality requirements. In addition, they must be able to identify and communicate challenges both up and downstream. It becomes a shared responsibility of all actors to ensure a healthy ecosystem to adapt to new challenges and stay relevant in the ever-changing environment.
This article is based on the executive report on enabling technologies published at the website of EINST4INE The European Training Network for InduStry Digital Transformation across Innovation Ecosystems.