Industrie 4.0 – when you hear this word, it usually refers exclusively to production. However, smart technology is also needed to deliver parts to the original equipment manufacturer or the product to the customer. "Agile value-added networks between OEMs, suppliers, logistics providers, and retail in B2B sectors are important types of cooperation for the future of the manufacturing industry," says Mario Zillmann, a partner at the business consultancy Lünendonk and author of the whitepaper Intelligent Logistic Services for the Manufacturing Industry. "The key to optimizing operational processes in an Industrie 4.0 strategy is a fully digitalized supply chain that allows the entire flow of goods and processes to be controlled online, making it transparent to participants." Characteristic of this are automated transactions and embedded intelligence, optimized and connected data flows, and strategies based on real-time data and simulations.
According to Lünendonk, many companies are pursuing smart supply chains which are not yet "smart" enough. These supply chains frequently have little in common with transparency. Nevertheless, progress is being made by introducing new digital technologies. Many companies are planning to make investments to digitally transform their supply chains, especially in four key technologies: supply chain visibility platforms/solutions, Big Data/analytics, cloud computing, and simulation tools.
Digitalization is also viewed as desirable on the part of buyers. "Without Purchasing 4.0, Industrie 4.0 is not possible since it encompasses all company divisions," says Dr. Silvius Grobosch, Deputy Chair of the German Association for Materials Management, Purchasing and Logistics (BME). "Digitalization presents an historic opportunity to purchasing that must be leveraged in order to live up to the strategic significance of purchasing in the future. The goal is to jointly promote networking between businesses and innovations as defined by a value-generating network," says Grobosch.