Digital networking of companies to increase transparency and resilience

Supply chain management encompasses the holistic design, coordination and control of cross-company material, information and financial flows to increase performance in value networks. The focus here is on the digital networking of companies to increase transparency and resilience, as well as the analysis of the influence of innovative technologies on the supply chain.

The use of new technologies empowers companies to cooperate multilaterally

Solution providers often struggle with the diversity of demands placed on the offering by different industrial users. When technology solutions for entire corporate networks are sought, individuality increases through further degrees of freedom. Influencing factors are, in particular, sector-specific factors, use cases envisaged by the client (traceability, stock transparency, order automation), and the structure of the network.

The Supply Chain Management unit advises on and investigates existing and developing technologies and technology combinations with regard to their suitability for the horizontal interconnection of IT systems. Data sources – such as IoT devices, sensors, ERP systems – and data storage systems (Blockchain and cloud solutions, industrial data space, singular ERP systems) are considered in order to achieve cross-company data availability.

Redefinition of departmental and employee roles ensures communication between companies

Humans as decision-makers and bearers of knowledge will remain the most important factor influencing the development of a corporate organization. Horizontal networking between companies, however, requires adjustments to the company’s organizational structure. The new or at least increasingly important task of inter-organizational cooperation will have a significant influence on already existing job functions – in future, for example, a quality manager will obviously take the quality inspection results of upstream value creation stages into account in his own quality inspections. On the other hand, such new patterns of collaboration will also create new roles and functions in the company. Possible here are roles for the organization of collaboration or roles that economically exploit the added value of networking in the interests of the company.

The Supply Chain Management unit at FIR explores and advises on which strategic, tactical and operative supply chain management tasks are affected by the increasing interconnection within and between companies and how roles and functions are changing in this process.

Horizontal Integration at all Company Levels Requires an Open Corporate Culture

One of the largest enablers for value creation through the Industry 4.0 paradigm is a suitable corporate culture that succeeds in integrating the increasing number of partners outside the company in a confident and productive manner. In the context of supply chain management, the focus is on an organization's trust in value-added partners. The trust of the organization in the information gained from data networking and analysis is crucial. For both perspectives it must be noted that organizational trust depends on the trust of each individual (employee), and at the same time is influenced by group dynamics and leadership styles.

The Supply Chain Management unit is working on how to provide employees with confidence in the support systems available to them. In particular, it is crucial to know and fulfill the demands and requirements of users in order to increase acceptance. In order to create trust, information resulting from the digital collaboration between companies must be secured in such a way that it can be used safely for everyday work activities. Information obtained from data networking and analysis should be accepted and used to guide the course of action.

Numerous partners in the implementation project leads to high project complexity

Companies often signal a general willingness to increase digital interconnection with their value creation partners. A central problem here is the organization of such a project, including the question of who takes the lead. Within a single organization, such a project can be easily initiated at the management level, involved actors within the company defined and made to commit to the success of the project. For inter-organizational projects, however, clear hierarchical and management structures are lacking. Even in value chains with an asymmetric distribution of power, where a strong partner has a certain directive power over immediate value-added partners, this power is usually limited to these direct or second-tier value-added partners.

The Supply Chain Management unit develops methods to identify potential value-added use cases for digital integration in multilateral networks.