Marketplace for the entire value chainThe role model are B2C marketplaces like Amazon or Google. Instead of handling physical assets and their related value creation activities, these companies act as intermediaries between supply and demand, connecting marketplace participants with the help of digital technologies. In order to generate new services, the platforms assemble a multitude of data. The capacity to process and analyse data constitutes the foundation on which to serve customer needs better and in a more targeted fashion.
This trend is penetrating into the B2B sector, with the term marketplace also becoming established there. In future, market participants with the same, similar or complementary value streams will communicate through marketplaces, offer their products and technologies there, and include their suppliers as well as their customers in this network. The plastics processor using multiple systems from different providers will find all relevant information in a central location and can use the applications offered - so-called apps - with particular efficiency. "Horizontal networking provides the basis for new business models that supplement our current ones and offer added value to our customers", says Engleder.
Adamos, for example, offers an industry-specific marketplace of this kind. It is a manufacturer-agnostic, open platform that has been developed specifically for the requirements of machine engineering and its customers, and in which Engel also participates.
Pilot factory launchingThe Austrian plastics industry is traditionally strong in innovation and is also among the pioneers in terms of digital transformation. It is no coincidence that a pilot factory for interdisciplinary, platform-based cooperation is being created at the Johannes Kepler University in Linz. Next year, the LIT Factory, in which, in addition to Engel, the companies Borealis, Covestro, Erema, FACC, Greiner, Leistriz, Motan, Siemens and others are participating, will commence operations.
"The LIT Factory allows us to test the new possibilities under practical conditions, gather experience together with our partners, continue researching the challenges of horizontal networking, and develop new solutions", states Engleder. One already known challenge is uninterrupted connectivity, for not all participants in the value chain are compatible with each other. "A common marketplace will accelerate the development of standards", says Engleder. "In the long term, we expect that various marketplaces will become networked with each other and allow for the exchange of data between participants."
From the production of raw materials to the recycling of plastics products that are no longer needed, the platform of the LIT Factory includes the entire value chain. In this way, horizontal networking is helping to move other urgent future topics forward. One example is the closing of value streams. The Circular Economy requires an even closer cooperation of businesses along the value chain, which can be designed especially easily and efficiently on a marketplace.