How German industry stays competitive in the digital age

Construction, use and monetization of an industrial database

In published November 24, 2022 Competence of the acatech Research Advisory Board Industry 4.0 investigate this Bow, head. See at RWTH Aachen and the Industry 4.0 Maturity Center the status quo and the current challenges of German industry in the economic use and exploitation of industrial data. Action options for companies, associations, politics and science show how to increase the degree of use of the database and how to exploit the potential in monetization. The focus is on manufacturing companies.

Inside a PC: The data memoryPhoto © Gerhard Hofmann, agency future, for Solarify

In 2021, large digital companies will occupy the top six ranks of the world’s most valuable companies for the first time. Unlike traditional industrial companies, it is not physical assets that determine the value of the company or the stock market, but the intangible value of existing data, information and IT services. Access to and use of data are increasingly decisive for competition in all sectors of the economy. This means that the digital transformation of established business models and processes in the manufacturing industry is also needed.

“Industry 4.0 creates new opportunities to generate revenue not only by selling products, but also by monetizing data. It’s not just about actually selling data. Also promising are (digital) services that are based on the data generated during production and, above all, when the products are used. This is demonstrated by the expertise based on practical examples. (Harald Schöning – Software Inc -, Industry Spokesperson of the Research Advisory Board Industry 4.0)

Current situation in German industry

Industrial companies often still fail to monetize existing data, because this requires large investments. These are essential for building a database with targeted analysis of the data and the products, services and business models based on it. Physical products must be equipped with sensors and the infrastructure for data storage and processing must be in place. In addition, suitable specialists must be recruited and trained.

In order to determine the current maturity of industrial companies and their challenges in creating, using and monetizing an industrial database, companies from the mechanical and plant engineering industries as well as from the electrical, automotive and chemical industries were interviewed. “We could see that companies are relatively advanced in the construction and usage sectors. When it comes to data monetization, however, there is considerable potential for improvement,” explains Maximilian Schacht, head of the study at the FIR, the status quo. “Furthermore, there was no company that showed a high degree of maturity in all and three fields of action. The challenges exist mainly around data law, the shortage of skilled workers and quantifying the value of data”.

How businesses can optimize data usage and monetization

Manufacturing companies in Germany are better at building and using an industrial database than they are at monetizing. However, as there is a strong need for action across all sectors, options for action have been formulated for businesses and their environment – associations, politics and science.

Companies should exploit the optimization potential in every field of action, from closing gaps to implementing innovative ideas. Strategic prioritization of data topics, expanding employee qualifications or shifting mindset from product to benefit provider are decisive. The environment should optimally support and protect businesses on their journey to better use and monetization of data. This applies to everyone involved in the respective areas of responsibility. In this way, science can build a foundation by developing concepts and testing hypotheses. Politicians should define a clear legal framework for the exchange and use of data. Furthermore, associations can form ecosystems for data exchange or act as independent and trusted entities.

“To increase Germany’s competitiveness as an industrial location in the digital age, all those involved must unite and take measures as quickly as possible,” explains Christian Hocken, Managing Partner Industry 4.0 Maturity Center, the urgent need to act on the development and expansion of an industry database on data usage and monetization.


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