No-one yet knows just how digital technologies, and the connectivity options they offer, will revolutionize industries, enterprises and processes. Yet we can already guess that some big changes are heading our way when we project into the future such trends as the rise of the robots and 3D printers or the Google car. We’re witnessing a redefinition of what is known as “industrial value creation”: The entire process, from the design of a product through its manufacture to its sale, is undergoing a radical reorganization—with the promise of huge potential benefits.
Can just anyone now make cars? Digitalization is breaking down boundaries that were long considered impenetrable. As if from nowhere, digital competitors from other sectors are appearing on the scene and calling traditional business models into question. It’s no longer sufficient for a manufacturer to confine its gaze to its own industry. This is a lesson that has already been learned by many enterprises. But are they well enough prepared?
Doing nothing isn’t an option. Dramatic technological advances can give rise to new opportunities—provided the transformation within enterprises is correctly implemented and supported by everyone concerned. Only those enterprises that can convince their workforce will avoid resistance and be able to manage a smooth transition. Those who don’t identify the tremendous opportunities on offer and fail to respond promptly or go about things in the wrong way stand to lose their market position.
All together now: The age of the lone warrior in the marketplace is over. Enterprises can no longer secure and maintain a lead over their competitors, or even a knowledge edge, simply through a policy of strict secrecy. On the contrary, in the future this will call for greater openness. There will be new levels of cooperation with suppliers and customers—and also with competitors.
The age of the humanless factory is edging closer as ever more intelligent generations of machines give rise to even more capital-intensive production lines that will soon be able to run virtually without human workers. This trend is set to accelerate dramatically. At the same time, 3D printers are opening the way to a previously unimaginable degree of product individualization.
Business leaders can be sure of just one thing: Uncertainty is their new, ever-present companion. The planning horizon is shrinking rapidly, while strategy development needs to be recalibrated and adapted to the changed conditions. The tasks are becoming more complex and challenging. Very few feel really well prepared for what lies ahead.