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Cross-company data ecosystems – what is the potential behind them?

Written by Dr. Patrick May

The most important facts in 20 seconds
  • Manufacturing X is an initiative that drives the development of a cross-company data ecosystem . 

  • The goal is to collect, securely share and use data throughout the manufacturing and supply chain. 

  • This creates transparency in the supply chain and makes European industrial companies more resilient to international competition.  

  • Manufacturing-X enables completely new, data-based business models in industry. 


The entire industry is talking about  Gaia-X, Catena-X and Manufacturing-X. And not just since the success of the first cross-company data ecosystems was discussed at the Hannover Messe 2023. No wonder, because such data ecosystems offer a lot of opportunities – especially for Industry 4.0. But let's start from the beginning. 


What is a cross-company data ecosystem?

A cross-company data ecosystem is like a large data community where companies share their data and information with other companies. This includes not only internal company data, but also data from business partners, suppliers and other players in the industry. Such a community of data provides access to an extensive  and secure pool of shared knowledge and know-how. For example, this could be market trends and customer preferences, or operational insights and data to optimize the supply chain. It's about creating a digital chain supported by data from across the industry. The goal? Data-based and thus better decisions. For example, companies can react to disruptions in supply chains at an early stage, adjust production more quickly and avoid delivery delays. Overall, cross-enterprise data ecosystems are a powerful resource that helps companies become more efficient, innovative, and resilient to change.  




The benefits of Manufacturing-X

  • Knowledge sharing: Sharing data is becoming much easier – across industries, but also across companies. This fosters collaboration and information sharing, leading to better decision-making and more efficient processes. 

  • Greater efficiency and quality: Value networks can be better coordinated. This means that suppliers, manufacturers and service providers can work together more smoothly, which in turn increases efficiency and quality. 

  • Resilience: With Manufacturing-X, companies are able to react early to disruptions in supply chains or production processes. This allows them to be more flexible in production, avoid delivery delays, and ultimately be more resilient to international competition. 

  • New business models: The initiative opens up the possibility for completely new, data-based business models in the industry. Companies can develop innovative approaches to offer products and services based on the data collected. This allows them to stand out from the competition and  create new revenue streams.  

Examples of cross-company data ecosystems 

Almost every company knows how hard it is to use their data effectively. This is where the concept of cross-company data ecosystems comes into play – a groundbreaking approach to collecting, sharing and using data more efficiently. There are various initiatives in various industries that are actively putting this concept into practice. Over the past few months,  you've surely heard about Gaia-X, Catena-X,  and Manufacturing-X, haven't you? 

What is the difference between Gaia-X, Catena-X and Manufacturing-X? 

All three initiatives, Gaia-X, Catena-X and Manufacturing-X, are cross-company data ecosystems. They differ in their focuses, industries and  goals: 

  • Gaia-X: The focus of Gaia-X is to create a secure and sovereign data platform that enables companies to store and share data securely and transparently. Gaia-X has a broader scope of application,  covering different sectors of the economy  . 

  • Catena-X: Catena-X builds on the concept of Gaia-X, but focuses specifically on the needs of the automotive industry. The aim of Catena-X is to optimize supply chains in the automotive industry and improve communication between different actors such as manufacturers, suppliers and service providers. 

  • Manufacturing-X: Manufacturing-X is also based on the concept of Gaia-X, but the focus of Manufacturing-X is on the manufacturing industry. The goal is to collect, share and use data along the entire production process to increase efficiency, promote sustainability and increase competitiveness.  

Manufacturing-X: Why is the topic currently hotly debated? 

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is currently funding the development of a cross-sectoral digital ecosystem for data exchange for industry with up to 150 million euros. To drive data-driven collaboration and thus contribute to a more competitive and sustainable industry. 


What can Manufacturing-X look like in practice?

4 Exemplary Use Cases for Cross-Company Data Ecosystems

1. Identification of supply bottlenecks thanks to end-to-end transparency

A cross-company data ecosystem provides transparency across the entire value chain. This makes it possible to identify fundamental weaknesses and risks in their supply chains at an early stage and to react accordingly. 

2. CO2 footprint at the touch of a button

Once all data has been recorded digitally, the CO2 balance of each component can be calculated during its life cycle. Opportunities for optimisation become visible and there is an opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions. 

3. Creation of a digital product passport

Relevant information about the products, the material and the installed components is stored in a digital product passport. It serves as a kind of user manual, facilitating repairs and enabling more effective recycling. 

4. Load-shifting for energy-intensive industries: 

In the data ecosystem, companies share their energy needs in real time with other companies and grid operators. In this way, production can automatically react to energy availability and prices by switching on or shutting down capacities. The benefits? Lower energy costs and greater grid stability. 


Manufacturing-X = the breeding ground for new business models

Of course, decision-makers are now asking themselves: What added value can I get from sharing data with other companies? What new opportunities do you have by participating in an initiative such as Manufacturing-X, Gaia-X or Catena-X? And how can I use the initiative to move my business forward? The fact is that such initiatives are changing how companies operate, compete and create value. It is based on the principle of open cooperation. In doing so, companies form strategic alliances that use common data ecosystems. The newly gained information helps them to think outside the box and develop new ideas that go beyond their usual businesses. The best prerequisites for a new, forward-looking business model – let's call it Business Model-X! 


The Business Model-X – Utopia or Future?

The idea is simple: when industrial companies share and use data in cross-company ecosystems, new opportunities for business models open up. The core idea here is that no single company has all the necessary resources, skills or knowledge to succeed in today's VUCA world in the long term.

By leveraging a cross-enterprise data ecosystem, organizations gain access to diverse data sets, expertise, and perspectives. This enables them to develop new business ideas that go beyond their current core business and potentially open up completely new value paths.  

The fact is that cross-company ecosystems create value for customers by helping to improve products and services, expand choice, and provide customized solutions. This can increase customer satisfaction and lead them to rate products and services more positively and use them more often. The graph shows how cross-company ecosystems can significantly increase the perceived value of a product in the eyes of customers: 




The graph shows the development of the perceived added value with the enrichment of the products with services. 

In summary, more and more companies are recognizing the benefits of data exchange in such ecosystems and driving their developments. But as is so often the case, frontrunners and start-ups are already in the process of using the new technical possibilities to secure market share. It's time to high time to jump on the topic and take your company's business model-X to the next level with our experts.  


Are you now thinking about 1000 questions?

You're probably wondering: How can I make sure I'm in control of my data? How much effort does it take to implement and operate it? Which companies are already part of cross-company data ecosystems? And when is the right time to enter such data ecosystems? We will try to answer your questions. Let's discuss how to use cross-company data ecosystems for your business models. I look forward to our exchange!


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Author: Dr. Patrick May

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