IOT e I4.0: sfide e opportunità per le imprese manifatturiere

Il tema è molto attuale anche per le nostre imprese: qui le conclusioni del nostro ultimo lavoro di ricerca in corso di pubblicazione su una rivista internazionale. Si parla di imprese impegnate in processi di digital servitization che innovano i business model. Quello che emerge a chiare lettere è che:

  • La digital servitization non azzera le competenze delle imprese manifatturiere, anzi valorizza la profonda conoscenza dei prodotti e dei clienti.
  • Queste competenze devono tuttavia essere aumentate e affiancate da quelle tipiche delle tecnologie digitali e necessarie per progettare e fornire servizi avanzati.
  • In particolare i servizi di tipo “outcome” necessitano di investimenti in data analysis e big data, che richiedono attività e figure professionali specifiche, oltre alla capacità di ampliare e cambiare i revenue model.
  • Le aziende più avanti nel percorso di esplorazione dello scenario IOT hanno dei tratti comuni: sono “preparate” (da anni stanno studiando); sfruttano pragmaticamente le risorse e competenze eccellenti che hanno e le ampliano (reputazione, base installata, capabilities di produzione e engineering); si appoggiano a clienti con esigenze sofisticate, in modo da costruire insieme il percorso; sono capaci di mettere in discussione se stesse e il proprio passato e reinventare il proprio ruolo nelle filiere.
  • Anche le aziende “preparate” devono però affrontare sfide rilevanti, come: combinare efficacemente conoscenze vecchie e nuove, interne ed esterne, in modo multi-skill e inter-funzionale; trasformare le conoscenze sviluppate mediante richieste specifiche di un cliente in soluzioni scalabili; cambiare il loro modo di vendere, adeguando la sales force al passaggio da prodotti a servizi avanzati; gestire i conflitti che possono potenzialmente sorgere tra i business model innovativi e basati sui servizi e quelli tradizionali basati sui prodotti.

Per ora i challenger sono pochi e il percorso di molte delle aziende è solo all’inizio, ma gli spazi di innovazione legati ai servizi avanzati e ai dati si distribuiscono lungo tutte le filiere e possono essere sfruttati efficacemente sia dai piccoli che dai grandi della nostra manifattura.

 

Our work contributes to the research stream of digital servitization. Digital servitization depicts significant service-based spaces of growth for manufacturing firms, but also highlights possible threatening scenarios. This study confirms that digital servitization doesn’t nullify the manufacturers’ resource and capability base: on the contrary, manufacturing firms possess valuable assets in order to face the challenges posed by digital servitization. As underlined by (Wallin et al., 2015) their deep product knowledge can be a unique starting point for generating value through the design and deployment of services. Nonetheless, extant manufacturing resources and capabilities – although critical – have to be complemented with new ones in order to successfully leverage on the possibilities offered by IOT technologies and be able to develop advanced service-oriented business models.

Although discouraging substantial generalization, we think that our findings have a valuable impact both on theory and practice, and contribute to shed some light on a complex and increasingly important research stream.

As far as theoretical implications are involved, we have presented a focused literature review that acknowledges the centrality of services in the new scenario of IOT technologies, and connects the research streams of servitization, digital servitization and business model innovation. Furthermore, we identified three levels of digital servitization business models, namely product- process- and outcome-oriented, that have specific challenges and opportunities and that are based on a progressively intensive use of IOT technologies. While product-oriented business models are rooted in traditional manufacturing strategic culture, process orientation needs a fundamental approach change from reactivity to proactivity in post-sale services, and also an enlargement of the firm’s capabilities in order to encompass other machines in the process. In addition, outcome orientation asks for an investment in data analysis and big data, along with new data-related specific activities that frequently involve also external sources of knowledge. This orientation is also connected to a radical change in the revenue model, that asks firms to face unprecedented risk management challenges.

Regarding the main impacts that IOT technologies may have on BtoB manufacturing firms’ business models, we have proposed a digital servitization map that summarizes the articulated empirical evidence of the research. The map makes a theoretical and practical contribution to the research field, widening the spectrum of analysis of opportunities and challenges brought about by IOT technologies and focusing attention on the impact of the sales model as an enabling factor for BtoB manufacturing firms to leverage on IOT technologies and develop advanced digital servitization strategies.

Overall, digital servitization requires complex and challenging strategies to manufacturing firms. In line with other studies (Müller et al., 2018), we observe that only few “prepared” companies are at the moment able to meet the challenge of digital servitization and conduct significant experimentations on it. Some common traits seem to recur in the most advanced digital servitization ongoing in our sample. Firms are actually “prepared”, in the sense that they have been studying and exploring technologies for several years (some firms have started experimenting in 2010). They have pragmatically exploited useful resources and capabilities they already had access to, such as: their multi-year manufacturing capabilities; their reputation of reliable and high-quality OEMs and suppliers in their industry. They also leverage on extant relationships with sophisticated and demanding end-user firms, with which they have a direct, long-lasting and deep relationship. These are real learning relationships in which they invest with dedicated resources, like knowledgeable Key Accounts and Business Developers. They are capable of questioning their past choices and reinventing their role in the value chain in order to find new ways to create value for current or new customers. Moreover, they are capable to deploy strategic and organizational change in order to exploit them.

However, in line with other research (Rönnberg Sjödin et al., 2016; Matthyssens & Vandenbempt, 2010; Burton et al., 2017), our empirical work underlines that digital servitization impacts all the business model elements, posing significant challenges also to “prepared” companies. In order to successfully approach process- and outcome-oriented business models, they have to: effectively integrate and combine internal and external, old and new knowledge in a multi-skilled and cross functional way; integrate the knowledge related to specific customers’ needs in order to efficiently deploy and sell scalable solutions; change their traditional way of selling, since it is no more adequate for advanced product-service solutions. Finally, they have to be able to manage the potential conflicts that may arise between the new service-oriented business models and the traditional ones, in particular when new revenue streams related to services cannibalize sales opportunities or new revenue models create financial risk (Oprensik & Taisch, 2015).

We acknowledge that …

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