It is imperative that we set a strategic course for the digital age. German medium-sized companies in particular have a good standing worldwide thanks to innovative and technically sophisticated products. However, these companies must ensure that they do not miss the boat and do not allow themselves to become dependent on new, more innovative providers. At this point, therefore, examples of digitisation in SMEs will be presented.
Four out of five small and medium-sized enterprises worldwide expect immediate economic benefits from digitisation. In addition to increasing revenues and reducing costs, these include easier access to information, better customer service and increased employee productivity. Despite these high expectations, very few companies are exploiting the full potential of digitization.
It is therefore all the more important to be aware of how digital transformation has already changed companies of all sizes. Well-known companies such as the Haufe Group, which has evolved from a traditional specialist publishing house to a provider of digital workplace and business solutions, or the Schuler Group, which is opening up new business areas through digital services, are just a few examples. Most small and medium-sized companies have a practical approach when it comes to digitization and take a solution-oriented approach to integration. The following examples from digitization in medium-sized companies, some of them with surprising business areas, are intended to illustrate this.
1. from IT expert to fish farmer
Through a board position in an anglers’ club and workshops on aquaculture, the company Fischmaster was born, although the founder is actually an IT expert. Due to initial setbacks in the breeding of the particularly high-maintenance and stress-sensitive zander, an effective aquaculture for the expensive fish was created with digital help. Sensors monitor the nitrite, ammonium and oxygen content of the water and even control the feeding system, light and seasonal simulation. The system can thus react to deviations and communicate these to the outside world. The sophisticated and fully digital system not only enables highly effective fish farming, but also serves as a blueprint for other companies to which the software is to be sold.
2. digitisation in the crafts sector
As an example of digitisation in small and medium-sized enterprises, the craft trades also benefit from new business models. Online shops and configurators linked to traditional craft businesses are now common. However, if the focus is placed purely on production, carpenters – like many other trades – need effective drawings and production facilities. The founders of “dieMeisterTischler” introduced 3D CAD/CAM software for this purpose and invested in CNC machines in order to accept more complex orders such as yacht conversions in addition to traditional furniture making. However, as the existing software did not prove to be very practical, the carpenters sat down with experienced programmers and adapted the software to their personal requirements. The next step was to use virtual reality so that customers, planners and craftsmen could view planned projects together – virtually and before the actual construction phase begins. The focus is also on further optimization of construction processes, since the various software products for building data modeling are not compatible with each other. In the future, interfaces are to help with this, the definition of which is being sought.
3. digital tour plans save costs
For waste collection, detailed route plans are necessary so that all bins can be collected on one route and optimally approached. Even though digital solutions are already available for planning, in the past, garbage collectors still needed long training periods to know the routes by heart. If a driver then dropped out or left the company, it was difficult to find replacement drivers. For this reason, an industry-specific digital platform was introduced at the Passau garbage collection company, with which tours can be planned faster and at the same time provides navigation for drivers. These digital tour plans now show in detail where the next waypoints are and provide savings of up to 6-digit figures per year.
But how can digitalisation be implemented in concrete terms? And what do companies have to consider? Part 4 of this series provides a checklist and some ideas.