Sharing: A primal principle as a success factor

Sharing: A primal principle as a success factor

October 2021

Sharing! A megatrend that is generating a lot of noise. However, it is by no means a new idea. Why is it experiencing such a boom right now? And what does sharing offer industry? One thing up front: many opportunities.

We are living in the age of sharing. Individuals are doing it and so are businesses: They are making their resources available to others. If this happens in exchange for payment, it is known as the sharing economy. People rent out tools, furniture, apartments, or cars via online platforms. Companies share storage space, transport capacities, or machines.

However, it would be wrong to reduce the sharing megatrend to a purely economic perspective. There are countless examples of sharing without any money changing hands. Social media posts, Wikipedia entries, or open source software are just three examples.

Illustration: Justin Wood
Illustration: Justin Wood

Sharing and industry

There are many different reasons to share. When companies share, however, the motivation is usually straightforward: Its about efficiency and growth. Many factories have downtimes when the production equipment could be shared with other manufacturers. The goal is to optimize machine utilization and thus increase profitability.

Of course, this also benefits the users of the overcapacities: Small and medium-sized companies in particular gain access to new or additional resources: Pay-per-use allows them to circumvent high investment costs,says Wildemann, who also runs a management consultancy. They can use the surplus resources to improve their products or open up new markets.

Sharing data while maintaining sovereignty

Many companies are concerned about their data sovereignty. However, there are innovative solutions for this issue; for example, the International Data Spaces Association (IDSA) reference architecture. Developed under the leadership of the German Fraunhofer Institute for Software and Systems Engineering, the model addresses the security needs of companies: Their data sovereignty is safeguarded thanks to clear terms of use. In addition, the information is not stored centrally or by third parties: The data is transmitted directly from provider to customer with end-to-end encryption and in real time.

If we can find solutions that allow us to exchange data securely and fairly, nothing will stand in the way of sharing.


Horst Wildemann, Professor of Management at the Technical University of Munich

Illustration: Justin Wood
Illustration: Justin Wood

Sharing in the Smart Factory

The more interconnected, intelligent, and flexible factories become, the easier it is to share production systems with other manufacturers. The smart factory the vision of Industry 4.0 thus offers ideal conditions for sharing.

Open IoT standards and IT systems will, for example, allow partner companies to directly access shared equipment.


Dominic Gorecky, Head of the Swiss Smart Factory

Already today, the Center of Excellence for Industry 4.0 at the Switzerland Innovation Park Biel/Bienne is testing how sharing can be facilitated in a number of projects. Gorecky: We are making our production resources available to external parties, and are investigating what networking, automation, and IT security must look like in concrete terms to make this possible.

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