This study delivers the first empirical findings on the relevance of digitisation to improving material efficiency based on the German company survey ‘IW-Zukunftspanel’.
German manufacturing firms have up to now only rarely digitised material efficiency measures to a great extent. If they are - particularly in large companies - they tend to be used for process optimisation. Around two fifths of the companies are at least moderately digitised in relation to the most important industrial efficiency measures, namely process optimisation and the use of new techniques, but there is still more than a third that is not at all. Companies have most frequently digitised cross-company materials cycles, but this instrument is only applied by two fifths of industrial companies. There is still potential for more digitisation of measures relating to product design, materials cycle management and new business models.
At least every other manufacturing company reuses residue and waste materials via internal circulation systems. Nevertheless, for two fifths of these companies digital networks do not play any part and in the case of a further two fifths, the part they play is minor. Only one in ten companies is heavily digitised. More than half of industrial companies use resource-saving measures that begin at the product design stage. To date, almost half of these companies are not digitally networked, or if they are, it is only to a small extent. One third of the industrial companies up to now have considered new business models as an efficiency-raising way. Of these, three out of ten have not been digitised yet with a further two fifths having only a minor level of digitisation.
Companies that have already embedded digitisation in their strategy are frontrunners for greater material efficiency, since they more frequently use material efficiency measures intensively, are more likely to recognise further potential savings and their efficiency-saving approaches are also clearly more often highly digitised.
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