Tim Ehrich | Kai H. Kuljurgis

Relevance of the Internet of Things for small and medium sized-businesses in Germany.

Our angle on “digitalisation” and how to apply it to small and medium-sized enterprises.

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The terms “Digitalisation”, “the Internet of Things”, and “Industry 4.0” are used so often nowadays that they can seem like meaningless buzzwords. While some see the unlimited potential and the Next Big Thing, others shake their heads, seeing little more than a massive hype – and thorny issues such as missing standards and data/security concerns. There is no shortage of research papers looking at the topic from various angles and offering a lot of useful, but rather theoretical, recommendations for action. What is missing in all these vibrant discussions, however, is a focus on German small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs, often called Mittelstand) and their role in these developments.

Why is the backbone of the German economy, struggling to come up with convincing answers to the question posed by IoT? Why is it pursuing the incremental, efficiency-focused product or manufacturing improvements rather than true innovation?

This opinion paper is based on findings from a hands-on field study within the SMEs conducted by e&Co. and the EBS University, aiming to bring some light into the various aspects of Internet of Things (and, by extension, Industry 4.0), analysing where the German SMEs face challenges in implementing real IoT business models, and illustrating an action plan to overcome them. This is not another academic study on digitalisation, but rather a field report and think-piece to inspire discussion.
Tim Ehrich has more than 10 years of consulting and ICT experience (IT management, program management, architecture and software development); focus on implementing international IT strategies and digitisation initiatives; Automotive expertise with a focus on innovative mobility business models.

Kai H. Kuljurgis is an entrepreneur and consultant, founder of various start-ups; digital-mind with broad network into start-up eco-system; six years’ experience in consulting and the manufacturing industry; experienced in transformation management and organisational development within big change projects; mentorship role for several start-ups.