Within the project “Digitala Stambanan,” we often discuss digital platforms and their importance for the future competitiveness of the Swedish industry. But what exactly is a digital platform? Here, we will attempt to explain what it is and why we see it as an enabler for the competitiveness of the Swedish industry. In our previous column, we discussed digital value chains and their significance for the Swedish industry. Read more about it here.

Martin Friis
Martin Friis

Work package manager

Digitala Stambanan Production

Magnus Mörstam
Magnus Mörstam

Work package manager

Digitala Stambanan Production

A digital platform is a technological solution that enables the integration of data from various sources, allowing multiple parties to communicate, interact, and exchange data and information to create value.

Looking more generally at digital platforms, they typically have the following characteristic features:

  • Multisided: Digital platforms often bring together multiple parties with different needs and interests, such as buyers and sellers, service providers and consumers, or content creators and visitors.
  • Network effects: As more users join a digital platform, the platform’s value increases for all users. This, in turn, attracts more users to join and be part of the ecosystem. This phenomenon is known as network effects, which can create a growth and usage spiral.
  • Data-driven: Digital platforms generate and rely on large amounts of data to drive and improve their services. They can use data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to gain insights into user behavior and preferences.
  • Open and accessible: Many digital platforms are open to anyone with an internet connection and a device, making them accessible to a large and diverse audience.
  • Scalable: Digital platforms can scale quickly and efficiently, often without the need for significant physical infrastructure or resources.

Digital platforms are essential for the industry because they offer a range of benefits that can help companies and value chains improve their productivity, reduce costs, and drive innovation. Here are some examples:

  • Enhanced data integration: Industrial digital platforms enable data integration from various sources, such as sensors, machines, and systems, to create a unified view of the industrial process. This can provide valuable insights into performance, quality, efficiency, and product traceability enabling companies to optimize their operations accordingly.
  • Improved collaboration: Industrial digital platforms can help connect various stakeholders across the industrial value chain, such as suppliers, customers, and partners, facilitating collaboration and knowledge sharing. This can enable companies to identify new opportunities, reduce lead times, and improve overall productivity.
  • Increased flexibility and resilience: Industrial digital platforms can help companies respond faster to changes in demand, supply, and production by enabling real-time monitoring, analysis, and control. This can help companies to increase resilience against unforeseen events, reduce lead times, improve quality, and enhance customer satisfaction.
  • Better decision-making: Industrial digital platforms can provide companies with valuable insights and predictions that support better decision-making. For example, by analyzing data from sensors and machines, companies can predict when maintenance is required or when a machine is likely to break down, enabling them to take preventive measures and avoid downtime.
  • Cost reduction: Industrial digital platforms can help companies reduce costs in various ways, such as optimizing energy consumption, reducing waste, and improving efficiency. Using data analytics and machine learning, companies can identify areas where costs can be reduced and make targeted improvements.
  • Increased traceability and transparency: By collecting and sharing data along the value chain, it becomes possible to track the journey of products from raw materials to end customers. This is particularly important to meet requirements for quality, safety, and sustainability. Traceability can also help reduce the risks of counterfeiting and ensure compliance with regulations and standards. With digital platforms, companies can ensure that their products are of the highest quality and adhere to sustainability and ethical standards, which in turn can build trust among customers and stakeholders.

By harnessing the power of digital technology, industrial companies can transform their operations and remain competitive in an increasingly digital world.

Digital platforms can take many different forms, such as websites, mobile apps, social media platforms, marketplaces, and more. Many well-known digital platforms exist, such as Spotify, Airbnb, Uber, and Facebook. The largest and most famous platforms are often associated with end-users in the form of individuals, but there are also many digital platforms designed for industrial use. These can include:

  • Production and operational platforms: These focus on optimizing production processes, monitoring machinery, and collecting data to improve productivity and quality. Examples of such platforms include Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platforms.
  • Supplier platforms: These platforms facilitate collaboration with suppliers by sharing information about orders, inventory status, and production schedules. This can help reduce lead times and improve the supply chain. Examples of supplier platforms include Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Supply Chain Management (SCM) platforms, and company-specific portals for communication between customers and suppliers.
  • Collaborative platforms: These platforms enable collaboration and knowledge sharing within and between different companies and organizations. They can promote innovation, problem-solving, and joint product development. Examples of collaborative platforms include digital tools for virtual collaboration and project management.
  • E-commerce platforms: These platforms enable the sale and purchase of materials, components, and products online. They can be integrated with existing systems to streamline procurement and facilitate order management. Examples of e-commerce platforms include industrial B2B marketplaces.
  • Analytical platforms: These platforms are used to analyze data and generate insights to improve decision-making and efficiency. They can utilize machine learning, artificial intelligence, and big data techniques to identify trends, predict maintenance needs, and optimize processes.

Of course, many more digital platforms are used in the manufacturing industry, and some may specialize in specific sectors or manufacturing processes.

Digital platforms have transformed many industries and enabled new types of businesses and services. They have also created new privacy, security, regulation, and competition challenges. As digital platforms evolve, they will likely play an increasingly important role in the economy and society.

Tips for those who want to develop a digital platform mindset within their companies:

  1. Ensure that your strategy also includes digitalization: Digitization is not a standalone entity but a tool for business development and should, therefore be integrated into the strategy. Defining the vision, goals, and objectives for your digital transformation journey is important. This helps create a shared understanding and direction for all stakeholders in the company.
  2. Foster collaborations: A digital platform mindset requires collaborations both within and outside the organization through partnerships with other companies and organizations. Collaborations can be used to share data, mitigate risks, foster innovation, and expand the customer base.
  3. Invest in skill development: Digital transformation requires investments in staff training and development. This may include educating employees on new technologies and work processes, recruiting new talents, or seeking external expertise.

Good luck!

Digitala Stambanan strengthens the Swedish industry through digitalization of value chains. The project is a collaborative project financed by Vinnova and participating companies. The work is now underway in two tracks through the strategic innovation programs PiiA (Processindustriell IT & Automation), which drives the Digitala Stambanan IndTech project, and Produktion2030, which runs the Digitala Stambanan Produktion project.