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Intelligent materials make the manufacturing ecosystems and companies’ business models more sustainable

Better use of information and materials requires intense and more open cooperation between companies.
Valmistuksen ekosysteemi. Kuva: Esko Hakanen.

Esko Hakanen’s dissertation ‘Platform-based exchange: New business models in technology industries’ focuses on how companies can use data in a new way. When information is refined and used more effectively, companies shift toward more collaborative forms of value creation and sharing, which has started to affect their business models.  The dissertation is based on qualitative case studies among various companies in the technology industry.

New business models follow the principles of brokerage, where intelligent information related to material resources flows from one party to another. This increases the relevance, applicability and impact of information.

‘Through material intelligence, a designer can tell a user how the product should be used, and, in turn, the designer will receive feedback directly from the user’, Esko Hakanen says.

An increasing amount of information accompanies products and materials about their condition, location, properties, use, history and the surrounding system in which they are being used.  The circular economy requires trust between business partners. This change is part of a more general shift, in which the emphasis changes from individual companies' business models to ecosystem-level competition.

‘Sharing complementary information and resources at different stages of the process may lead to new business activities. The process may reveal, for instance, something that can be later utilised by someone else’, Esko Hakanen says.

In some sectors, the circular economy is the only option.

Esko Hakanen

Technological platforms have generated ways to save information and share it between different operators. This has led to new possibilities of value creation and the development of service-based business activities. Many companies operating in traditional industries, such as primary production and manufacturing, have been able to access extensive amounts of data related to their material resources.

Intelligent material has an individual, recognisable identity, and it is labelled accordingly in the external database. Embedded material intelligence changes the role of products towards the direction of value creation. As the intelligence of products increases, the availability and ownership of intelligence and material become more complicated.

‘When life-cycle data is shared, the value of both the product and the material increases, and the material also becomes more interesting in terms of recycling’, Head of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Risto Rajala adds.

When life-cycle data is shared, the value of both the product and the material increases.

Risto Rajala

After his dissertation, Esko Hakanen will focus on battery ecosystems. The recycling of lithium batteries has thus far been complicated. And so, recycling has only involved what is legally necessary and what we have capacity for, such as only the plastic covers of batteries.

‘In some sectors, the circular economy is the only option. If we want to electrify transport, we need to recycle lithium. Otherwise there will not be enough raw material to cover the requirements of future growth’, Esko Hakanen says.

In the future, batteries may also have an individual label for reuse, including also information about previous use.

Hakanen will defend his dissertation on 17 January from the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management.

Further information:

Defence of dissertation in the field of industrial engineering and management, Esko Hakanen, M.Sc.(Tech.)

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