Coopetition: an overused buzzword or a meaningful concept for Industry 4.0? We asked Jan Kaumanns why he thinks competition and cooperation only appear to be mutually exclusive. Our CEO explains how you can create added value for your business by working together with rivals.
Jan, can you start by explaining where the portmanteau “coopetition” comes from?
Jan Kaumanns: The term is an amalgamation of the words “cooperation” and “competition.” You could therefore say it means “cooperative competition” or “competitive cooperation.”
Fusing competition and cooperation sounds like trying to square the circle. Is it even possible?
Jan Kaumanns: At RIO, we definitely think so. For a digitalised economy, and thus for digitalised logistics, we see it as the concept of the future. If everyone insists on thinking inside their own little box, many of the challenges facing the transport industry at the start of the third decade of this century won’t be solved adequately.
Do you therefore consider logistics a kind of pioneer for cooperative competition?
Jan Kaumanns: In principle, the phenomenon of ever-greater digitalisation in all sectors – and here I’m talking about Industry 4.0 – will lead to fundamental upheavals. Unfortunately, logistics is lagging behind somewhat on this issue because the logistics sector is very complex and there is no generally applicable solution for this industry. But that’s precisely why it’s so important to communicate with customers and create individual solutions. Here too, we see RIO’s rights and ambitions: We want to interconnect all the various participants along the supply chain with each other and create transparency. RIO is open and RIO is for everyone.
Do you think that transport companies and hauliers, for example, could get left behind if they don’t share relevant data?
Jan Kaumanns: Yes, that’s a very realistic scenario. After all, firms that stew in their own juices and don’t publish their capacities and ideas for solutions will eventually lose out. That’s why we are urging companies to make contact with specialists like ourselves. And this applies particularly to microenterprises and small businesses, whom we would like to help smooth the transition into the digital age. We provide information about where there are potentials to capitalise on and where synergy effects must be created. It simply doesn’t make sense to collect everything on your own IT systems. It wastes more time and thus also money.
Is the aim here to begin by breaking entrenched behavioural patterns and thinking?
Jan Kaumanns: Obviously it isn’t easy to sit down with rivals who are fighting you for market share. But throughout history, people have had to persuade others of the merits of innovation. We also make it clear – and there’s no other way in the age of the GDPR – that certain corporate data doesn’t concern anyone outside the company, and certainly not the competition. However, in order to optimise supply chain management as a whole, a lot of information has to be shared. Only then can we look for a better solution.
How is RIO putting coopetition into practice?
Jan Kaumanns: We are primarily talking about our partners, who compete both with us and with each another to some extent. They recognise that it’s not helpful to retreat into your shell and address only a niche market. WABCO is a prime example of this. Just like us, it offers telematics solutions. However, it still operates on the market as a partner service. For every application along the transport chain, we are bringing a suitable solution onto our platform. In all, 37 partner services are already on offer for our customers. We needn’t be able to do everything ourselves, but we need to know who offers what and bring them on board.
What do you recommend RIO customers should do? Should they be sent straight to a competitor with your best wishes?
Jan Kaumanns: Best wishes are always a nice gesture! (Laughs) But coopetition is about constantly rethinking the contradiction between competition and cooperation in your day-to-day work. Companies will always fight hard to gain an advantage when selling their products. But those that hide behind high walls and dismiss platform solutions in the digital age will undoubtedly miss the bus.