Data spaces and digitalization: The key to resilience in the supply chain and production

Sebastian Weber
CONTACT Research
Published in
6 min readFeb 1, 2024


Changing customer needs, geopolitical tensions and other disruptive events pose major challenges for the supply chains and production of many companies. It is therefore a goal for companies to make their supply chains and production resilient and thus be able to operate successfully in their dynamic environment. With a resilient design, they are able to withstand disruptions, recover quickly and adapt to the new situation. However, the adaptive capacities of production are limited in terms of skills and scheduling. In order to effectively utilize these limited production capacities, efficient interoperability of all stakeholders along the value chain is required.

Resilience as a key capability of efficient value chains

In a world that is increasingly characterized by crises, trade conflicts and climate change, resilience plays an important role. The transformation processes triggered in this way not only affect individual companies, but also have an impact on the design of production and the associated value chain as a whole. An example of a disruptive event in the value chain is the recent COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has prompted manufacturers to rethink their global supply chains and the flexibility of their production facilities. And what is certain is that the next disruptive event is only a matter of time. Ensuring the ability to act is therefore a key design objective for the value chain and production. To be successful in this dynamic environment, companies need to make their supply chains and production more resilient. This means that they must be able to withstand disruptions, recover quickly and adapt to new situations. Resilience is therefore a key ability to ensure the ability to act even in crisis situations and to be able to react to unforeseeable events.

Resilience in the context of value chains…is the ability to adapt to unexpected occurring adverse and partly unknown events with potentially catastrophic effects and to avert them off as far as possible, to cope with them if they occur, and to recover quickly in the event of damage.

Resilience and the associated measures can be understood as a continuous adaptation process in which emerging risks are identified at an early stage as part of efficient risk management and suitable countermeasures are taken. Various strategies can be pursued in the design process.

Digitalization and networking as a strategic direction for shaping resilient value creation

An important strategy for increasing the resilience of supply chains and production is digitalization and networking using data spaces. Digitalization makes it possible to make them smarter, more transparent and more efficient. It will also enable better decisions to be made, risks to be identified and minimized, opportunities to be recognized and used effectively. Collaboration and communication between all stakeholders involved will also be improved in order to optimize adaptability. This is particularly important in order to achieve the goal of resilient value creation. To achieve this, all parties must be able to communicate effectively with each other and share information. Communication supports the design of one’s own production as well as that of the supply chain through externally communicable skills and needs. However, there are always data silos along the supply chain that need to be overcome. At this point, the focus shifts to optimizing the interoperability of stakeholders operating within the value chain.

Support data exchange and enable the development of digital business models

The transformation of value creation is being fuelled by digitalization. In particular, the use of data as a core element of digital business models ensures close cooperation between partners in a cross-company and dynamic value creation network in a data spaces. By using data spaces, companies can make their supply chains and production smarter, more transparent and more efficient. Using models and real-time data, data can be collected on the one hand, but can also be shared with partners in the data space with confidence on the other. Data spaces can therefore be seen as an important building block for resilience, as they help companies to adapt to a dynamic environment by breaking down data silos within value networks.

In order to achieve digital consistency in terms of resilience, it is not enough to look at the value chain or production individually. On the one hand, horizontal digital consistency must be achieved within the company with its various IT systems, but on the other hand, vertical integration of individual components of the production systems right up to the level of the value chain, where the specific needs of the company can be communicated and offerings can be shared. In this way, CONTACT Research pursues end-to-end observation and modeling from the value chain level down to the plant and shop floor as well as the production resources used there and the tools they contain.

This integrated view is also being pursued in current research projects. These include the ESCOM research project and the Flex4Res research project, in the context of which the previous figure was created. The topic of data spaces and AAS-based modeling is also being addressed there.

Production and supply chain resilience is also a topic in current research — Flex4Res as an example

The Horizon Europe project Flex4Res focuses on strengthening the resilience of the European manufacturing industry by enabling companies to withstand and recover faster from the multitude of potential disruptions. The concept is based on an open framework realized through a Gaia-X based data space, IDS reference architecture models and the Asset Administration Shell (AAS). This enables the exchange of digital models in a dynamic value creation network. The concept is completed by a toolbox with which users of the data room can receive recommendations for service-based corrective measures. From the point of view of increasing resilience, the user is offered corresponding added value in the form of decision support for the design of production and the associated value creation networks.
The following figure shows the Flex4Res framework. It consists of three main components: the aforementioned open data space based on Gaia-X and an AAS-based exchange of models, a descriptive component with the resilience and self-description model and the resilience and reconfiguration strategy toolbox, which is intended to support decision-making. At this point, the concept essentially focuses on the three levels of the machine and its components, the production lines and systems, and the value chain and its composition. The machines and components are described at the micro level, while the meso level covers entire production lines and systems. In contrast, the macro level focuses on the value chain and its composition.

With its four use cases Flex4Res covers a variety of types of manufacturing systems and levels of consideration. What all use cases have in common, however, is the need to combine the large number of participating disciplines, as collaboration is key to increasing the resilience of production and the supply chain.

In Essence

Seamless value creation requires end-to-end communication on the one hand. On the other hand, existing data silos must be broken down and the flow of information ensured. This requires modelling of production processes and the value chain. Harmonised standards must be created for this purpose. CONTACT Software’s activities, as well as those of the Flex4Res and ESCOM research projects, focus on this and support the design of a resilient and flexible value chain. With a focus on the value creation level right down to the shop floor.

About CONTACT Research. CONTACT Research is a dynamic research group dedicated to collaborating with innovative minds from the fields of science and industry. Our primary mission is to develop cutting-edge solutions for the engineering and manufacturing challenges of the future. We undertake projects that encompass applied research, as well as technology and method innovation. An independent corporate unit within the CONTACT Software Group, we foster an environment where innovation thrives.



Sebastian Weber
CONTACT Research

I'm a Research Analyst at CONTACT Research, focusing on Data&Service Ecosystems and GreenTech to drive sustainable digital innovations.