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Ecosystems 4.0: redesigning global value chains

Marie-Christin Schmidt (Chair of Industrial Management, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), Nürnberg, Germany)
Johannes W. Veile (Chair of Industrial Management, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), Nürnberg, Germany)
Julian M. Müller (Salzburg University of Applied Sciences, Salzburg, Austria)
Kai-Ingo Voigt (Chair of Industrial Management, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), Nürnberg, Germany)

The International Journal of Logistics Management

ISSN: 0957-4093

Article publication date: 29 September 2020

Issue publication date: 15 October 2021




The study analyses how Industry 4.0 and underlying digital technologies influence the design of ecosystems in global value chains (GVCs).


A qualitative-exploratory research design is used. It deploys a multiple case study based on semi-structured interviews with 73 German managers of multinational enterprises. Applying a qualitative content analysis, the expert interviews are inductively analyzed and triangulated with secondary data to develop a synthesized data structure.


The analysis reveals a general tendency towards decentralization of value chain activities. Depending on the nature of each activity and several contextual factors, however, hybrids between centralization and decentralization of processes can be observed in Industry 4.0 environments. Consequences for global ecosystems are altered cooperation with business partners, new organizational forms and novel market environments.

Research limitations/implications

Given inherent limitations in scope and methodology, the study calls for cross-industry and cross-country analyses. Further studies should research implications of Industry 4.0 changes in ecosystems and GVCs, and the role digital platforms can play in this context.

Practical implications

The results help companies to analyze and adapt their role in ecosystems and associated GVC activities to Industry 4.0 environments, thus staying competitive in changing market conditions.


This study is among the first to empirically investigate the influence of Industry 4.0 on ecosystems embedded in GVCs. Reflecting existing company environments, it adds an international and company-external perspective to Industry 4.0 research.



Schmidt, M.-C., Veile, J.W., Müller, J.M. and Voigt, K.-I. (2021), "Ecosystems 4.0: redesigning global value chains", The International Journal of Logistics Management, Vol. 32 No. 4, pp. 1124-1149.



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