Inside of the Catena-X automotive market consortium

(SAP’s Hagen Heubach talks Catena-X)

When I 1st read rumblings about SAP’s “automotive alliance” far more than a calendar year back, I was cautious: was this just a intelligent backdoor into a product-centric discuss about Ariba?

But then, I turned intrigued. Through a podcast with my retired colleague Den Howlett, SAP CEO Christian Klein spoke passionately about the initiative. While I’ve had some testy again-and-forth with Klein at times, he is an exec I fork out close interest to.

Then, we have this mysterious March 2021 press launch, Catena-X Automotive Community Picks Up Velocity. I say “mysterious” since there is vagueness right here, this kind of as: “The Catena-X pilot assignments are targeted on 5 regions of application that have been jointly described.” Why would I have desire in a mysterious push release? When was the previous time you observed these kinds of firms banding alongside one another?

The founders of the husband or wife network contain BMW AG, Deutsche Telekom AG, Robert Bosch GmbH, SAP SE, Siemens AG and ZF Friedrichshafen AG.

Additional firms have joined the initiative, such as Mercedes-Benz AG, BASF SE, Henkel AG & Co. KGaA, Schaeffler AG, German Edge Cloud GmbH & Co. KG, ISTOS GmbH, SupplyOn AG, the German Aerospace Heart (DLR), Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e.V and ARENA2036, as well as numerous smaller and midsize enterprises (SMEs).

Sure, this has a decidedly German flavor, at least in the early stages, but these styles of alliances are not typical. Then you see:

The Automotive Alliance will run below the title Catena-X Automotive Network (Catena-X). As an implementation-oriented community and to help make sure openness and neutrality, Catena-X ideas to organize itself as a registered association in Germany..

Openness, neutrality, and… business program?

Openness and neutrality – not what you ordinarily see from business application vendors. I believe the future of ERP is not again office, but vertical backbone. That is why marketplace consortiums crafted on open criteria seriously capture my eye:

Catena-X sees itself as an extensible ecosystem in which automotive producers and suppliers, vendor associations and tools suppliers, including the providers of apps, platforms and infrastructure, can all participate equally. The goal of the affiliation is to produce a uniform typical for details and facts-sharing throughout the full automotive worth chain.

But in the summertime/drop, the PR equipment all over Catena-X went peaceful – even though the Catena-X net web-site does have news objects (and a board of administrators listing). Where was the tumble update Klein alluded to in the podcast? Was Catena-X attaining momentum, or, most likely, caught up in regulatory purple tape, or pandemic offer chain distractions? I resolved to locate out.

Soon, I discovered myself on a movie contact with Hagen Heubach, International VP, Business Small business Device Automotive at SAP, and Board Member of the Catena-X Automotive Community. As Heubach informed me, pandemic supply chain pressures, including the notorious chip shortage, are the sparks that ignited Catena-X:

The automotive marketplace is totally beneath transition. There is a massive shakeup, with the semiconductor disaster – our chip scarcity and raw material shortage. These are critical factors we’re hoping to tackle with the automotive alliance. 

Heubach qualified prospects SAP’s answers for automotive and mobility globally. But this is not a seller-specific problem to clear up. Nor is it anything a person automotive corporation can deal with, withholding cooperation from other heavyweights. Heubach:

I was concerned from working day one in Catena-X. When we released it, we talked with each other with the critical players of the market… We found out extremely evidently, ‘Hey, there is so considerably far more price together the worth chain or offer chain, that is still buried. And we have so substantially much more potential to optimize, if we all transfer this absent from a classical peer-to-peer relationship, to a network-primarily based tactic.’

Of course, that implies a protected, neutral, and interoperable data exchange. As Heubach set it, no 1 will share details if your community is not trustworthy – and you need to normally be in regulate of your information. Then the use instances can be constructed:

So, we’re addressing the authentic use instances, like components, traceability, demand from customers capability, high-quality administration, sustainability – and set them collectively with the info sovereign cloud.

Catena-X, the business, was formally launched in May well 2021, with an alliance of 8 automotive associates.

At the coronary heart of this is a motion expressing, ‘Hey, we all commit to this basic principle of information sovereignty, fostering the info exchange and the transparency together the benefit chain for automotive.’

The prepare is to expand that price chain membership, past the preliminary market adopters, into mobility service companies, IT vendors, and OEMs:

If we all arrive with each other and sign up for forces, developing this network in the relevant use scenarios for it, then we actually have a acquire-acquire predicament.

The momentum is developing. As of our November chat, Catena-X has 62 users, spanning properly beyond Germany. The German federal government is also serving to to fund Catena-X open up resource is a main layout principle.

We are creating considerable pieces within just Catena-X as open up source components… We have launched an open Eclipse Basis venture, exactly where numerous organizations are constructing. SAP is constructing in there now Siemens is creating in their two programs, BMW, Porsche and so forth.

As usually, the proof is in the results, not in the press releases. When can we expect tangible product or service?

The to start with POCs and MVP is out there. We are arranging to be live by Q1 2022. The 1st serious use conditions the to start with evidence points are there. We are also addressing this from SAP’s facet with our portfolio, the initially demands and the use circumstances. Most of all, we are going to make our consumers fit for the future, to be Catena-X all set.

Initial up? A traceability use situation, dubbed “Logistic business community material traceability,” with a few of insert-ons on best of it, addressing elements tracking, and the re-use of elements. “It’s fairly a compelling use circumstance,” suggests Heubach.

My acquire – give me market consortiums above proprietary platforms

For individuals who will not just take this hard work severely simply because of its minimal profile, time to reconsider. I count on SAP to progress the advertising facet of Catena-X in the new 12 months, as assignments go-dwell.

I am not particularly an Ariba fanboy. If you continue to think that this is a business-networks-advertising and marketing-Trojan-Horse, I can only tell you that Heubach didn’t use the Ariba phrase once, and he only outlined S/4HANA a couple of times. In the final yr, to drive their organization community breakthroughs, SAP has been working with an epically cringe-worthy catchphrase, “the network of networks.” But: that will not necessarily mean SAP is improper about the potential of market networks. Catena-X, with its press for open standards, users who may perhaps or might not operate SAP software program, and competitors turning into cooperators as they tackle industry stumbling blocks – that has the components of a marvelous story.

Of class, there is a huge products advantage for SAP as well. Heubach tells me SAP intends to tie S/4HANA into the Catena-X system, so automotive prospects can pull in all those open supply factors. It can be instructive how substantially you can accomplish for your personal shoppers – when you set a broader mission. Heubach thinks this is our foreseeable future: anticipating 1 vendor’s platform to convey an industry together is legacy pondering.

Along the way, ERP alterations. The long run of ERP as a again office environment procedure of report is a bleak commodity. The potential of ERP as an operational backbone for your market – which is wherever ERP will get fascinating.

Blockchain enthusiasts may perhaps protest I am rubbing it in here, but I assume it’s critical to observe that Catena-X is not constructed on blockchain. Blockchain krishnas would have us believe that that in order to present (supposedly) immutable have confidence in amongst business benefit chains, that blockchain would be a innovative force listed here, a tech no-brainer.

That misguided considering has led to a preposterous, overextended hoopla cycle. It truly is distracted us from the true position: these business troubles are not supposed to be solved with surprise-tech, but by people today (and corporations) doing work with each other in daring new strategies. The engineering used will be regardless of what software suits most effective. Perhaps it really is blockchain (or other distributed ledgers), and possibly it is not.

I is not going to get into all the tech specifics in this article, but Heubach states they wanted a details architecture that presented all individuals with a diverse amount of network have faith in and info manage:

The details is saved the place it should really be, in the ERP techniques, in the info lakes. What you do is just give obtain legal rights to each and every other, to share and permit data throughout a small business network.

A key element is Gaia-X, the Worldwide Knowledge Spaces (IDS) normal. The current setup gives members granular manage around details access legal rights, controls they can consistently modify. Heubach does not rule out the use of blockchain in the foreseeable future, but it failed to variable into this original launch.

Other industries could get from this tactic – industries wherever the stakes are substantial, and SAP’s footprint is considerable. Health care will come to brain, with the exact same thorny challenges of information sovereignty and privateness, along with the backdrop of huge transformation. Heubach’s team has been given inquiries from other verticals. He sees no purpose why these exact ways couldn’t ultimately be tailored elsewhere. Now that would be a refreshing break from all the generic blather we listen to from sellers about “business clouds.” For now, Heubach is familiar with they ought to establish this design out:

This is so much much more of a joint [partnership], what you can develop if you’re subsequent an ecosystem solution, fairly than likely on a single platform, locked-in strategy. Which is not the sort of type we are pursuing. All the things desires to be open up to be interoperable. That’s the vital.

Give me more of that kind of project anytime.

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