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Markus Löffler: Most companies think of physical flows—meaning the flow of material components through the supply chain—as separate from information flows and then consider how and where to coordinate and synchronize them. After the fourth industrial revolution, there will no longer be a difference between information and materials, because products will be inextricably linked to “their” information.
Siegfried Dais: Right. For example, a piece of metal or raw material will say, “I am the block that will be made into product X for customer Y.” In an extreme vision, this unfinished material already knows for which customer it is intended and carries with it all the information about where and when it will be processed. Once the material is in the machine, the material itself records any deviations from the standard process, determines when it’s “done,” and knows how to get to its customer. It might not happen right away, but things will definitely move in this direction.