Falluntersuchung zur Ressourcenproduktivitätt von E-Commerce
This study is one of several studies and research materials related to the TA project "E-Commerce" of the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Parliament (TAB). The present study focuses on the impact of e-commerce on resource productivity. To this end several case studies were performed focusing on large-scale enterprises of the electronics and automobile industry. They were aimed at studying the influence of e-commerce on procurement quantities, error margins, inventories, excess production and logistics. The analysis of different case studies provides a first empirical impression of resource productivity through e-commerce. It is not always possible to unequivocally attribute individual effects to e-commerce applications, since several influencing factors overlap and interfere. Clear comparisons between the situation before and after the introduction of e-commerce tools are usually not performed or are limited to individual projects. Nevertheless, some effects can be clearly pointed out:
The case studies reveal positive effects on resource productivity through the use of e-commerce in procurement and distribution. Shorter and more reliable planning cycles along the supply chain allowed for reductions of inventory of up to 25%. A faster stock turnover does not only reduce the required inventory area, but also the danger of technological obsolescence of inventories. The latter issue is highly relevant in the ICT sector where innovation dynamics are high and the life of products in the market is short. In the short and medium term, an increase of resource productivity by up to 5% seems possible in individual fields. In a long-term perspective a higher potential could be realistic in some industries.
Most of the development paths of e-commerce currently discussed in industry (especially in the automotive sector) are presently only options whose implementation is still open and there is no consensus on the question whether the potential can be fully exploited. Nevertheless the prospects are considerable for exploiting the positive environmental effects to a larger extent in the future. Even though no "quantum leaps" for dematerialisation are to be expected, there is a remarkable potential for incrementally increasing resource productivity through the integration of e-commerce into an electronic supply chain management.
An electronic supply chain management does not necessarily increase transport intensity. There are rather both chances and risks in this field. E-commerce may help to reduce transport or to shift transport volumes to less resource intensive modes. On the other hand, shorter supply and distribution cycles entail the risk of increased transport intensity.
In the performed case studies, positive or negative environmental effects caused by the introduction of e-commerce and e-business solutions are a random side effect which is hardly recognized or completely ignored. A systematic environmental monitoring targeted at these phenomena does not exist yet and should be established as part of the environmental management and controlling in companies in the future.
Whereas the optimisation of organisational processes and technological efficiency gains are achieved almost "automatically" so far, the potential for a dematerialisation beyond the trend can only be exploited by additional efforts. To this end, no new instruments of environmental policy are needed. Conventional instruments for environment protection should be rather discussed in the context of e-commerce. This is especially true for transport issues where the effects of e-commerce are ambivalent. It will depend decisively on the design of the framework conditions whether e-commerce reduces or increases transport intensity. In this context, an additional challenge for politics lies in research funding. At present there are neither adequate instruments which allow for the integration of environmental aspects into the management of electronic value chains nor pilot projects demonstrating related successful management instruments. It is therefore recommended that the introduction of e-commerce solutions in several companies is accompanied scientifically and that longitudinal analyses are performed aiming at a linkage between the environmental and material flow management on the one hand and e-commerce and e-business on the other hand.
Behrendt, Siegfried; Würtenberger, Felix and Fichter, Klaus (2003): Falluntersuchung zur Ressourcenproduktivitätt von E-Commerce. WerkstattBericht Nr. 52. Berlin: IZT – Institut für Zukunftsstudien und Technologiebewertung. Download (455.5 KB)