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Businesses of the future: Sharing assets

The BBC released an article that shares how businesses are starting to share and saving more money than ever before. How? Well this is something that already happened before in industries that require expensive equipment, like construction. Some kits were shared from company to company to save costs. “But what we are talking about here - platforms dedicated to sharing assets between firms - is different. Such services promise to use equipment and assets that would otherwise be lying idle”. Nowadays ‘the sharing of assets’ between companies is becoming mainstream.

"It was illegal when we started," says entrepreneur Lieke van Kerkhoven. She's referring to PharmaSwap, a service which allows Dutch pharmacists to sell medications to one another just as the medicine is about to expire. "European law forbids the selling of medication except when you have a wholesale permit, and pharmacists don't have a wholesale permit," she explains. "But the Dutch health inspectors were sort of allowing it. They saw that if a medicine goes past a certain date it would just be destroyed."

Sharing platforms are slowly taking off, the main reason for that is that there is complexity regarding legal and insurance issues. Also, for some companies assets are seen as a competitive advantage so it is harder to get them to share with their competitors. But the interesting part is that even in the same company we can see that same dynamic, problems with the asset sharing between departments of large organisations due to budget conflicts. Even though we see this a lot, there is already industries that incentivize inside a same company the ‘sharing economy’ principle:

"Trust is a major issue," says Ms Van Kerkhoven who co-founded FLOOW2, which set up the PharmaSwap platform and several others. The fashion retailer created an internal marketplace to share store items such as display furniture, encouraging sharing between their stores in France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. If one store needed a particular item they could look to see if a nearby store had it before purchasing a new one”.

Adopting sharing practices can help firms, industries, companies to be more flexible. Now, more than ever, with a pandemic and turbulent times, this could be a useful trait. Flexe, for example, in Seattle, covered with a surging demand for its service, which is to offer warehouse space, during the pandemic. Its platform matches clients with excess space with businesses that are looking to expand and need extra room for storage and distribution. “A wide variety of retailers, including giants like Walmart, use the platform to increase their available warehouse space when needed”.

This flexibility can allow retailers to expand into areas of high-demand, closer to where their customers live, reducing fixed costs and reducing delivery times. This shift to sharing can also be beneficial for the environment, since the maximisation of the use of an asset can have the net impact of reducing carbon emissions.

"With the rebuilding of the economy right now, circuit sustainability or circularity, can be a very important part of that," Ms Van Kerkhoven explains, "we can use this crisis to rebuild something that is better and more future proof. To me the main issue would be mindset," she explains, "the rest is practical and can be overcome."

MKThink is working on the future of work space as well. Should any individual work happen at an office any more? Or should it only be used for “pop-up” group events where collaboration is required? Should teams even have permanent offices any more? Or central vs satellite offices? What’s the balance between employee satisfaction and productivity/creativity? Can it be measured? These and more are all the questions that MKThink’s team is tackling using a combination of interviews, sensor-based observation, modeling and more. The new world is being explored now. Are you experimenting your way to the future? If not, contact us to help you get started!.


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