As our world becomes more connected, manufacturers are rising to the challenge and retooling. All industries are experiencing dramatic changes thanks to digital technologies, but the transformation has been significant in the domain of industrial machinery.
Machinery design is changing to respond to the need for equipment that requires less maintenance, can be upgraded as businesses grow or have improved performance that can assist companies in streamlining their ways of working.
Machinery executives are prioritising the digital challenge and making it a priority to respond to the industry demands to create more value for customers. The leaders in this new drive believe that digital technology is changing the machinery industry in three main ways.
- It will create new opportunities to innovate
- It will facilitate end-to-end transformation
- It will lead to a need for organisational changes that will support the latest technology.
What are the opportunities for innovation?
In the realm of packaging equipment, both connectivity and analytics will drive innovation. Already packaging systems offer applications such as the ability to control machines remotely and monitor production. Now they are moving into the role of being able to notify operators when parts should be replaced in equipment. They can also adjust the process of packaging based on analytics.
Caterpillar, for example, has installed GPS and tracking sensors. This is specifically on its grading equipment. The accuracy and productivity of the machine are improved. Another key role player, Maersk, wants to install 3-D printers on ship vessels so workers can print out spare parts when they need them.
There’s increasingly a shift in thinking from producing a single piece of machinery to offering the customer a bundle, which includes software and services along with the hardware. This will impact multiple layers of business as it can add value everywhere, from production to sales to marketing.
Other departments will also need to innovate and transform to expand its capabilities, such as the IT required to support these machines. Systems will need to be developed to analyse data they generate and then deliver the knowledge into ways it can be used to benefit the company and customers.
Digitisation will offer businesses cost savings and could improve efficiencies by up to 40 percent. It poses a challenge to management teams to unlock this value. It requires a new approach to the problem. Rather than assessing the industry and then seeing how digitisation can be applied, they will need to first look at how digital is disrupting their industry.
This will require them to look beyond their current business model. What are the holistic opportunities they can explore? They should rethink how their products are bought, engaged with, maintained, and fixed. Rather than selling an item, they can sell a package that is based on usage or performance levels, not only tangible machinery.
We’re already seeing some changes taking effect in the printing and packaging industry. Digital printing has advanced to a point where new entrants are able to disrupt the industry with small-batch printing opportunities. Leaders need to look at all these factors when they work on a plan.
The customer has changed too. They want to give feedback to suppliers and share their experiences with the product so improvements can be made. Digital technology will facilitate this feedback system and also monitor machine usage so they can solve issues before the customer even realises they exist.
More sensors on equipment will be able to collect this information, which is an example of how machinery can adapt to service the needs of customers. Machines are becoming more “intelligent”.
What are the other challenges, and opportunities, digitisation of the machinery industry will create?
- Short term ownership and even rental opportunities are now available for once expensive equipment such as pallet wrapping machines
- Employees will need to be taught new skills, so they are equipped to work in the digitally transformed industry.
- A focus on hardware engineering will need to shift to software engineering.
- When manufacturing machines, digital aspects will need to be considered as a priority.
- Companies will have to work hard to recruit and keep analytics talent. One way is to ensure they are leaders in the industry.
- Machinery companies will have to overhaul their IT organisations.
- The business will need to adopt a more research focussed attitude and invest in the development of innovations.
- They will need to watch competitors closely to ensure they are keeping ahead of developments and remain a leader in their industry.
- They will need to empower executives with the skills and support to drive this change and transition.
- They will need to consider other changes that their machinery will need to respond to. One of the most critical needs is the drive towards sustainability. How can their machines, and the materials they work with, be developed to support more sustainable practices. Customers are all looking to reduce their carbon footprints.