In the course of globalisation, Asian machine builders have been able to assert themselves, and are currently focusing on capturing the low segment, bringing simple and very affordable machinery onto the market. This is especially true for Chinese manufacturers. In the near future Asian manufacturers will also begin to operate the midfield segment. This will bring them into competition with established companies, which, in addition to the premium segment, have a strong position in the midfield segment or at least consider this to be their core competence. Chinese producers, in particular, will accelerate the transformation taking place in machine construction. They are not content to merely produce for the low-end mass market, but want to gain a competitive advantage through further technological development or new technologies. Their international expansion drive is intense and their exports will have a global reach.
Michael Matthesius is Head of Global Industry Management Machinery and knows the Trends in machine construction
The German machine construction industry is faced with the challenge of developing strategies to reassert itself or strengthen its hold in this midfield segment. If German engineering companies remain in the preferred premium segment they will find it hard to continue financing high investments in new technologies. This would result in a falling away of the revenue-generating volumes that ultimately contribute to profitability. In future, the midfield segment is where the largest share of sales growth will be achieved. This is why the German machine construction industry needs to develop a dual business model as a strategy option. A performance indicator could be machinery with a modular design, i.e. customised mass production for the same cost as series manufacturing. Automation solutions make it easier to produce module-based machinery flexibly so that other products can be manufactured without time-consuming and costly conversion/setup times The automotive industry has already begun to place such demands on machinery manufacturers: machines must be able to switch to other models quickly and flexibly; the single criterion of “modular” is not sufficient. A further strategy option is progressive decentralisation, which goes hand in hand with modularisation: central control cabinets are replaced with decentralised modules – this also applies to the control technology.
Weidmüller not only offers a sophisticated product portfolio but has long impressed with its wide range of solutions. Its industry managers know all about the latest trends and customer requirements in the various sectors thanks to their in-depth technical expertise. Weidmüller guides renowned clients through the development of machinery at a very early stage: at innovation meetings and workshops, industry managers evaluate how they can help to develop and design the best solution with the highest possible added value for the customer. Trends and solutions are discussed amongst experts; the traditional sales pitch has become a thing of the past.
The key trends that are bringing about and accelerating the changes taking place in machinery construction can be subsumed under the terms Industry 4.0 and Smart Factory: the interconnection and networking of machinery and systems, increased penetration of automation solutions, the creation/evaluation and benefits of data material, preventive maintenance as well as a marked increase in interdisciplinary projects and teams, to name just a few examples. The aim is to consider new elements during production optimisation, develop new business models and services and incorporate innovative ideas. A machine is no longer delivered as a “finished” product, it adapts flexibly to future requirements – this may include software updates, modular enhancements, renewed networks and/or redesigns. Machine builders will also have to focus more on their customers and business models. In addition to approaches such as remote maintenance via secure VPN tunnels, there will be new consultancy and other services.
The overall aim then is to deliver innovation faster; after all, in today's global market, potential competitors are only a mouse click away with their ideas and products. Other hot topics include data security (both internal and external), data integrity, cloud computing, simplified handling techniques and machine programming. Operations could be simplified by using tablets to replace programming commands with swipe gestures. Both tablets and smartphones are being used increasingly in machine construction as a means of communication. Conclusion: Weidmüller's industrial managers shape worldwide developments and trends in machinery construction. They evaluate how they can help to develop the best solution with the highest possible added value for the customer.
We already offers concrete solutions that allow producing companies to prepare themselves for the “Internet of Things”
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