Why and How Should Machine Builders Digitalize?

An Interview with Xiangwen Zhu, Vice Technical Director, M&M Software

There are three main reasons why machine builders should digitalize.

Increasing product homogeneity coupled with increasing price pressure from lowered margins force companies to differentiate to create additional value for customers. Since hardware properties are less dynamic and more easily duplicated, machine builders should use software and services to differentiate and provide additional value to increase customer adherence. An example of this shift in value proposition can be seen in General Electric’s bundling of their Predix platform to sell uptime of a piece of hardware, rather than simply the hardware alone. To support this shift in business model, there needs to be a certain level of technological expertise to track usage and billing.

Efficiency of aftersales services can be improved with digital technology, with the most potential improvements in field services and predictive maintenance. Instead of sending multiple engineers with different spare parts to the field for maintenance, remote diagnosis can be done so that the job is assigned to the most suitable engineer for the job, who can view the situation remotely and diagnose the situation to bring the right parts to the field. Maintenance costs can even be lowered even more by preventing incidents that require maintenance by predictive maintenance and condition monitoring, so that actions can be taken before the breakdown happens.

The power of digitally driven data collection and analysis can extend to the core design of the product. Machine builders care about how their machines run under certain conditions. Algorithm models can be built using data from the field to enhance the design and quality of the machine. For example, different machine settings can be used in different production environments.

So how can a machine builder digitalize effectively?

One needs clear targets, management conviction, and a technological awareness of what is possible, even in other industries. Clear targets of the value being created for customer shared amongst the team ensures that digitalization projects stay on track and achieves the final goal. Management conviction is key to ensure that projects continue to be funded, and the required organizational changes that accompany digitalization happen. An awareness of possibilities and actions taken in other more technologically advanced industries than the machine building industry helps to broaden the ideation of the types of customer value that can be created from digital technologies.

M&M supports customers as a partner throughout all stages of their digital journey, from identifying targets to engineering and execution.

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