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Digitally Networked Thinking Advances Mechanical Engineering

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Digitally Networked Thinking Advances Mechanical Engineering
Digitally Networked Thinking Advances Mechanical Engineering

Video: Digitally Networked Thinking Advances Mechanical Engineering

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Industry 4.0 has arrived in the companies of German mechanical and plant engineering. "Above all, as a provider of digitally networked technologies and services, we play a leading role in the manufacturing sector," says Dr. Manfred Wittenstein, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Wittenstein SE on the occasion of the publication of the impulse study "Digitally networked thinking in production".

Dr. Wittenstein, who is also the chair of the board of trustees of the Impuls Foundation of the VDMA, explains: “The technological dynamics are high and the mechanical engineering industry is working intensively on new solutions as a classic technology integrator. However, many companies still have some catching up to do in personnel development."

The study was carried out by the Institute for Learning and Innovation in Networks (Ilin) at Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences - Technology and Economy and by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI.

Digitization strategy already in place in many companies

A third of the companies surveyed already have a dedicated digitization strategy, and another quarter want to introduce a digitization strategy in the next three years. "This shows the great strategic importance of digital networking in companies," says Prof. Dr. Steffen Kinkel, head of the Ilin at Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences.

In HR development, on the other hand, only one in five companies has dealt strategically with the challenges of digitization. “Digitally networked innovation takes place in the border area between disciplines and business areas. This requires openness and interdisciplinary understanding,”explains Rainer Glatz, managing director of the VDMA software and digitization association.

"For the far-reaching digital transformation, a positive culture of error and the courage to fail quickly are essential in order to be able to try things out pragmatically and to learn quickly from the experience gained," adds Kinkel.

High development dynamics in data based services

Data-based services or predictive maintenance models serve as pioneers for new business models in the digitally networked world. This shows that so far only a few companies offer these services. According to the VDMA, these technologies are mainly developed in-house and the dynamics regarding the launches planned for the next three years are very high.

Key competencies for digital networking lie in the software development of modular applications (apps), in the programming of machine and system controls, in the analysis of complex data and in understanding customer problems. Competencies in IT security and user-oriented IT design are also of great importance.

Building skills is a key challenge

As an interdisciplinary approach is becoming increasingly important, employees from various engineering and IT disciplines as well as skilled workers should work together consistently on projects. "It is important to better understand the perspective of the different worlds," explains Kinkel. A major challenge therefore lies in building and expanding digitalization skills. When it comes to recruiting the right IT and software specialists, small companies are more likely to have difficulties than large companies. They therefore outsource their software development to external service providers more often.

Another strategic option is to outsource your own IT and software companies for more flexibility and speed of development. A surprisingly high proportion (one fifth) of the companies surveyed are already active here.

Unlock the potential of agile and design-oriented development processes

The willingness of companies to experiment, test and learn quickly is also becoming increasingly important. "Agile and design-oriented development processes play a key role here," explains VDMA expert Glatz. As the study shows, these methods can significantly fertilize the ability to develop digital products and services. So far, they have been used by relatively few companies, but there is still potential here. There is also a positive correlation between the use of lean concepts and the ability of companies to use digitally networked technologies in their own production processes. Lean, ordered processes based on lean principles are therefore an important prerequisite for successful technology adaptation.

Interested companies have the opportunity to use the database generated as part of the study for online self-location. Online benchmarking can be used here. (kj)

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