There are still many plant and mechanical engineers who see a need for clarification on the subject of Industry 4.0. They ask themselves whether the whole issue is just a simple marketing campaign by the IT industry and whether their customers are even involved in this issue. What are the concrete advantages in detail of digitization and machine networking? What are the long-term benefits for companies and their customers?
Be prepared for Industry 4.0 in 7 steps
The easiest way to get started in the digital world of Industry 4.0 is for machine builders in the service sector. Through service networking, those involved benefit immediately from the first results. Networking can be easily integrated into all existing processes. Machine manufacturers who digitize and network their own service business step by step reliably help their customers to increase production efficiency. This makes the companies themselves an Industry 4.0 solution partner.
What steps should you, as a machine manufacturer, take into account when digitizing?
Step 1 - Define the goals and benefits of machine networking
Once a company is convinced of the great potential of machine networking, it should first consider why it wants to digitize customer relationships and network its machines. What exactly is the final goal and what are the benefits for customers? This 1st important step is ignored by some companies. At this point, it is particularly important to first create an understanding and an internal basis for machine networking. Once the goals in this first step have been set in the direction of Industry 4.0, the machine manufacturer can network with all customers and machines. Remote Service is certainly not the final strategy for this first important step, but it is a good tool for driving networking forward.
Step 2 - Include all relevant departments
After the first step, which was somewhat difficult for many companies, the next step towards Industry 4.0 follows. The second step inevitably leads to the formation of interdisciplinary project groups within the company. The various company departments and units, such as the IT division, electrical design, service management, sales, marketing and management, should all pull together on the same rope when it comes to digitization. Under no circumstances should those involved link Industry 4.0 only with the service area. It goes without saying that the service sector makes a large profit from machine networking and digitization, especially in the early stages. Nevertheless, it makes sense in the long term to include all the different areas of the company. If this is the case, then the departments can work together on a practical implementation plan.
Step 3 - Creating trust in a detailed test phase
As soon as the various departments have worked out an implementation plan together, the first practical experience can be gained. For this purpose, machine networking can best be tested extensively and effectively in the form of small pilot projects. Through these small pilot projects, the participants benefit from increased motivation. The positive effects of the conversion to Industry 4.0 are immediately apparent in such small projects. A pilot project ensures trust in the internal areas of the machine manufacturer and is particularly well received by the sales staff. It goes without saying that this person must be trained with regard to new digital products that can result from networking. After all, it is helpful if sales staff can later present a convincing message to customers and give minor explanations about digital products. As part of this testing and training process, all obstacles on the way to complete machine networking and Industry 4.0 should be removed. In addition, a pilot project helps those involved lose their fear of the new and gain their first experience.
Step 4 - Ensure long-term success through optimal networking strategy
Following the extensive practical tests and pilot projects, goals and visions can be adapted once again and a long-term corporate strategy in the field of digitization can be defined. On a strategy paper, the participants define the added value for the entire company and the final goal of machine networking. This strategy also specifies when and which customers are to be digitally serviced. In addition, the networking strategy defines the extent to which customers are to participate in the future costs of machine networking - i.e. which pricing model should stand behind the new digital products.
Step 5 - Preparation for Industry 4.0 in the company
Change management is an essential part of the preparation for digitization within the company. Behaviours and truths that have been valid for decades must be replaced by new ones. Machine networking and Industry 4.0 are not just about introducing a new technology. Rather, the company is concerned with the transformation to be carried out from a classic product supplier to a modern, digitally positioned solution provider. For this reason, it is important that the entire management of the company pulls together. This applies in particular to the service and sales departments, because all agencies and branches also need support with regard to the changeover. In addition, it is of the utmost importance that a common and clear communication with the company's customers is agreed upon.
Step 6 - Networking with customers via the machines
As a rule, a medium-sized mechanical engineering company has between 100 or more 1,000 customers. The challenge for the organization to digitize the complete communication channels to the customer is huge. For example, a company might need 3 months to network with just one customer and his machines. If this company has 100 such customers, machine networking would take about 25 years. Such a time span is clearly too long and usually far too cost-intensive. Fortunately, companies have modern practical examples and efficient digitization tools at their disposal. These repeatedly prove that the implementation of Industry 4.0 does not have to be time-consuming and costly.
Step 7 - Adapt and learn
The complete digitization of the hand in hand processes between the manufacturers of the machines and the machine operators is still a learning field. The previous networking experience in the industry is mostly limited to the proprietary Teleservice connections. Unfortunately, these connections are not 100 % suitable for modern Industry 4.0 and are not entirely effective. As part of a step-by-step approach, which for example begins with modern remote service, the companies involved do not miss the boat and make step-by-step progress in machine networking. In recent times in particular, the trend in digitalization has been to network not just a few machines, but entire production plants. This means that the machine operator benefits most from networking.