INDUSTRIAL EQUIPMENT INTEGRATED ORGANIZATIONS: Working as one improves industrial-equipment makers’ competitiveness
With increasingly sophisticated products, supply chains and customer expectations,
industrial-equipment manufacturers are experiencing intense pressure to deliver. Compass spoke with Cambashi founder Mike Evans about strategies to manage the industry’s growing complexity.
COMPASS: What challenges are industrial-equipment makers facing?
MIKE EVANS: Machine builders must accelerate time-to-market of new machines while reducing costs and ensuring greater safety and reliability. They must also comply with strict standards and stringent regulations.
Customers also demand that today’s machines do more than ever before, with advanced monitoring, sensors and automation bringing ever-increased functionality. This increased complexity is challenging to manage and makes it harder to compete effectively.
Like most businesses today, industrial-equipment makers also have to connect within and beyond their enterprises on a global scale. Many companies that internally managed sales, design, engineering and installation now outsource these specializations. But coordinating multiple streams of information is problematic. If these streams remain unconnected, labor and capital are wasted through repetition of work and errors in engineering and manufacturing.
How can industrial-equipment manufacturers manage complexity to deliver a better customer experience?
ME: Companies are moving to customer-centric teams where skills and tasks are organized around customers’ needs. On behalf of their customers, they have to make and install machines that have 100% operational uptime.
That’s a big order. What strategies can help manage it?
ME: It definitely requires an integrated working methodology that allows customers to see exactly what they are buying, often simulated in the context of their own operations before the machines are built. That leads to fewer mistakes and more satisfied customers. Within an integrated working methodology, all parts of the enterprise touch. Customer, supply chain, product data, mechatronics and software are all combined on one platform used by each and every stakeholder.
What are the commercial and technical advantages?
ME: Synchronizing requirements drives the efficiency, which allows more functionality to be incorporated into machines while delivering improved output. This virtuous circle is completed when improved profitability allows greater investment to replace labor with capital.
Technology is the enabler. Properly deployed, advanced and integrated technology leads to greater precision, remote monitoring and machines that can, for example, automatically compensate for wear to improve accuracy. These advances lead to more output from machines for the same or lower cost. Connecting the activities of the extended enterprise also eliminates waste. An engineer may be able to support more than one site, for example, because they can oversee and optimize machine operations and maintenance remotely.
What types of companies can best use this type of integration?
ME: Many people assume that this is exclusively the preserve of large companies, but small companies and startups with little or no structure in place can also reap the benefits. There are always opportunities, and the rewards can be revolutionary in terms of output, productivity and competitive advantages.
“INDUSTRIAL-EQUIPMENT MAKERS HAVE TO CONNECT WITHIN AND BEYOND THEIR ENTERPRISES ON A GLOBAL SCALE.”
What about advances in the machines themselves?
ME: Mechanical, technological and workflow interfaces are becoming standardized, while machines and the systems and people that make them are fitting together more effectively. Academics are actively looking at how software, electronics, pneumatics, and connections between machines, systems and people can be further integrated. This is a major challenge that, when fully solved, will ensure absolute consistency and predictability across disciplines.
What do machine makers need to do to position themselves for these trends?
ME: Implement a strong organizational foundation that touches all functions. Machine builders must organize themselves to take advantage of technology as it becomes available. Companies that have implemented policies that join their organizations seamlessly with their products are best positioned for future success.
Mike Evans, the founder of Cambashi, specializes in the economic impact of software applications on engineering, manufacturing and automation. His company, which integrates the activities of a management and marketing consultancy, an industry analyst firm, and a market research company, works as an independent advisor to leading IT companies and government agencies worldwide.