Benchmark report Four key figures reveal the state of automation in the tool, pattern and mould making industry

Editor: Alexander Stark

Germany — In order to ensure the competitiveness of German-speaking tool, pattern and mould makers as well as series manufacturers, Marktspiegel Werkzeugbau conducts an anonymous comparison of companies across the industry. The current analysis of the experts provides an insight into the state of automation in the industry.

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The benchmark figures enable companies from the sector to obtain a holistic and practical assessment of their own competitiveness on an anonymous basis.
The benchmark figures enable companies from the sector to obtain a holistic and practical assessment of their own competitiveness on an anonymous basis.
(Source: Public Domain / Unsplash)

The initiators of Marktspiegel Werkzeugbau started out in 2019 with the aim of systematically making companies better and more competitive by providing them with industry insights. Meanwhile, they present a comprehensive monthly report. Around 940 volunteer hours — this figure illustrates how motivated the members of the executive and supervisory boards of the Marktspiegel Werkzeugbau are to ensure the success of the benchmark initiative. The VDWF — Association of German Tool and Mouldmakers, the German Association for Pattenr and Mould Making as well as the Moulding Expo trade fair team are significantly promoting the initiative as exclusive partners. Furthermore, the following cooperation partners are convinced of the concept and implementation of the Market Mirror Benchmark: Paul Horn, OSG, GF Machining Solutions, Kern Microtechnik, Tecnorm, ID Factory Solutions, maiergroup versicherungsmakler, Pfleghar, Kuteno Kunststofftechnik Nord, Kunststoffinstitut Lüdenscheid, Innonet Kunststoff, IQtemp, Konstruktionsbüro Hein, Evomecs, Auchkomm Unternehmenskomm Kommunikation, Pergler Media, Bestform Marketing & Sales Solutions, messingzangen.de, Claho, Gindumac and Tebis.

Marktspiegel Werkzeugbau eG is run on a voluntary basis by the four members of the board: (from left) Benedikt Ruf (Gindumac), Prof. Thomas Seul (VDWF e.V.), Jens Lüdtke (Tebis) and Dr Claus Hornig (Claho). Melanie Fritsch (Marktspiegel Werkzeugbau) is the cooperative's only full-time employee and is responsible for marketing and sales.
Marktspiegel Werkzeugbau eG is run on a voluntary basis by the four members of the board: (from left) Benedikt Ruf (Gindumac), Prof. Thomas Seul (VDWF e.V.), Jens Lüdtke (Tebis) and Dr Claus Hornig (Claho). Melanie Fritsch (Marktspiegel Werkzeugbau) is the cooperative's only full-time employee and is responsible for marketing and sales.
(Source: Marktspiegel Werkzeugbau eG)

The MW initiators enable companies from the sector to obtain a holistic and practical assessment of their own competitiveness on an anonymous basis. For this purpose, an index was developed to make their own development measurable and to be able to compare the companies with each other.

Digitalisation and automation are on the rise

In the current benchmark report, the Marktspiegel examined the status of automation in toolmaking. The latest data evaluations at Marktspiegel Werkzeugbau revealed that 71 percent of member companies from the tool, pattern and mould making sector currently have no idea how they want to deal with the topic of digitalisation.

Jens Lüdtke, member of the board of directors of Marktspiegel Werkzeugbau eG and part of the three-person team of experts at Marktspiegel, is often on site at companies in his consulting work as head of Tebis Consulting. From his point of view, the challenge for company managements in the first step is to find out where their own company should develop. Important questions that every responsible person must ask themselves are, for example: “What will my company be doing in ten years? What products do we manufacture? Which customers do we work with? And: What does the business model look like?”

The path to Industry 4.0 begins with a clear vision and a strategy consistently derived from it. Otherwise, there is a danger of pure actionism. And that is often not very effective.

Jens Lüdtke

For Lüdtke, the benchmark evaluations from the 2019 annual financial statements show a positive trend overall in the area of digitalisation and automation. Thus, 77.4 percent of the companies stated that they already use specific modern tools for digitalisation. These include, for example, augmented reality solutions for quality control, software-supported and networked tool management, virtual reality solutions for tool acceptance and the use of mobile devices in production. For Lüdtke, the result shows that individual tools are more tangible for the entrepreneurs and can thus be integrated more easily than comprehensive overall solutions.

Automation is gaining in importance

The next key figure also shows that the industry is on the right track. Around 58 percent of the companies that took part in the Toolmaking Benchmark Market Survey in 2020 stated that they already use palletising, robots or handling systems. For Lüdtke, this is a solid figure that proves that automation is becoming increasingly important. “Automation solutions are established and widespread in tool, model and mould making companies and are a decisive factor for the future,” reports Lüdtke. “I am also certain that this percentage will be significantly higher in the near future.”

The use of automation solutions means that more productivity can be achieved with fewer machines and less manpower. And those who achieve higher machine utilisation benefit from lower machine hourly rates and thus also from greater competitiveness. Even if the machine investment is higher due to automation.

According to the expert, flexibility is also a big gain. With palletising, robots or handling systems, companies are able to flexibly interrupt machining on the machine and exchange workpieces — without much loss of efficiency. For this reason, before making a new purchase, entrepreneurs should always check constructively whether a machine with automation might be a more economical option in the long term.

In order for automation to take hold in companies, the prerequisites must first be created. For example, around 81 percent of the companies already have a set-up process system or a zero-point clamping system in use. Lüdtke explains: “The set-up process system is a technological basis for the sensible use of automation.”

External makeready process not yet sufficiently established

According to the expert's assessment, 81 percent is a promising share. However, Lüdtke sees a need for action in another area: “Many of the companies have a makeready process system, but do not yet use it for the external makeready process. I therefore recommend pushing ahead with the external set-up process and thus creating the basis, both organisationally and technologically, for the expansion of automation.”

According to Lüdtke, companies have developed noticeably in the area of digitalisation and automation in recent years. Overall, this area is becoming more and more important in his opinion. Since Industry 4.0 has a significant impact on competitiveness and thus on securing the future of one's own company, his advice to entrepreneurs is to continue to keep these topics in focus as a matter of urgency.

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