Study on digitalisation in mechanical engineering Is the digital transformation in mechanical engineering companies stalling?

Editor: MA Alexander Stark

Digitalisation in mechanical engineering offers great opportunities, but also poses challenges for companies. How far has the digital transformation progressed so far? A new study by Item Industrietechnik provides answers.

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In its new study on digitalisation in mechanical engineering, Item sheds light on the situation. The participants in the study estimate that the workload of design engineers will increase in the future, as will the specific demand for IT skills.
In its new study on digitalisation in mechanical engineering, Item sheds light on the situation. The participants in the study estimate that the workload of design engineers will increase in the future, as will the specific demand for IT skills.
(Source: Public Domain / Pixabay )

How digital is mechanical engineering in 2020? What is the status quo in different countries? Has the digital transformation already taken place? In its new study, Item Industrietechnik provides the latest information on the current developments in digital engineering. For this purpose, decision-makers in companies of different sizes were surveyed whose predominant business field is the design of solutions and operating equipment in mechanical engineering. To ensure comparability with the results of Item's 2018 study on the future of mechanical engineering, the participants were selected according to identical criteria.

The demands on designers are increasing

The 2018 Item study on the future of mechanical engineering already showed that digitalised processes and short throughput times are increasing the demands on the design of systems and equipment in mechanical engineering. This has not changed in 2020. Customers demand faster project execution due to the ready availability of 3D data. In addition, the focus is increasingly on reacting flexibly and at short notice to change requests.

The participants in the study estimate that the workload of design engineers will rise in the future, as will the specific demand for IT skills. 67 %, for example, believe that user skills in numerous software programmes will become even more important. Employees will increasingly have to perform coordination tasks and work more and more closely with project partners abroad. Corresponding language and communication skills are therefore in demand.

Intelligent software solutions such as the Item Engineering Tool can support this and create optimal conditions for successful collaboration:

  • For each project, the programme assigns an internationally unique project number. This way, designers can share their results with partners and colleagues worldwide.
  • The online 3D design software is available in several languages. It simplifies complex design tasks and speeds up work processes.
  • Projects can be changed as often as desired and the design results can be reproduced at any time.
  • Even standard tasks can be implemented more quickly than in classic CAD environments, for example. The results are a significant gain in time and an increase in work efficiency.

Integrate, expand and network

The results of the study support his statement. In future, an ideal design solution will be expected, among other things, to enable easy import and export of data. This is the only way to integrate new tools into existing software solutions and to expand programmes in a meaningful way. Modular systems with modular components offer numerous advantages in this context. “Cyber-physical construction kits and configurators can help to quickly and robustly combine relevant technologies into functional industrial systems,” explains Christian Maasem. “This allows the potentials of digitalisation to be used in a practical way and implemented at the required speed of innovation.”

Create new business models and secure competitive advantages

As in 2018, many companies are currently still hesitant to implement comprehensive digitalisation strategies. So far, individual measures have been defined and implemented. But the participants in the two Item studies agree that in the long term, only companies with an implemented digital strategy will achieve the efficiency and turnaround time that the market dictates.

A paradigm shift is necessary, replacing the prevailing document-based product development with advanced, more efficient processes and methods. At the same time, new business fields and forms of cooperation must also be developed.

Creating ideal design conditions

For example, the acquisition of expertise or direct cooperation with other companies offers SMEs in particular the chance to process even large orders efficiently and quickly. This requires outsourcing sub-steps and time-consuming design tasks to specialised providers. Suitable tools provide optimal support in managing these tasks. If companies create ideal design conditions, the ever-increasing demands of the industry can be met. Project times can be reduced and designers can devote themselves to their core tasks again.

In order to be able to assess the situation of mechanical engineering in France, Great Britain, Spain and the Czech Republic, Item also conducted a survey in these countries. The results showed that both German and French companies rate progress in the area of digitalisation in their country as mediocre to rather poor compared to other countries. In Germany, the fear of data theft plays a major role in this context.

The other countries, on the other hand, are less concerned with the fundamental requirements and concerns, but rather with the possibilities for improving work efficiency and simplifying existing IT solutions. It seems as if Germany is letting itself be thwarted by the fear of drastic changes and data misuse. Companies should rather recognise the opportunities and potentials of digitalisation, be proactive and implement targeted measures.

This article first appeared on our partner portal www.konstruktionspraxis.de

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