Machine builders, typically, are horizontally-aligned asset assemblers and their business relies on subcontracting most, or many, of their parts. They have less control over component pricing and if the component is supplied by a small number of suppliers who raise prices in unison, they are hit hard. But for most machinery makers the markets are vast. In machine tools and manufacturing machinery, suppliers seek “niche specialisation” – for example, a machine that offers hybrid 5-axis CNC metal cutting and additive manufacturing combined – to appeal to the modern sub-contractors’ needs. Due to their high cost and high competition, machinery manufacturers need frictionless trade and must understand Industry 4.0 – a term they invented – more completely.
Machine builders must seek the X factor
Like modern cars, machinery builders often have access to the same quality certified electromechanical components available to the competition: servo-motors, drives, spindles, power converters and tooling. So what distinguishes the machinery manufacturer? Price and added value layers of “Industry 4.0” tools like predictive maintenance and tool management are among the USPs.
Ultra-efficient manufacturing is essential to be price-competitive when global competitors offer very similar products but sales levels must be maintained and new customers found. MES solutions reveal bottlenecks and show where expensive stock is waiting for assembly, reducing production costs.
Managing complex assemblies
Most machine builders outsource a large proportion of the machine components to suppliers. Increasing production volumes means more complex delivery schedules and bigger demands on suppliers for both delivery and price.
Many components of a good manufacturing execution system help machinery builders to manage and schedule complex assemblies: Resource management, definition management, scheduling, execution management, data collection and alerts.
Competition and frictionless trade
Firms want regulatory alignment to smooth the process of trade in often expensive machinery. Tariffs punish machinery builders because, while the unit price is high, there is a lot of competition so less room to absorb tariffs into the price and secure sales. In this crowded industry, machine builders are seeking greater “niche specialisation” to compete effectively.
Tariffs and taxes make expensive capital goods more costly. One of the few actions manufacturers that want to export can take to keep prices competitive is to develop the leanest production system they can. MES and shop floor data visibility is crucial to that.
Digitalisation is most valid to machinery and equipment, of all the manufacturing sectors. Why? This is where we can see the productivity gains most clearly. Despite its heritage, many time-served engineers who have built and serviced machines all their lives don’t know what Industry 4.0 means.
Education will involve using MES and ERP systems together with machine programming, to understand the full capability, savings and benefits of this greater connectivity.
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