The industrial equipment industry is fast reaching a position where after-sales services generate more profit than equipment sales.
The industry has been slow to respond and many well-known companies are struggling to satisfy both customer and stakeholder needs.
For industrial equipment companies, significant value comes from overcoming the growing complexity of service provision for custom and other machinery.
Data on many non-modular parts, together with diverse bills of materials are generated but then 'lost' and unavailable for collaborative working.
Customers need to know, and have it proved to them, that their equipment will perform to agreed specification and that efficient servicing and global spares availability will ensure that their investment was a wise one.
Custom and standard machines need to be more economically and effectively made and maintained. As a result, information about them and their histories, part numbers, service records and engineering changes must be centralised.
A move towards greater modularity is also crucial because without it, businesses suffer both technically and in terms of sales.
Many of the practical problems of designing and engineering industrial equipment have been solved. The technology used everyday by engineers is years ahead of what many other businesses dream of.
Where else is 3D simulation so prevalent and well used? At the high-end, industrial equipment is 'faultless' through effective virtual testing.
With up to 50,000 drawings for a single machine and many more design iterations to be considered, a silent revolution in data handling and more specifically in engineering change notification has taken place in the last 10 years.
It is a pity therefore that these amazing advances in machine engineering have not been mirrored in other areas of the industry. It still takes weeks to generate a sales quote and very often it will be both technically and financially inaccurate.
Currently, weeks of work are also needed to produce customer equipment configurations and making changes to them often produces confusion and errors both with seller and buyer.
This is because data has been built up in non-connected silos and company knowledge, one of its greatest assets, is often not available.
Given this situation it is not surprising that services are inefficiently delivered. With poor access to often-inaccurate data, services inevitably suffer with significant negative consequences for brand reputations and profit.
Within this context business expansion and product innovation are jeopardised. The decision to grow a business organically or by acquisition needs to include and assess the data implications of that growth.
Growing a business in a 'new' territory without the benefit of a unified engineering backbone involves significant and often unseen and therefore unconsidered risks.
Providing everybody in an organisation with current, accurate data on all products, variations and servicing needs would achieve a revolution in most industrial equipment companies. Individuals would be able to make better engineering and sourcing decisions by having correct information available within and beyond the enterprise.
This encourages technical and commercial innovation and business expansion as well as providing more information on which to base 'buy or make' decisions.
A single source of data and lifelike virtual product definitions empowers people by helping them to communicate and innovate collaboratively. It also encourages concurrent working practices that accelerate time to market and avoid duplication of effort while reducing business risk and waste.
With one single source, OEM and customer experiences are revolutionised. Total transparency of information means that there is no lost data in hidden local silos.
All information is current accurate and universally available. 3DEXPERIENCE Platform technologies being developed by Dassault Systèmes R&D teams not only simulate machine tools and the products they make but will soon also animate visualisations of how products are transformed during processing. This level of advancement is only available to companies that have first unified their data.
Another technological breakthrough available to companies that have achieved a single source of data greatly simplifies mechatronics evolution and documentation. With a large percentage of development in this area it has become crucial to house all engineering disciplines within a single unified system.
When design, electrical systems, motion, multi domains, 3D animation and engineering simulation are seamlessly integrated, mechatronic development immediately benefits.
Many more concept ideas can be quickly tested for validity and their results digitally demonstrated. This allows customers and stakeholders throughout the extended enterprise to be more fully involved for predictable and therefore better outcomes.
A foundation stone of progress in the industrial equipment industry is unification of engineering, production and after sales services. This brings immediate technical and commercial benefits and enables companies to rapidly implement future additional developments.
The complexity of implementing single data source systems has been simplified with pre-configured "Single Source for Speed" Industry Solution Experiences.
With multiple links to ERP systems value is also added to transactional backbones by delivering the accurate and up-to-date data that leads to tighter financial control. Cost per component, within a system, is just one of the revelations available.
A single backbone for all engineering disciplines linked in real-time to ERP systems is an easily configured, practical and currently available solution for industrial equipment companies.
The dream of generating budgets in 10 minutes and full quotes in half an hour is a reality for its users. Servicing, BOMs and the complete process of conceiving, designing, making and maintaining products within an expanding global market is greatly simplified using a Single Source for Speed.
Implementation frees up time for the whole enterprise to innovate. That's good for the enterprise, its customers and the industrial equipment industry as it faces new challenges and turns them into opportunities.
[Christian Ebel is Vice President, Product Lifecycle Management Value Solutions, Dassault Systèmes.]