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Market survey about the engineering in the machinery industry

The differentiated role of software solutions as a competitive advantage for the machinery industry

How differentiated the role of software solutions as competitive advantage is make machine-builders clear in the current market survey about the engineering of the machine automation from Quest TechnoMarketing.

October 31st, 2014 - In the market survey the machine-builders evaluate to what extend software solutions at their machines are actually turned into important competitive advantages.  


For 92% of the machine-builders software solutions act as an important competitive advantage of their machines. This may not be surprising. However, the extent of these competitive advantages is differently determined.

The role of software solutions as competitive advantage in the machinery industry.

Software solutions at the machines mainly determine the competitive advantages according to half of the machine-builders. That highlights the role of software on the one hand and diminishes it on the other hand. That is why for the other half of the machine-builders such important role of software solutions is not provided yet (or still not).  


The sectors are also showing a different picture. The degree software solutions predominantly determine the competitive advantages ranges from 33% to 70%.

 

The machine-builders called also in great detail the competitive advantages by software solutions. There are seven emphases outlined as descending ranking according to their denominations' frequency.

“Machines are more flexibly adaptable to customer requirements"

The flexibility provides two aspects. The machine-builder may more easily adapt the machine to customer requests by software. And the end-user may easily convert the machine to different products and formats via software.

  • “Machines are more flexibly adaptable to customer requests.“ (Packaging machines)

  • „We supply our own control system solution. It is very important for the customer that we can provide a customized software solution of our own independently from third parties“. (Building/glass/ceramic machines)

  • „The machine may be adapted very fast to individual items and different functions by software. In the past this was only possible by a mechanical conversion generating high costs and downtimes for the machine“. (Printing/paper handling machines)

  • „Many customers demand software to carry out flexible adaptations. We provide e.g. the optimization of the machine partly by up-dates based on the customer experiences and partly by directly enhancing the performance of the machine“. (Wood processing machines)

Operating benefits: “Support by software with complex settings”

  • „Support by software with the complex settings of the machine control system.“ (Rubber/plastics machines)

  • „The functionality of the machines is checked by software, e.g. how the machine is operated and how the functions are carried out. So a lot of software is required.“ (Wood processing machines)

  • „A service-friendly operation was ensured by software: The machine has an automatic detection of the configuration. There are many small things for relieving the operator's work. That is important because in pharmaceutical industry there are various levels of operator knowledge. Everything has to be documented, even each access.“ (Food processing machines)

  • „The control interface e.g. there is a structure and a menu for operating panels with the setting “flexible” so that one can diagnose and operate by special functions that carry out the work and which are provided by software.“ (Robotics and automation)

  • „We develop of our own the operator interface with display elements that facilitate operating. We only get the hardware from our supplier.“ (Machine tools)

  • „We provide more settings, adjustment and process parameters by software. Even the graphic user interface for the starting process sets us somewhat apart.“ (Textile machines)

Increase of performance of the machine: “… because it is faster and more wear-resistant”

Special control and open loop algorithms are the focal point when increases of the machine's performances at the end-users are concerned.

  • „We have replaced the drive actuators including the complete mechanics through simple drives and their motion by software. So we can exceed limits compared with the pure mechanical solution providing us benefits because it is faster and more wear-resistant. We operate with direct drive at this point.“ (Machine tools)

  • “Many processes are controlled by sophisticated software algorithms.“ (Packaging machines)

  • „There are benefits in regard to the synchronization of the conveyer systems. Two different conveyer systems are running into one system. The slaughter cattles are hanging in distances of 40 cm being processed. If the handover does not work to 100%, congestions will happen.“ (Food processing machines)

Integration advantages: “…not always starting at Adam and Eve”

  • „In particular regarding interfaces, i.e. the combination of robotics via PLC and Scada, it is crucial to harmonize the communication between the related components and not always starting at Adam and Eve. So we do not need any longer to program the communication to the machine, in fact, we only parameterize this communication. We provided ready modules on both sides. Although we produce customized machines, we still have under control our engineering costs, regardless MES interfacing or energy monitoring are concerned. We control these issues via software.“ (Building/glass/ceramic machines)

  • „We can combine the automation degree with the automation at the end-user. Our machine is always part of a system at the customer and has to be integrated. To be able to determine the interfaces is a unique selling proposition. Competitors are not able to do so.“ (Rubber/plastics machines)

  • „Ability to communicate with superordinate system.“ (Robotics and automation)

Higher product quality: “Software solutions are involved at the high quality of paper…”

  • „Software solutions are involved at the high quality of the paper surface such as the paper's smoothness and its uniformity. Also for avoiding sips of pressure (when two rollers are pressing and shaping the paper), we developed special solutions. Or regarding winding technology to avoid shiny spots and etchings on the paper.“ (Printing/paper handling machines)

  • „Software belongs to the machine. We provide competitive advantages by evaluations, e.g. how comfortable and fast data are displayed that are crucial for the quality of the coffee roasting. Is also a feature to provide MES but that also offers our biggest competitor. In contrast, the smaller competitors offer only rudiments of this feature." (Food processing machines)

  • „We offer solutions that no competitor does and that is often realized by software, e.g. we provide winding machines with automatic tracking of the right tension.“ (Rubber/plastics machines)

Higher availability: „Good software decides in 5 minutes about the break-down's end“

  • „This may be a good HMI solution or the functionality provided by software. On the one hand the competitor buys the same product and may produce the same production. However, if the software is written badly, the duration of a breakdown is determined by the process. With 30-50 axes the service man is busy two hours to reset the axes. On the other hand good software decides in 5 minutes about the end of the breakdown by pushing a button. That makes a huge difference because who had written software 20 years ago and who writes it today knows that today a diagnosis is totally different. Today diagnosis is part of the software installation. One does not see that at a glance, however, that becomes apparent in the event of a breakdown.“ (Robotics and automation)

Improved process control: „… application providing run time costs of the machine“

  • „We have an application e.g. that shows the run time costs of the machine: what are the costs of the grinding disks, the electricity, and the water. A module compares 40 different tools and from different suppliers. All these costs can be made visible.“ (Building/glass/ceramic machines)  

 

The Quest study „the engineering of the automation technology at the machines until 2017 in the German machinery industry“ provides further detailed results. Quest TechnoMarketing interviewed 23% of the machine-builder in 10 sectors with 100 and more employees in the middle of 2014.

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