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Digitalization The Paver's Favorite is Cloud Computing

Editor: Janina Seit

The German industry is making good progress towards digitization. Cloud computing, IIoT and big data analytics are the favorite topics, announce Bitkom and Autodesk. CAD software is used in most companies.

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On the road to digitization: 39 % of German industrial companies are networking their production with IIoT solutions.
On the road to digitization: 39 % of German industrial companies are networking their production with IIoT solutions.
(Source: Pixabay / CC0 )

In German industry, the digital technologies are already widely used. Three out of four companies in the manufacturing industry (75 %) use cloud computing, 39 % connect their production with IIoT applications and 30 % analyze large amounts of data by means of Big Data Analytics. Approximately one in four (27 %) companies use 3D printing and one in five (18 %) uses robotics. Artificial intelligence is still in its infancy: on average, only five percent use AI-based applications.

This was the result of a representative survey conducted by Bitkom Research on behalf of the software provider Autodesk, which surveyed 505 companies in the manufacturing industry with 20 or more employees. “The digitization of the industry has gained momentum," said Dr. Axel Pols, Managing Director of Bitkom Research, at the presentation of the results. Companies use digital technologies to accelerate product development, optimize manufacturing processes or increase the adaptability of their organization.

Process Small Batch Sizes More Efficiently with CAP and CAM

19 % of companies analyze machine and sensor data in order to avoid production downtime. The development is driven by large companies with 500 employees or more. For example, 72 % use Big Data Analytics, 67 % use IIoT applications and 23 % use artificial intelligence.

Karl Osti, Industry Manager at Autodesk Germany: "In the manufacturing industry, special software solutions that enable companies to develop products and control manufacturing processes are essential". According to the survey, almost all companies (92 %) use computer-aided design (CAD) software in the development of new products. 60 % of the companies use Computer Aided Planning (CAP) for production planning. Applications for Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) is used by 52 %. CAM systems support the manufacturing process and implement design data in a machine-oriented manner.

Already 75 % of manufacturing companies rely on cloud computing. Less common is the use of open innovation platforms or AI applications.
Already 75 % of manufacturing companies rely on cloud computing. Less common is the use of open innovation platforms or AI applications.
(Source: Bitkom/Autodesk)

Osti: "With CAP and CAM technologies, manufacturing companies reduce throughput times for orders and can process small batches more efficiently". 41 % of the companies use software for product lifecycle management (PLM). PLM systems make it possible to collect and evaluate data throughout the entire lifecycle of a product. One in three companies uses ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software, which enables them to plan operational resources such as personnel, materials, transport and storage capacity as well as the necessary financial resources.

Agility is the Order of the Day

In the face of digitization and globalization, the adaptability of companies has become an important success factor, which is discussed under the roof of agility. “Due to the high technological dynamics, agility requires some efforts on part of the manufacturing companies," Osti stressed. According to the survey, almost two out of every three companies (64 %) consider the agility of their organization as an important topic. Three out of four (74 %) state that high agility is important during product development.

On behalf of Autodesk, Bitkom Research has therefore developed an agility index that describes the adaptability of the German industry. The index includes 13 indicators with the categories significance/strategy, structure, processes, leadership and corporate culture. With 66 points out of a maximum of 100, German industry achieves an average index value. For example, 54 % of the companies stated that their process organization for the construction and design of products is strongly oriented towards their customers – an important feature of agile structures.

52 % rely on cross-functional teams to integrate different skills at an early stage. In addition, 43 % of the companies already use so-called incremental methods such as Scrum or Kanban. On the other hand, a quarter (26 %) are still developing mainly according to the conventional waterfall model and another quarter are using both methods to the same extent. Companies can use agile methods to accelerate the development process and present solutions to their customers at an early stage, which are then gradually improved and avoid costly mistakes," Osti said.

3D printing Accelerates Product Development

3D printing accelerates product development
3D printing accelerates product development
(Source: Pixabay / CC0 )

A cluster analysis of the study results showed that 42 % of respondents can be considered as "pioneers" on the way to becoming an agile company and 23 % as "laggards". A comparison shows that the agility pioneers are more innovative, use digital technology more frequently and attach greater importance to the qualification of their employees. For instance, IIoT applications, which are important in the manufacturing industry, are used by 45 % of the agility trailblazers, but only by 31 % of the latecomers. 32 % of the pioneers regularly use 3D printing technologies to create prototypes. Among the laggards, however, it is only 11 % that use this technology. “Building prototypes with 3D printing technology accelerates product development and reduces costs," Osti said.

In the medium to long term, 3D printing could complement or even completely replace current production processes in certain areas. Agile companies also have a stronger focus on the skills of their employees: 72 % of the agility pioneers invest specifically in the training and further education of their employees to make them fit for the digital world. Among the laggards, however, it is only 28 %.

Agility Does Not Come at the Push of a Button

The results of the study show a close correlation between agility, innovation capacity and the degree of digitization of the companies surveyed. “Companies do not achieve high agility at the push of a button," says Bitkom Research Managing Director Pols. On the way to an agile, flexible organization, companies should gradually adapt their structures and processes.

At the same time, employees and managers need to embrace an agile mindset where they welcome change rather than perceive it as a threat. In return, they are given more responsibility and better training opportunities. Last but not least, digital technologies applied in the different divisions of the company contribute to flexibility and allow to quickly respond to the different needs of employees, customers and external partners.

This article was first published by Industry of Things.

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