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Integrated Automation, Motion & Drives

Mechanical engineering is leaving the car industry flat-footed

Lot size 1 is the keyword for customized products. Mechanical and plant engineering have long been familiar with this requirement and are exploiting the opportunities offered by digitization. The car makers prefer to continue, for the time being, with mass production.

05 Dec. 2017
Claudia Witte
Mechanical engineering is leaving the car industry flat-footed

The hope that the changes will perhaps be minor after all seems to be persisting. The German Industry 4.0 Index 2017, which the consulting firm Staufen compiles with its digital transformation specialist affiliate Digital Neonex , concludes that "despite all the progress, many companies are still playing for time." The automotive industry in particular is currently showing little interest in flexible manufacturing and customized products.

While mechanical and plant engineering, which has always been dealing with special customer requirements, is already (or close to) manufacturing 22% in lot size 1, more than a third of car makers say that customized production is not significant for their own company. The automotive sector still considers serial production as a decisive cost advantage. By contrast, more than 90% of machine manufacturers are convinced that customized solutions are becoming the standard. In the electrical industry, 77% of companies are also aware of the strategic importance of lot size 1.

Networked Industry 4.0 solutions score points with small and very small lot sizes, thanks to their enormous flexibility and minimal changeover times: Reprogramming instead of rebuilding is the motto here. At the same time, the field level is becoming increasingly intelligent, as connected components (can) integrate a large number of functions that can in turn be controlled by software. Thanks to advanced image recognition, handling, pick and place and many other modern automation applications can often operate largely autonomously – even given changing formats.