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The VDMA working group for large-scale plant construction reports that the decline in large-scale plant construction last year was almost entirely due to the sharp drop in demand for thermal power plants. By contrast, there was a significant increase in new orders for chemical plant, smelter and rolling mill construction. According to the working group’s spokesman Jürgen Nowicki, the intensive efforts to open up new business areas in digitalization, service and plant operation are also starting to bearing fruit.

All in all, the industry is better prepared for the digital change today than just a few years ago, adds the VDMA. These activities could improve margins by up to 10% over the next three years. The introduction of Industry 4.0 in large-scale plant construction should nevertheless be considered in a very differentiated manner, says Nowicki: "Companies have to develop individual approaches that take into account the respective business environment and customers’ wishes."

A study published last year by the consultancy Bearing Point indicates that plant and machine builders also have room for improvement in terms of service: the share of sales generated in this area was below 20% for just under half of the 61 companies surveyed. Many were nevertheless planning to score points with the introduction of digital service concepts. Digital inspection, digital customer portals, networked products, remote monitoring and predictive maintenance were some of the examples they mentioned.