Mechanical and plant engineering is one of the most important and strongest industrial sectors in Germany. Its high export share is an expression of its worldwide success. At the same time, the industry is affected like few others by the flipside of success, namely increasing complexity in products and processes. At present, it has to process the changes in its automotive customer industry and adapt to the new possibilities offered by increasing digitalisation. On the one hand, this forces companies to improve the basics such as strategic product planning, variant management and modular design, and on the other hand, they should not miss the implementation of agile development methods, Industry 4.0, etc.
Mechanical engineering and manufacturing of industrial devices is the traditional industry in Germany. High quality engineering meets excellent production expertise. In many cases, " technophilia and over-engineering" on one hand and a lack of market structuring on the other hand lead to products where functionality and costs do not match the market. Moreover, it becomes much more difficult to defend the position of technological leadership against Asian competitors and secure value chains in a high-wage country. Proven concepts and methods such as stratetic product planning and road-mapping must be consistently adapted. Targeting the conscious use of new opportunities derived from topics such as Industry 4.0, agile product development and operational excellence is essential.
A multitude of technically extremely challenging process functions form the whole process that must be realized by meeting exactly defined boundary conditions. In (large scale) plant and equipment engineering numerous technical components are combined to an overall system of precisely specified process functions. Contrary to a configurable and automatable series production as in automotive engineering or manufacturing of industrial devices, this sector solely comprises project business (number of pieces 1 on plant level). From creating a specific proposal all the way to the final assembly at the construction site, such a project demands mastering a significantly higher complexity of order processing. The processes are characterized by complex engineer- or design-to-order requirements. Like no other industry, plant and equipment engineering is in dire need of a holistic Complexity Management approach, which takes into account the future challenges of smart production plants during times of increasing globalization.
A manufacturer of energy systems had difficulties in recent years to earn money with the sale of new systems. The budgeted development and manufacturing costs as well as the delivery times were exceeded for every order. The reason was the extensive modifications of existing assemblies with each new order. For this reason, a modular system has now been developed to increase the proportion of standard elements and minimize the effects of customer-specific modifications. Based on a use case based market segmentation, requirements and functions were derived, different solution alternatives were developed and evaluated, the modules were sectioned and developed and a variant planning was implemented. In parallel, the organizational structure was adapted and the holders of new roles were trained accordingly. These measures made it possible to significantly improve the cost position as well as the adherence to delivery dates.
A manufacturer of packaging machines had run into difficulties due to excessively high product costs and a lack of adherence to delivery dates. The lot sizes of the purchased parts were often one with correspondingly high prices and delivery times, while at the same time the final specifications were determined very late by the customer. In order to increase the share of standard parts, a variant adjustment was first carried out and based on this a new modular system was defined. The sales processes as well as the organization in the development department were also adapted. As a result, the organization at the end of the project was significantly more competitive and profitable than before.