The digitisation of the German economy is already in full swing and will cover more and more areas with an ever-increasing intensity in the near future. In order for German companies to remain competitive, it is already important today not to oversleep trends. These include big data, cloud computing and the Internet of Things. Within the ECEP project, Implisense is currently developing a monitoring tool for the detection of trends in user-defined business segments. As part of this development, Implisense has investigated the degree of digitisation of mechanical engineering, one of Germany’s key industries.

Large differences between industries

In order to put the digitisation of German mechanical engineering into context, Implisense first calculated the digitisation of the entire German company landscape using its data mining approach. The mechanical engineering sector (C28) occupies only a central position in the upper mid-range, with a share of 53 percent of companies that have sufficient evidence of the digitization of their business models. Unsurprisingly, top digitisation leaders are companies from the IT sector, especially information service providers (J63) and the provision of services in information technology (J62). The insurance industry (K65) is also well positioned in the digital arena, due to the increasing use of Big Data technologies. The leading sector in the manufacturing sector is the printing, audio, video and data media (C18) and electrical engineering (C26 and C27).  More surprisingly, the pharmaceutical industry (C21) is also experiencing a higher degree of digitization than mechanical engineering.

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How do you actually recognize digitization in mechanical engineering?

Digitisation is a very abstract concept. First of all, the question arises how digitization in mechanical engineering can be defined, recognized and measured by means of our data mining process.

Implisense works with statistical models of terms that correlate particularly strongly with an over-theme. These models are calculated implicitly by our algorithm, which calculates the significant terms on the basis of a group of companies using, for example, a leading technology of digitization. Using an iterative approach, more and more digitizing features can be identified and included in the model.  In this way, our system can define and recognize abstract topics such as digitization without prior knowledge and without time-consuming manual preparation. The final model for the recognition of digitization in mechanical engineering (see Dendogram) includes, among other things, the following:

  • Characteristics that provide information on accompanying processes of the digitization of machine builders, in particular Automation and Robotization
  • Characteristics or indicators for software and data infrastructure, such as the focus on Big Data Analytics, naming data warehousing, the likely use of APIs.
  • Leading-edge technologies and leading brands in digitization, such as Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), a technology for the digital monitoring and control of technical processes, or Eplan, an engineering software provider, Wonderware, a company that provides SCADA and MES (Manufacturing Execution System) software, and PCS7, a Distributed Control System (DCS) from Siemens for “end-to-end automation”.  
  • the digitization of important business functions. The digitization of distribution channels (indicators: e-commerce, social media, community, chat), the optimization of the user experience (topic indicators: apps and embedded) as well as data-driven corporate management (indicators for business intelligence and web analytics) seem to play a particularly important role.

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Pump builder as digitization leader?

With this model we were able to identify 8,673 companies out of 16,300 machine builders known to us, in which a sufficient number of these indicators can be found. (Firms with less than 500,000 Euro turnover per year were not included).

In a differentiated examination of the digitisation of sub-sectors of mechanical engineering, the manufacture of pumps and compressors (C28.13) and the manufacture of office machines (C28.23) stand out particularly well. While the strong proximity of computer and printer manufacturers to digitization is hardly surprising, this result makes pump manufacturers pay attention. In fact, however, the pump industry is particularly characterized by an increasing number of computer-aided networking through embedded hardware/software systems. Not only integrated systems make this industry innovative, but also the development and distribution of apps to improve customer service. A prime example is Jung Pumpen GmbH, which offers four apps at the same time, including support for product purchases and as a maintenance tool for the acquired pumps.

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Ruhr area as a digital developing country

The high proportion of digitizing companies in the Dresden area is remarkable. This could be due to the focus on microelectronics there, as well as to the innovative impetus from the flourishing start-up scene there. It is a small defeat for Berlin as the established IT start-up capital of Germany, which is not doing well in this analysis. As expected, the rest of eastern Germany also appears to be little digitized in the mechanical engineering sector.

The companies from Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Hesse, the engineering strongholds of our republic, are on average well prepared for future developments in the digital sector.

 

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The low significance of this topic in the Ruhr area is remarkable, especially as a region with a traditionally strong connection to mechanical engineering. There could be a clear need for further action in this area in the future and there could be a great potential for improvement in digitization.