Go to homepage

Process automation: The future of mechanical engineering


Tried and tested manufacturing processes are reaching their limits

Taking a closer look at the manufacturing business in Europe, we see that already in Germany, there are around 20,000 mechanical engineering companies, which employ approximately 1.36 million people. The 100 largest machine manufacturers alone generated total sales of around 228 billion euros in 2018 (find more data here).

Despite these numbers, many machine manufacturers still work with processes that are no longer up to date: Complex text modules in Word, long Excel lists, or web forms that are not user-friendly are just a few examples. The often heavily paper-dominated processes are cumbersome and consume a lot of time and energy.

In particular, during the Coronavirus pandemic, it became apparent that a digitalization boom was necessary. After all, there is no point in having state-of-the-art machines in the factory if a company has no answers to the following questions:

  • Which of my devices is running at capacity, and to what extent?

  • When do I need to replace a machine?

  • How frequently do individual machines break down?

  • Why do they break down?

But finding the answers is not the only challenge in the digital age.

Customers have new demands

Customer service has undergone significant changes in recent years due to digitalization. It is now possible to solve problems and inquiries via chat within a few minutes simply and comfortably. It is only logical that the customers of machine and plant manufacturers also have this expectation: They no longer want to place their questions and orders via service hotlines but rather be able to do everything online at any given time.

The competition is not resting on its laurels

Pressure is also coming from the competition. Large companies invest in process optimization and digital strategies, leaving smaller companies behind. New competitors that use digital business models and work faster are emerging on the scene.

High complexity due to many individual systems

To keep up, many machine manufacturers do not stop at digitalization. But digitalization is not the same thing as digital transformation. If department A uses one software, department B may already use another. In addition, over the years, a new business area may have been created, which again makes new demands, and the chaos is complete: Most companies work with a multitude of isolated systems, making it impossible to create continuous data flows.

The solution: A central platform for process automation

Unified digital transformation is therefore essential. This includes not only digitalization but also automation. Digitalization involves the transfer of existing processes or products from analog to digital. Automation consists of the transition from manual to automatic.

A strategic digital transformation includes both processes. As a result, processes and products are viewed in their overall context and not just selectively digitalized or automated.

Flowable, for example, offers such a platform for process automation. It enables manufacturing companies to digitally map, model, and optimize existing systems and processes. This increases their supply chain and customer service efficiency, leaving more time for core tasks.

Process automation in the manufacturing industry: The benefits

If you decide to automate your processes, this will mean a huge increase in efficiency. Some advantages include:

  • Supply chain optimization: With a dynamic platform like Flowable, machine and plant manufacturers can easily coordinate their supply chains, supplier background checks, and onboarding, as well as order fulfillment and resource planning.

  • Better quality management: Companies benefit from consistently high product quality thanks to predictive maintenance processes and automatic alerts that enable them to resolve problems quickly.

  • Personalized customer service: With process management platforms, you can create customer-facing portals with comprehensive self-service and digital help capabilities to increase customer satisfaction. These portals allow employees to provide digital after-sales support and manage assets' lifecycle online.

  • Accelerated sales and business development: In addition, manufacturing companies can easily digitalize and automate their sales processes via platforms like Flowable. It allows them to manage their entire pipeline through a single application and includes data and analytics from devices and new cross-selling and upselling opportunities.

  • Easy IoT automation: Business process automation platforms also provide machine builders with the opportunity to digitally map their machines with IoT connectivity, coordinate their operations, and use the collected data to define processes, take predictive actions, and extend equipment lifecycles.

You can find more information on the benefits and functions of automation platforms here.

Conclusion: The time has come for process automation in the manufacturing industry

The manufacturing industry has changed significantly due to constant technological advancements and higher customer expectations. Therefore, it is important not only to focus on the digitalization or automation of single systems or processes but also to invest in a holistic strategy.

Following this approach is the key to saving costs in the long term. It also improves collaboration and facilitates customer support, resulting in improved performance across the company.

Talk with our experts about your requirements for a portal or platform solution. Our whitepaper provides an industry-specific overview of all possible capabilities and solutions.

Lena Füller

Lena drives international editorial and strategic marketing topics including social media, customer references, whitepapers, eBooks and the blog, where she writes about technological trends and digital transformation.