Industrial equipment and machinery manufacturers are the cornerstone of the manufacturing industry. Building the technology used to increase efficiency in other businesses, industrial machinery builders have always been at the forefront of industrial innovation. Today, these changes are especially profound.


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The industry at the center of the transformation

The industrial machinery and equipment sector is one of the largest contributors to the manufacturing landscape in the world. For one, machinery manufacturers are the backbone of industrial nations such as the United States, China, Germany, and Japan, providing employment to millions of people (1.1 million in the US alone). But they also supply countless other industries (including themselves) with the technology to substantially increase efficiency, cut costs, and save energy. From farmers to manufacturers, from builders to miners, every sector leans on them.

Today, there are tens of thousands of companies in the United States that build industrial machinery. Apart from manufacturing behemoths such as General Electric, Parker Hannifin, and Caterpillar, much of the industrial machinery manufacturing sector is made up of SMEs. The problems and changes that small and medium-sized companies experience today might also seem small compared to the gigantic disruptions and innovations taking place within larger enterprises, but cumulatively their effect might be even bigger.

There is no way around it, we are in the midst of an all-encompassing digital transformation. And even though each and every industry is affected, industrial machinery manufacturers are at the center of the change.

But what exactly is changing and what can SME manufacturers do to keep up?

Shifting needs

According to a 2016 study by Aberdeen Group, the industrial machinery industry is shifting towards greater complexity, customized products, and quicker launches to respond to changing customer needs. This means that batch sizes are shrinking, often to a single unit, and manufacturers need to find new ways to produce as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible while also offering customization options and maintaining short lead times. This is by no means an easy task, especially in companies that are used to doing things the old way, with decades-old technology and knowledge.

New ways of engineering

With the move to Industry 4.0, both the nature of industrial machines and how engineers design them are changing. Customers are requesting ever more automation and connectivity, which feeds the explosive development of industrial robotics and IoT while also signifying increasingly complex bills of materials and production processes. 

Although a decade ago, this would have meant much higher expenditures in the prototyping stage, today