How should the machine tool sector keep pace with the changing requirements of the digitized manufacturing sector, especially in terms of implementing new business models such as “product-as-a-service” or “knowledge-as-a-service”?
Luigi Galdabini: As the cost pressure increases, customers are continuously looking to maximize their overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). In Europe, machine tool builders are increasingly realizing that, as key players in several value chains, they can make the most out of this overarching digitization trend. Through data storage and analysis, digitization gives us many opportunities to expand our portfolio of customer solutions. We are now able to offer add-on services together with the high-performance machines for which we are renowned. For example, condition monitoring sensors allow the customer to track down the status of a range of aspects of the machine and thus boost its productivity. Or predictive maintenance solutions can dramatically diminish machine downtime for the customer. From a supplier perspective, these are just a few practical examples of the many digital paths that the European machine tool industry is taking. In all that, it will be important to get a sense of the customer’s needs in order to offer tailored digital services.
“The theme chosen for the 2017 EMO edition cannot be more indicative of the trends we see today in advanced manufacturing.”
Luigi Galdabini, President, CECIMO, The European Association of the Machine Tool Industries & Managing Director, Galdabini SPA
In a competitive market, how can machine tool builders leverage the best out of available opportunities and be on the winning edge in terms of providing innovative solutions to customers at an economical price?
Galdabini: Digitally speaking, European machine tool builders should not delay the development of their strategy to remain competitive in the market. Indeed, the array of possible data-related services is quite heterogeneous, so companies will need to tailor their approach in accordance with their own strengths. Some European machine tool firms will want to position themselves as suppliers of high-quality machine tools in combination with digital solutions to exploit machine’s generated data so to improve production.
A common underlying element in all these strategies should be, as said before, closeness to the customer. Collaboration with end-users is essential to make them aware of the benefits of digital services for their business. In this sense, machine tool builders will need to work with them on real-case applications of these services so to demonstrate their added value.
In this process, we should not forget that entering the digital services’ realm requires investment in talent. There will be a need to strengthen the digital expertise of the existing workforce and implement HR strategies aimed at attracting key IT experts for the creation and marketability of a customer services’ portfolio.
Speaking of innovation, which production technologies do you think will predominantly prove to be game changers in the manufacturing sector?
Galdabini: In addition to digitization, additive manufacturing (AM) and robotics are two technologies that will significantly impact the manufacturing sector.
Additive manufacturing is likely to have a significant impact by enabling mass customization, reducing inventories and cutting time-to-market. Our companies represent some of the leaders in the production of metal additive machines for industrial use, as well as of hybrid systems where additive and subtractive techniques are integrated in a single set-up. Additive manufacturing will be a game changer, but it will not displace high-performance, traditional machining or cutting techniques already familiar with volume production. Additive machines should rather be complementary to subtractive systems on the shop floor.
Regarding robotics, we are noticing the emergence of more collaborative robots able to work together with people to further increase flexibility and efficiency. They are capable of boosting the productivity of a factory by executing a range of supporting tasks, like handling.
In the future, the key will be to integrate traditional and innovative technologies to develop overall efficient process chains.
Additive Manufacturing market is slated to touch $21 billion by the year 2021. In this context, how should the manufacturers gear themselves to upgrade their skill sets to run in the race?
Galdabini: The growth of industrial additive manufacturing points to many opportunities for machine tool builders. Production with additive machines entails challenges of its own, which require strong skills to be mastered with effectiveness. Thus, new competences, specific to the characteristics of the additive process, have emerged, though the European machine tool sector, relying on the excellence of its workforce, has all the tools to succeed in the additive space. In the advanced manufacturing context, the mix between solid engineering know-how and highly skilled shop floor employees has been one of the main ingredients for our leading position. European machine tool companies willing to enter the additive industry are already in a strong starting point for successfully thriving into it. Indeed, looking at the additive market, I can say they are already proving so.
CECIMO considers the skills issue in additive manufacturing a priority and we have obtained EU funding for a series of projects on the topic. One of them is METALS, which investigates further to what degree the workforce in our sector should be trained to interact with additive machines. We are in the process of understanding the competences that can be transferred from the subtractive to the additive environment, and those to be acquired by workforce from scratch.
Second from left: Luigi Galdabini, President, CECIMO, the European Association of the Machine Tool Industries & Managing Director, Galdabini SPA addressing the first EU Industry Day
The projects’ results will not only strengthen our knowledge of the industry from a skills’ perspective, but will also contribute to the European policy-making process. We want to show authorities which measures in the education domain they should take.
CECIMO is organizing an international conference on AM during the EMO show. What is the objective behind holding the conference at the fair?
Galdabini: Through this event, CECIMO intends to raise awareness of the critical developments happening in industrial additive manufacturing. Innovation is spanning across the entire value chain. New production techniques are being developed by machine manufacturers, and new applications are emerging in mainstream industries. The event aims to highlight some of the most relevant developments in the field.
Our association represents manufacturers at the cutting-edge of technology development and we have a long tradition of R&D projects at EU level. The CECIMO additive manufacturing conference at EMO 2017 has been conceived with these considerations in mind.
“Additive manufacturing will be a game-changer, but it will not displace high-performance, traditional machining or cutting techniques already familiar with volume production.”