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Artificial intelligence in mechanical and plant engineering

Dr. Carsten Zwilling, Senior Data Scientist at Point 8 GmbH, gave the participants a vivid presentation on the current status and future of artificial intelligence (AI) in the industry. His presentation illustrated how AI not only optimizes processes, but also opens up new perspectives for the industry. However, he also showed by way of example that the path to AI is full of obstacles and that setbacks must be seen as opportunities. AI projects often only mature during development. His recommendation was to start with small steps in order to achieve great things.

In his presentation, Stephan Hohenadl, Director Sales and Service at Albrecht Bäumer GmbH & Co KG, emphasized the importance of using AI in order to assert oneself in global competition and stand out from the competition. He presented insights into the diverse application possibilities of AI at Bäumer. It became clear how innovative technologies can increase efficiency and have a lasting impact on the industry. However, he also emphasized that the development of business models with the help of artificial intelligence is still in its infancy.

Dr. Marc Leonhardt, Big Data Scientist, and Jakob Möhs, Senior Product Owner, both from Commerzbank AG, provided deep insights into the strategies for creating trust in AI. They shed light on how data can be used to generate not only insights but also sustainable added value. For example, a model was presented that collects and analyzes AI-based press releases on individual companies. This will also be made available to external companies at the beginning of next year.

Mechanical engineering sector

The mood among mechanical and plant engineering companies in Germany is subdued for the coming year. A reluctance to invest and hire new staff is noticeable due to the high level of uncertainty, reported VDMA economic expert Olaf Wortmann in his presentation, predicting a 2% decline in production for 2024. The reason for this is global uncertainty, which is having a detrimental effect on the order situation for capital goods. As a result, companies’ order books are also shrinking.

However, these slight declines in production are nothing unusual if you look at the past decades, in which there have always been slight declines in production figures. Even if no impetus for the German mechanical and plant engineering sector is currently expected from China, he points to the strong increases in business with India and Mexico, which could be a positive signal for international incoming orders.

Twin transition in mechanical and plant engineering

The transformation tasks facing society and industry relate primarily to the transition to a more sustainable and digital economy, the so-called twin transition. Sebastian Beck, Head of Division at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Protection and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, Thomas Enck, Director at FTI-Andersch, Michael Hess, Managing Partner of Carl Krafft & Söhne GmbH & Co. KG and Jakob Möhs, Senior Product Owner at Commerzbank AG, discussed the challenges and opportunities of digital transformation in the context of the switch to climate neutrality and sustainability.

It became clear that the degree of digitalization in mechanical and plant engineering still varies greatly depending on the sub-sector and company size. Compared to other industrial sectors, however, it was estimated to be high. It is important to recognize and take advantage of the opportunities offered by digitalization.

The panelists also predominantly saw opportunities in the industry’s transition towards sustainability and climate neutrality, as mechanical and plant engineering is an enabler for all manufacturing companies. In addition to the opportunities, the risks associated with the conversion of companies were also discussed. Exports, in particular, could suffer, as the increasing reporting obligations stipulated by European legislation for the transformation make it more expensive. Even if these regulations primarily apply to large companies, the entire value chain is affected.

Finally, the panelists drew their conclusions. The future of mechanical and plant engineering is unanimously seen as positive. Even if the valuation of companies in the mechanical and plant engineering sector is becoming increasingly complex and difficult for the banking industry, the sector is still seen as a good investment. The good cooperation between these partners over many decades is and remains important.