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Focus topics at the VDMA NRW members’ meeting

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Future Business – Future Service, Circular Economy and Decoupling USA – China: three topics were the focus of individual sessions at the VDMA-NRW General Meeting on November 15, 2022. Speeches, application examples and workshop impulses illuminated the individual focus topics from different perspectives.

Future Business – Future Service

Together with Fraunhofer ISI and experts from mechanical engineering, research and other stakeholders, VDMA Future Business developed a study of possible future scenarios that show the opportunities that services can offer. Anna Küster, speaker of VDMA Future Business, presented this study and the four scenarios presented in the session “Future Business – Future Service”:

  • Think global, serve local: Weiterentwickelte traditionelle Servicemodelle werden vom Maschinenbau selbst angeboten
  • Automation wonderworld: KI und Big Data ermöglichen vollautomatisierte Service-Angebote im Maschinenbau
  • Green, cooperation, confidence: Gesellschaft fordert Service-Nachhaltigkeit, Gebrauchtmaschinengeschäft prosperiert
  • Back to basic business: Maschinenbau verliert trotz Anerkennung an Bedeutung und Zukunftsfähigkeit

Dr. Christian Lerch, head of the Industrial Change and New Business Models business unit at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI, who contributed to the study, showed in his presentation that there are many ways to expand one’s own service. In particular, he addressed “service business analytics” – a way to use machine and customer data for new services. Axel E. Barten, Managing Partner at Achenbach Buschhütten Holding GmbH, gave an insight into the globally active system provider for non-ferrous metal rolling mills, founded in 1452, and showed how tradition and innovation can be harmonized. In order to be successful for so long, one has to constantly reinvent oneself, was his credo. Dr. Ulf Leinhäuser, management spokesman for CLAAS Industrietechnik, moderated the concluding panel discussion. He, too, pointed out the importance of service for Claas, using the Claas combine harvesters as an example: These are only in use for a very short period of time each year – and then they have to function without interruption. This can only be made possible by good service, which can provide spare parts in good time.

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Circular Economy

Session 2 “Circular economy – Where are the opportunities and challenges for mechanical and plant engineering?” looked at circular economy from the perspective of the VDMA, science and a member company. It was highlighted that mechanical and plant engineering provides technological solutions for ecological challenges. This includes the design of durable and resource-efficient products as well as the optimization of own production sites and processes. How the circular economy is approached in one’s own company and where potential lies must be worked out at the individual company level. The example of the Dortmund-based pump manufacturer Wilo SE has shown that it is possible to start a circular economy: Here, the biggest challenge was to convince the company’s own management level of the potential of the circular economy. Overall, the regulatory framework conditions at EU, federal and state level were viewed critically, as these also slow down entrepreneurial efforts in the Circular Economy.

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Decoupling USA-China

The topic of geopolitics is more topical than ever for the machinery and plant engineering industry. The focus is on the USA and China, whose conflict threatens to divide the world into separate economic zones. For mechanical and plant engineering companies, this conflict is of great importance in the long term, as the USA and China are the largest export markets outside the EU. In this session’s practical workshop, options were worked out on how mechanical engineering companies can position themselves strategically in the face of “decoupling” – the unbundling of the two markets.
In his opening presentation, Andrew Adair, VDMA foreign trade officer, said that the mechanical engineering sector cannot escape the effects of “decoupling” of its two most important foreign markets and emphasized the need for strategic considerations in dealing with this development. He explained the effects of punitive tariffs, sanctions, export controls as well as investment screening. In the workshop of this session, various options for action to deal with decoupling were discussed:

  • Rely on the innovation/uniqueness of the product
  • Seek alternative suppliers outside China or the U.S.
  • “Forward strategy” – expand local investment to create independence
  • Develop different products (“China-free” or “US-free”)
  • Relocate production functions

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