Smart Futures Exclusive interview with IXON CEO
With the rapid growth of the manufacturing sector, difficulty recruiting engineers, fast changing technology, new developments and the market becoming ever more competitive, Smart Futures talked to Willem Hofmans, CEO of IXON *, about the current situation and the growth opportunities for machine builders in this competitive market.
What challenges does the typical machine builder face at the moment?
The manufacturing industry is growing at an incredible pace. However, the component crisis causes many machines to still be awaiting missing components before they can be delivered to the customer. In addition, commissioning machines has become more costly and difficult due to the pandemic.
Machine builders are innovators and are continuously improving their machines. The biggest challenge now is to find ways to generate revenue during the entire lifecycle of the machine instead of only during commissioning. They need to think about new ways of serving customers via the internet and develop business models to go with it. Therefore, they need the right people, which proves to be extra challenging due to the scarcity of engineers.
What items are on the agenda of the machine builder?
Many machine builders have made the strategic decision to invest in the development of new service propositions. They aim to use their knowledge to continuously improve their machines and advise customers on how to use the machine in the most efficient way.
Lots of companies are taking the first steps towards these propositions by implementing Industrial IoT. Internal project groups are started up and IoT specialists are recruited. The strategy is communicated organisation-wide so all departments, from engineering and service to sales, are involved.
How do you see IIoT further contributing to these propositions in the upcoming period?
The machine building industry will focus more and more on providing excellent service instead of selling technology. Machine builders want their own IIoT portal with their own app where they can prepare automated insights for their customers. Preferably in one central place. With these options they can sell new service models and generate new revenue streams.
What steps are machine builders taking to implement these new business opportunities?
With remote access being widely accepted as a must have, many machine builders are now taking their first steps towards condition monitoring – after having it on their roadmap for quite some time. Today there are many examples of implementations across industries, from which they can learn. Furthermore, technology has developed in a way that makes it easier to start implementing IIoT. Analysing collected data is more widely embraced, which is crucial for condition monitoring. In addition, there is increased demand for integrations with third party tools in IIoT platforms, such as ERP or a ticket system. This makes it possible to compose the best process to get machines running optimally.
Which trends do you think will be the most important ones for the manufacturing industry in 2022?
I think there are some topics that will not just play a big role for machine builders in 2022, but also in the years to come. Certainly, new service propositions will emerge. As mentioned before, the focus of machine builders is shifting from selling technology to selling top service. This causes data analysis to become more important. Machine builders will not only start with condition monitoring, but also with monitoring machine performance and analysing machine data to discover downtime causes.
Additionally, cyber security and sustainability are becoming increasingly important, driving machine builders to devote attention and resources to cyber security, and help their customers to reduce waste and energy consumption during production.
What advice do you have for machine builders who want to grow in such a competitive environment?
We are in a fast-growing market, with increasingly stronger competitors, partly due to company mergers, and customers demanding more and better services. As a result, it’s crucial to make future business plans, and to have a strong strategy going forward – a strategy such as selling services as a new business model for example.
Take one step at a time; create a project team with a mix of dedicated people from inside and outside the company to start with the innovation process. Think outside the box and make sure to invest in the future. At IXON, we follow the motto: Think big, start small, scale fast.
How can IXON contribute to machine builder’s future plans?
IXON aims to inspire and help machine builders gain a competitive advantage. That means we help machine builders find a strategy that fits their unique needs and plans. In addition, we offer the right technology and tools to successfully implement their strategy – with security in place throughout our entire organisation and all products.
*Willem Hofmans used his background in engineering to found IXON, which grew into one of the most valued and easy-to-use remote service & IIoT platforms in the manufacturing industry.