Digital transformation: now it’s up to the SMEs!
Company groups and larger enterprises have taken note of this development and are working on solutions. But the small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) in the lift industry currently lack the resources for this.
What exactly is "digital transformation"?
According to Wikipedia, "Digital transformation refers to a continuous process of change, based on digital technologies, which as a digital revolution affects society as a whole and in economic terms companies in particular. The basis of digital transformation is digital technologies, which are being developed in an even faster succession and as a result smoothing the way in turn for new digital technologies. The main players in digital transformation are companies, individuals, communities, academia (with research and teaching) and the state." There is also a quotation from Dr Angela Merkel from 2014, "There are opportunities for a digital economic 'Wirtschaftswunder.' The question is whether it will take place in Germany."
Hence, specifically with focus on our industry and companies, we are talking about subjects like Industry 4.0, cybersecurity, the cloud, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, data ownership, edge computing, predictive maintenance, blockchain, BIM, virtual reality, digital test methods, sensors and real time monitoring of lifts and components.
SMEs have to cooperate
Given the multitude of topics, the question of resources immediately arises along with technical expertise and the extent to which there are definitions for the general parameters and interfaces. Precisely these tasks have now also been identified by associations and committees, but the work is still in its early stages and even the main focus of the work and timelines have proven hard to forecast.
This is explicitly where our SMEs have to cooperate, since the different development processes, which are in part highly complex, pose great challenges, especially for the group mentioned. Realisation of such projects also always has to be considered directly in relation to the priority in the company.
To answer this question, the following picture should be borne in mind: committees or working groups are currently being formed or are already at work in the European lift associations. The same applies to Germany and there is immense interest, not least on the part of multinational groups.
This should be no surprise, since alignments, strategic alliances and technical solutions of the groups are reported in the media and the interest of the groups in taking standards into account set by them should be self-evident.
The process of introducing these standards in the market is also in full swing; consequently the lead of the large company groups is growing continuously. The larger SMEs have recognised this development and are working more or less intensively on solutions and their implementation in the field. Only the smaller SMEs in our "lift" sector for the most part currently lack the resources to pursue the steps required.
Added value for operators and lift companies
This is also due to the fact that the added value and associated return on investment is only seen to a limited extent. However, predictive maintenance provides added value for operators and lift companies - the need for emergency deployments is greatly reduced in the course of predictive maintenance, to take just one example.
The road map for the future of the industry runs clearly in the direction of digital transformation and this process can no longer be reversed. In the end, the only question that arises is at what point the respective companies will get started. The products needed – also for implementation in SMEs – will be available in Augsburg at the interlift ’19.
The author is a technical consultant at the VFA-Interlift e.V.