With the whole year ahead of us, now is the perfect time to look at the mechanical engineering trends for 2019.
2018, much like the years before it, left its mark on the entire mechanical engineering sector. Data protection was certainly one of the areas that had the greatest impact, as the roll-out of the EU’s GDPR for protecting the personal data of all EU citizens forced the entire economy to get to grips with numerous new topics. The challenges brought about by digital transformation processes and Industry 4.0. have grown in intensity, too. It’s becoming clearer by the day that, despite a healthy business climate, there isn’t a single mechanical engineering company in existence that can afford to put digitalization on hold. But what are the trends, challenges and opportunities awaiting mechanical engineering companies in 2019?
Digitalisation – a mechanical engineering megatrend in 2019
As the digital revolution forges ahead, many of the mechanical engineering trends that have already been shaping the sector for a number of years will become even more relevant in 2019 – with examples including artificial intelligence (AI), the Industrial Internet of Things, smart data and cyber security. Mechanisms for fending off cyber criminals are sure to attract even greater attention in the industry, particularly in light of events such as the major data leaks that affected German politicians in December 2018.
After multiple scientific breakthroughs, AI (in the form of virtual assistants) is becoming an ever-bigger part of day-to-day work. Overall, mechanical engineering as we know it is merging more and more with digital technologies. It’s becoming hybrid, intelligent and highly networked. The Industrial Internet of Things offers a perfect example of how mechanical engineering companies can gain a clear edge on the competition by making efficient use of digital methods. After all, when devices communicate with each other, they don’t just help speed up production and transport processes, they can also support new business models in which processes adapt automatically based on the data generated.
Humans still centre stage in the mechanical engineering sector in 2019
The goal of creating smart factories – fully automated, self-optimizing and intelligently controlled production facilities – is thus coming increasingly within reach. Using AI, smart machines can make production operations faster, more efficient and more flexible. In 2019 and beyond, AI will take on an ever-greater role in production environments and act as an interface for communication between humans and machinery. But just as with every other aspect of the digital revolution, if companies aren’t to lose touch with their core skills, then it’s important they bring along all employees and their individual abilities. The “Digitalization in mechanical engineering” study conducted by the Hans Böckler Foundation came to the same conclusion, pointing out that lean production methods are ideal for digitalizing internal processes.
It’s thanks to digitalization in mechanical engineering that standard tasks, such as those at the design stage, can be completed faster. A prime example is digital engineering, which frees up engineers to focus on more complex tasks and innovations. But it doesn’t stop there, with huge potential yet to be unlocked in the fields of big data and data analysis, too. Those who are able to systematically and efficiently evaluate data are in a prime position to optimize their products, services and processes. This of course calls for talented IT experts and data scientists. Particularly owing to the war for talent, the mechanical engineering trends in 2019 will also include a progressive corporate culture focused on agility, ‘new work’ and lifelong learning, not to mention state-of-the-art recruitment methods.