Industrial Equipment Manufacturers are the designers and developers of specific types of industrial equipment that doesn’t require much customization, such as plastic forming equipment and packaging machinery. These systems are often designed in a manner that makes them highly inflexible to customizations once the production has been set up. Keeping in line with their principles, IEMs also don’t maintain a staff of mechanical and control engineers.
IEMs are usually started by people who hold a trove of knowledge in their field of expertise. This serves as a prime reason for the development of innovative equipment. However, most IEMs are started by people who are closer to mechanical designers than control experts, with the latter being considered a secondary part of the design process.
The inside of a panel in an IEM’s equipment serves as the perfect example of this. Some of the details that a panel-builder might notice about an IEM’s equipment are:
- Absence of terminal blocks
- Malleable nature of wires
- Absence of proper wire labeling topologies
These details are part of an IEM’s equipment because the prime concern is getting the mechanical operation completed successfully rather than worrying about room for customizations. This situation is aided by the fact that most IEMs are strapped for cash and have their workforce doubling down on duties. So unless IEMs decide to consciously hire experienced engineers for dedicated jobs, their machinery will continue to inherit the same lags as before.
Now, this static design strategy may have worked in the past but it certainly wouldn’t work in the future. Companies are now looking for highly documented and customizable solutions that can cater to dynamic needs while having room for growth as well. In order to meet such demands, IEMs have to rethink their entire design and manufacturing process.
Overcoming the Challenges
The first step to overcoming the challenges facing IEMs is revisiting the design process for their equipment. Because most of the teams in IEMs don’t include engineers for the design phase, the biggest adjustment would be to hire control engineers to the design teams. This allows equipment to be made with the necessary functions and parts to be flexible in performance. It also allows for customizable options should the customer want something other than the static design from before. Control and mechanical engineers will also be able to shut down designs that are impractical or won’t function properly due to issues like poor wiring.
The second step is adding flexibility at all stages of the process. These days, so many services and products are personalized to a specific customer’s or industry’s needs. If a manufacturer can’t adapt to accommodate their customer’s needs or desires, that customer will find another manufacturer who can. The same applies even to IEMs. As mentioned above, static designs aren’t as common anymore. Companies want customizable options to best fit their needs, and being flexible in design and manufacturing will go a long way in providing those customizations.
The final step is taking into account customers’ needs, either naturally or from the threat of competition. Every customer is different, especially in today’s market. Making the equipment adjustable to the customer’s needs is an important feature. As mentioned above, if the customer’s needs can’t be met by one manufacturer, the customer will look for another that can meet those needs. IEMs need to be aware of their customers’ desires and needs in order to keep those customers and to gain a good customer reputation.
Because of the changing nature of the engineering solutions industry, IEMS need to prove that they can be adaptable to meet their customers' needs rather than provide the same design they always have. The world is becoming personalized down to the very wire components in a panel, and if manufacturers aren't able to keep up with this change they'll find themselves outrun by the competition.