Managing the Long Life of Industrial Equipment

By Catherine
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By Catherine Bolgar

conveyer belt

Industrial equipment lasts a long time—the average age of current equipment in the U.S. is a decade, though some equipment might work for 20-30 years. During that time, it gets customized, modified and modernized, presenting a challenge of tracking those changes to avoid a repetition of previous design errors, as well as to ensure maximum reuse or recycling of parts.

A number of innovations are helping companies manage the task. Product lifecycle management (PLM) systems track equipment from cradle to grave, including the bill of materials (BOM), engineering attributes and other parameters. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), which deploys sensors in equipment, can enhance PLM by gathering data about how the machinery has been used. And new paradigms for ownership are shifting the risk.

“You may have very little documentation, or everything necessary—even a 3D product model,” says Justin Rose, Chicago-based partner at the Boston Consulting Group.

When you have a 3D product model, you can update it in the virtual world, manage design changes, manage performance and design conditions.”

Multicolored pipes in a boiler roomFor example, the model will note whether the equipment has changed owners or locations, when and how it has been serviced, the rate at which it consumes energy and other inputs.

While 3D models are still in “early stages of adoption, companies that have very complex pieces of equipment, or expensive capital equipment, are investing the time to build a 3D product model,” Mr. Rose says. “For other companies, if they’re going to refurbish equipment, or if it’s a complex million-dollar-plus product, they might build a 3D product model to support execution of that service.”

But like any tool, the key to realizing value from such models is to get all the individual stakeholders to maintain it year after year. “Sometimes you see more turnover, or an aging workforce, and not having a 3D product model or not using it creates a real risk to the viability of the enterprise going forward,” Mr. Rose says.

The IIoT offers new ways to track how industrial equipment is used—from vibrations to heat to environmental conditions and more. “It’s possible to provide services such as preventive maintenance or monitoring energy consumption,” says Daniele Cerri, research fellow at the Polytechnic University of Milan, in Italy.

However, companies don’t always make the most of the data. “Technology enables a large amount of data collection, but providers of industrial equipment often don’t have a business vision of how to use this data,” he says, and cites an example of one company that produces movement equipment with embedded sensors. “They do it to copy their competitors, but they don’t know how to use that data on their products.”

In addition, the data may be stored in different software in different databases. “People may use too much time to find where the data are located,” Mr. Cerri says, adding that digital platforms that gather and analyze the data can help manage the information and deliver real insights.

Makers of industrial equipment and their customers sometimes have conflicting interests, Mr. Cerri says, because customers “are jealous of their information and don’t want to share it with providers, even if they can obtain more effectiveness and efficiency during the utilization of the equipment.”

By using standardized, modular design, equipment makers can customize equipment quickly to meet customers’ new requirements, Mr. Cerri says.

industrial equipment with pressure gaugeStandardization also aids with reuse or recycling of parts. Often machine bases can be reused “because they’re quite standardized,” he says. “It’s good cost savings and good environmental impact savings.”

Standardization and modular design also can help with another trend: industrial-equipment makers retaining ownership of the equipment itself and selling use as a service, billed hourly, for example. Modularization would help them easily adapt machinery to individual customer needs and make upgrades.

Companies already following this model use advanced analysis, 3D modeling and simulation tools to predict when it needs maintenance, especially because failure in fast-moving machines can cause much more damage beyond the failed part itself, BCG’s Mr. Rose says.

“If equipment goes down, they have to make the customer whole somehow,” he says. “It’s a strong motivation for them to keep it maintained and up and running.”


Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe, now working as a freelance writer and editor with WSJ. Custom Studios in EMEA. For more from Catherine Bolgar, along with other industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion on LinkedIn.

Photos courtesy of iStock

Takeuchi Streamlines Product Development with 3DEXPERIENCE

By Alyssa
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With rising investment in infrastructure around the globe, the heavy construction equipment industry is poised for a high rate of growth.  Clearly, that is good news for companies in that industry.  But there is a hitch. At the same time, those very companies are faced with adapting their businesses to meet the needs of the Experience Economy, which has created an environment where customers are increasingly demanding custom machine configurations.  How can a company transform itself in a time of high demand?

This was the challenge faced by Takeuchi, a 50-year old Japanese construction equipment manufacturer with a reputation as a market innovator that produces high-quality products.  Takeuchi set a goal to streamline its development processes in order to help them accelerate delivery of products that meet both customer and regulatory requirements.

Among the key first steps was improving internal processes and unifying a collection of different and incompatible information systems.  Takeuchi chose Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE solutions to provide its employees with an integrated platform for all product-related activities.  This is not limited to its product development designers: Takeuchi’s other departments such as production control and production engineering have access to system data as well.


With this platform, we avoid a patchwork-like system of different solutions from different vendors, which is a nightmare to coordinate.”


Read a new case study to learn more about the benefits Takeuchi has gained from 3DEXPERIENCE, including:

  • the ability to create more product variants with a fewer number of parts
  • increased re-use of existing parts
  • reduced lead times for new product introductions
  • eliminating the need for physical prototypes

3CON Enhances Automotive Interiors with 3DEXPERIENCE

By Alyssa
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When people are asked what they want most in their automobiles, they first cite safety, fuel efficiency and reliability.  But right behind those factors, they say they look at functional interiors and ergonomics.

The automotive industry moves at a very fast pace, with short, unforgiving lead times. More than ever, innovation is critical. For nearly 20 years, Austria’s 3CON has built a solid reputation as a leading global manufacturer of automotive interior machinery.  3CON strategically established sites in Austria, China and North America in order to cater to local customer requirements, as well as deliver agile after-sales services.  With designers in multiple locations, collaboration was the biggest challenge that prevented 3CON from innovating at the required speed to meet market demands.

To improve multi-site collaboration and accelerate the process of transforming concepts into sturdy, efficient equipment while maintaining quality, 3CON selected Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE® platform.  In this new environment, they manage complexity with a library of standardized components that is easily accessible to designers regardless of their location.  This streamlined process enables the ability to customize existing components to meet customer specifications in a cost efficient way.  Designers also use the system to share their vision and exchange ideas with clients early in the sales cycle and use real-time input throughout the entire process. This not only enhances the relationship with the customer, since they know exactly what they will get, but helps reduce design cycle time and costs by eliminating the need for costly changes later in the design process.  Because the system is fast and easy to use, 3CON can rapidly try out new ideas and test more design iterations to increase their innovation capacity.


Watch the new customer case study video to hear directly from 3CON’s leadership about the successes they’ve had to date, such as cutting design time by 30%, lowering the assembly start-up phase by 50% and reducing the risk of cost overages due to improved project visibility.  They also share their future goals, such as delivering high-end 3D virtual experiences to their sales force and customers and paperless production. Additional information about 3CON’s experience is available in a written study.

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