Technical masterpieces are the machines that are being built in the Netherlands for various markets, from packaging machines to welding robot installations up to machines for the food industry. Often their manufacturers are worldwide market leaders in their niche, or at least top-three players. They may have started like small players, but now an increasing number of outside parties are contributing to their success. Think of the smart knowledge partner, the specialist service provider and the service-oriented technical value add distributor. The latter now provides technology for industrial automation as well as mechanical and electrical supply.
At the same time, some things have changed at the machine builder level. Once, the mechanical engineer simply designed a machine and build it, engineer-to-order, with the help of the electrical engineer. Now it often starts with defining the demands of the market and translating these into functionality, with an important role for software. Subsequently, the mechanical engineer designs the functional modules in cooperation with colleagues from other disciplines, usually in several variants. The machine builder can now meet every customer request with a flexible machine design by selecting the right modules and variants each time, configure-to-order. The days of 'real’ customization are over, because that requires too much trial and error, results in long lead times with high costs.
On the one hand, this development makes outsourcing by the machine builder more predictable, because what he is going to ask is already laid down in the modules and their variants. On the other hand, the unpredictability of the 'when' and 'how much' increases. Because the consumer is becoming increasingly erratic and the end producer reacts by trying to eliminate all uncertainties when investing in machines. And when the end producer finally places an order, the machine builder must deliver as quickly as possible. Because then these machines can make new products before the consumer has lost his interest.
In short, suppliers must be ready to serve the machine builder immediately, with the requested products distributed in the right quantities and streamlined logistics. After all, there is no time for repairing errors in production and delivery. Software is becoming more important, but hardware remains essential: the quality of components is a given, industrial technology must be state-of-the-art and logistics is a critical success factor. All hands on deck so for the technical value-add distributor.