Information and communication technology (ICT) is a driver of innovation throughout all sectors of industry and as a key technology field, ICT plays a decisive role in the future viability of the German economy.
ICT-based solutions and services are just as indispensible in mechanical engineering. The mechanical engineering market is currently undergoing change: Simply offering highly productive machinery and plants is no longer enough for many customers, who want added value in the form of complementary services to go with products. It is now nearly impossible to introduce machine or plant solutions on the market without intelligent drive and control solutions. The pressure to raise productivity is forcing companies to develop entire machine systems incorporating innovative automation technology, and this does not just apply to serial production plants, but also to the engineering of specialist machines. The job of the mechanical engineer no longer ends with the delivery of the machine and ramp-up at the client. Relationships between customers and suppliers are so close that continual customer support is required during use. And the key to this is ICT-based services.
Founded in 1991, the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Drive and Handling Technology has developed into an endto- end provider of specialist mechanical engineering solutions over the years. Our activities range from development and design to the development and production of control units and machinery, offering on-site commissioning to customers, as well as ongoing maintenance and support during use. This would be impossible without innovative design and calculation tools. These tools have made a quantum leap in terms of development times and the quality of development output. Even the key areas of R&D have shifted over the years. Two decades ago, the main focus lay in the development and production of didactic modules for hydraulic and pneumatic control units, as well as simple feeding and handling units for processing machinery. Today, the demand is for research services relating to the development of emerging technology, as well as the production of matching machine technology and the integration of machine volumes into operating software, or even remote diagnostics and systems monitoring. The breadth of services we now offer has turned us into a reliable and longstanding development partner for small and medium-sized enterprises.
The importance of ICT will continue to rise sharply. I anticipate future developments in the technology used in mechanical engineering, especially with the new development of innovative and “smart” materials and sensor systems, which will result in increasingly miniature electronic systems and new sensor actuator systems. These will make it possible to integrate previously inaccessible processes into solutions. I also believe the results of nano-science will start to enter use, which will also be a challenge for ICT development. Furthermore, the issues of data protection and data transfer will play a crucial role. This will affect process technology, medical engineering and mechanical engineering.
The role and impact ICT will have on the development of different areas of the economy is something you can read more about in this latest edition of TRANSFER. I hope you find it an interesting and thought-provoking read!
Professor Dr.-Ing. habil. Eberhard Köhler
Professor Dr.-Ing. habil. Eberhard Köhler heads up the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Drive and Handling Technology in Mechanical Engineering in Chemnitz. In 2012, Köhler was awarded a special prize by the Steinbeis Foundation for outstanding contributions to the field of knowledge and technology transfer. In 2010, his transfer center and its project partner Siemens AG Generatorenwerk (Siemens generator works) won the Steinbeis Foundation Transfer Award. In 2014, Eberhard Köhler was presented with the Seifriz Award.