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How do I get customers involved in my digitalisation and automation plans?

Author: Ian Greeves

Digitalising and automating internally is one thing, but how do you ensure that your customers are onboard with it too? We put that question to Nick Simonis, director of Vekon.

Where people communicate, noise can occur. In panel construction, this can quickly lead to failure costs and a longer lead time. To prevent this, many panel builders strive for digitalisation and automation. This also applies to Vekon Control Technology from Made. Vekon also uses Rittal processing machines in combination with EPLAN Pro Panel.

Get involved in the design early

According to Simonis, it’s in the preparation stages that you achieve profit. "That is why we want to be involved in the design early on. Ideally, the customer delivers his EPLAN projects to us. If we receive the information in a different way, for example as a PDF, we convert everything, reducing the risk of errors. "

It is not without reason that the slogan is ' Partner in production ', instead of the traditional customer-supplier relationship of 'you ask us we run'. Vekon strives for long-term relationships with its customers, who are often machine builders and are increasingly succeeding in creating great partnerships with them. "When the relationship with a customer lasts longer, you get to know each other better and this creates mutual trust," says Simonis. "If you then make the advantages of automation open to discussion, you can optimise the chain and reduce the total costs."

Specials versus series

According to Simonis, the line between specials and series is becoming increasingly blurred. "Our customers are designing their specials in such a way that they have a great repeating character. In principle, we should therefore be able to make a single cabinet as efficient as a series of a hundred."

However, this is difficult to achieve in practice. "Our clients, but also our clients' customers, often make changes while we are already working on the preparation or production. Therefore, you cannot achieve the same efficiency as a large series that is completely crystallised."


Before Vekon itself was ready to digitalise and automate, Simonis first had to get his employees support. "When I said that we were going to process the housings and mounting plates on the CNC machine, the heels went down," he says. "But once that machine was there, trust grew. Now there is no more drilling machine or jigsaw in my workshop."

The workplace and the (digital) processes are well organised so that high efficiency and quality can be delivered. "The involvement of our customer in the realisation of all these improvements promotes mutual satisfaction. That makes working in the manufacturing industry so beautiful."


Want to know more about how you can get your customers into digitalisation and automation plans? Then download the e-book: 7 excuses for not digitalising and automating.

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