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It remains to be seen whether integrating sensor technology in the design and construction of production machines will become standard practice in the near future. This is the view expressed by Guido Gerritsen, owner/director of Dutch firm APM (Automotive Parts Manufacturing), in response to an article recently published on the Installatieprofs website. “This technology will make machines even more expensive,” Gerritsen explains. “Unless we work together, we can’t be certain that the technical advantages will deliver the returns these expensive machines are supposed to yield.”

The Installatieprofs blog argues that a significant number of developments are expected to take place in sensor technology in the years to come, creating new opportunities.

Predictive maintenance

In installation technology, this means that predictive maintenance of machines such as central heating boilers and other installations can be done faster, easier, and cheaper. Sensor technology can also do away with the need for scheduled maintenance, which often proves to be unnecessary. Instead, a notification is sent when malfunctions are detected, informing the mechanic at an early stage exactly what needs to be done. This boosts both safety and efficiency.

But as Guido Gerritsen explains, developments in the area of sensor technology are not – strictly speaking – new. “Predictive maintenance is currently used in cars on a limited basis. For example, car owners no longer need to make sure that the oil is changed after a pre-determined number of kilometres. Instead, the quality of the oil is constantly measured and analysed.”

Investments are needed

“But in the rest of the automotive chain, car manufacturers will need to make unprecedented investments to ensure that sensor technology is profitable in the long term. I believe that’s where the challenge lies for manufacturers and other stakeholders. Are you going to do it alone? What is your strategy for reducing your own margin of error? Do you plan to introduce this innovation from the inside out or to seek cooperation with other partners in the chain? Because, while we have every reason for wanting to continue to develop sensor technology, the bill still needs to be paid.” “Clearly,” Guido emphasises, “cooperation is the key.”

The spirit of the times

“That’s why I continue to call on the entire industry to not only acquire knowledge in the chain both horizontally and vertically, but to also share what you know. I understand that, ten or twenty years ago, it was far from normal to call your competitor and discuss possible options for cooperation. But it is the spirit of the times we currently live in. The advantages of cooperation in the chain far outweigh any disadvantages resulting from fierce competition. We have to join forces. Cooperation is necessary to speed up developments in sensor technology, resulting in even better end products.”

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