The ‘Apple Effect’ in the Metal World

Below is a quote from Alan Kay, a visionary and pioneering computer scientist.

“People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.”

It dates back well before he worked for Apple in 1984, when in 1968 he invented a tablet-like device called the Dynabook (long before there were personal computers or laptops, let alone tablets).

This was a revolutionary idea for the time, apart from the tablet!

Steve Jobs was tremendously inspired by this idea to create the first Macintosh, with his own software and his own hardware.

This is still reflected in the current experience of using an Apple iPhone, MacBook and iPad: the synchronization and harmony between the system and the devices is unbeatable.

And once you’re in the ecosystem, you never want to get out.

Your next phone is 95% sure to be another iPhone and you’ll probably be buying new earbuds etc. soon.

I also call it the ‘Apple effect’ – you stick with the brand because the ecosystem offers everything.

In sheet metal working machines, this phenomenon is also becoming more common.

However, the idea here is in the opposite direction: machine builders are increasingly creating software to match their machines.

Machine builders used to be interested only in machines. However, this was to the frustration of many customers who were behind in their digitization as a result.

Today the balance is different.

The big names are jumping into digitization now because they know they will lose customers if their machines cannot be programmed properly. The machine suppliers’ motto now reads as follows:

“Companies that are really serious about their machines should create their own software. That’s why we now have package X, for a complete industry 4.0 solution from your trusted brand Y.”

And that, if you look at it that way, is a good development.

I understand: you obviously prefer a uniform, logical process, not islands. No hassle with integrations, because everything is already in 1 ecosystem.

And of course, everything under one brand has the advantage of combined service, so the machine supplier does not blame the software supplier for problems, or vice versa.

The trap

It all sounds perfect. But it still doesn’t quite fit the true Industry 4.0 philosophy, despite their claims to the contrary.

The thinking behind it from the machine builders is more like:

“If this customer buys all software from our brand, he will probably buy more machines from our brand in the future. Moreover, we can make good money from it.”

From an Industry 4.0 perspective, there is a risk here.

If you later want to add other machine brands or other software systems, it is unclear how the data exchange will work.

Sometimes it is closed.

It may have certain features that are only available in the same brand’s software.

Apple’s AirDrop, for example, is available only on Apple devices. Or iMessage to name just one example.

With sheet metal machines, such as OPC-UA and the ability to program the bender with external software, standards are often protected.

As a result, you don’t have full access to all of the machine’s data or options. This could get in the way of your Industry 4.0 plans.

The point is

When considering new software and machines, pay attention to the long-term strategy. Do you want to work exclusively with one machine supplier in the coming years or will you remain independent?

If you want to stay independent, make a good plan, because you will have to figure out a little more on your own.

Getting started with a brand of your choice? When purchasing, always make sure you can access your own information. And always consider whether this long-term commitment outweighs the benefits.

(In a future email, I’ll write more about this, how machine builders can do better. If you want to brainstorm now, schedule a call appointment).

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