Mechanical Engineering companies face the challenge of keeping up with the rapid pace of technological progress. They must transform themselves and provide their customers with a mobile experience, omni-channel options and much more. We at SEEBURGER are aware of this. It’s not always easy for the IT department to deliver the innovations needed to succeed in an ever-changing world. The race in the digital transformation requires comprehensive and secure integration between applications throughout the product lifecycle along the value chain. To be successful, IT agility, cost-efficiency, responsiveness and security must be balanced.
Leading innovators have proven that the use of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) in the course of digitalization in Mechanical Engineering provides an answer. They enable IT innovations through optimized application integration and fast, agile development. Flexible deployment in the cloud, on-premises or a mix of both in hybrid form is used.
Use Cases for the Application of APIs in Mechanical Engineering
The importance of APIs in digital transformation in Mechanical Engineering is illustrated by the following list of areas where APIs offer seamless integration capabilities:
|Processes in Mechanical Engineering and Plant Construction||Examples of Use Cases|
|API integration and API management for systems|
|Product development and design|
|Integration of numerous applications and portals for the digital representation of processes in development and design, such as change management, version management, classification etc.||PLM, PDM, DMS, ECM, CAD/CAx, ERP, PPS, MES, knowledge management, C-parts, spare parts management, product catalogs|
|Production & Assembly|
|Digital Factory, Industry 4.0, (I)IoT, Integration of shop-floor processes with business IT||ERP, PPS, MES, OPC UA, PLM, PDM, CAM|
|Quality assurance, quality control, quality management|
|Exchange of quality data, integration of quality management in production, procurement, sales and logistics processes||Numerous applications (CAQ, PLM, PDM, ERP, PPS, MES) and platforms from producers, customers and operators of machines and plants|
|Procurement & Logistics|
|Integration of suppliers, vendors and service providers for digitalization of the entire supply chain without media disruption||Logistics platforms, B2B, EDI, SCM, SRM, ERP, PPS, C-parts, spare parts management, product catalogs|
|Integrated, digital business models, e.g. subscription, pay-per-use connection of all applications and players such as customers, partners and suppliers or even machine operators||Digital sales platforms, Omni-Channel, mobile applications, use models B2B, EDI, WebEDI, SCM, SRM, ERP, PPS|
|Use Phase & Service & After Sales|
|Digital smart services, digital usage and operating models|
|Digital platforms for service & usage, spare parts management, SRM, B2B, EDI, WebEDI, (I)IoT, industry 4.0|
Table: Examples of use cases for API usage in Mechanical Engineering
API Integration and API Management – a solution to integration challenges
Mechanical Engineering companies striving for digital transformation want to create extraordinary experiences for their customers and partners. They achieve this goal through API integration and API management by unlocking business capabilities and data for new capabilities. The results include innovative user experiences across channels and devices. This is supported by data analysis. It enables IT and business departments to anticipate future needs.
The use of APIs in Mechanical Engineering along the entire value chain
Starting with product development and design, APIs can be used to connect portals for change management or variant management of various systems such as PLM, PDM, DMS, ECM, CAD/CAx, ERP, PPS, MES, knowledge management, C-parts, spare parts management, product catalogs.
In production & assembly, the integration of (I)IoT capabilities enables the easy integration of shop-floor processes with business IT.
In quality management, the exchange of quality data is enabled, which in turn simplifies the integration of quality management into the processes of production, procurement, sales and logistics.
In procurement & logistics, the connection of suppliers, vendors, service providers and, for example, the provision of product catalogs and spare parts management enables the digitalization of the entire supply chain without media breaks.
This integration enables the Mechanical Engineering sales force to offer its customers new digital business models such as subscriptions and pay-per-use applications.
In the utilization phase of the Service & After Sales market, which is becoming increasingly important for Mechanical Engineering and plant construction, ‘Smart Services’ help to develop digital utilization and operating models.
APIs make this vision a reality. Through uniform standards and universal usage norms, they make it possible to unlock data securely and to expand application systems relatively easily. The IT organization can manage the entire API lifecycle to create, use and control APIs. API policies can be managed at a granular level for optimized data access. Now you can access a wide variety of enterprise files from any device-anytime, anywhere, regardless of where the files are stored.
API management platforms for mastering complexity
As APIs have become more prevalent, platforms have emerged to keep pace with the complexity and scale of their management. These are often referred to as ‘API management platforms’. In reality, they do much more than just manage the APIs. The most effective API management platforms in use today offer many supporting features. These include using APIs in application development, B2B use cases, and content collaboration, such as between partners in an API community. They enable extended evaluation of an API’s service performance and dependencies. Additional features such as Managed File Transfer (MFT) help with application development.
Modern API-supported companies in Mechanical Engineering face an apparently simple challenge, but one that poses a serious problem: the general acceptance of the applications. API management solutions help to resolve this problem. APIs were initially a specialized form of application integration. Nowadays however, they appear in almost all areas of the application landscape. Ready-made applications are now delivered with APIs that are available for immediate use. Many web and cloud-based digital services are built using APIs as the only possible connection point.
This widespread use of APIs causes a complex architecture. The applications are interconnected with each other and in addition are constantly being reconnected. In the process, the overview of the integration points is easily lost. Nested dependencies can have devastating effects on the performance of connected applications. They must be managed by a larger group, not just IT professionals. All of this makes it difficult for organizations to maintain the functionality of the API architecture.
An API management platform helps to solve this problem. It provides a common user interface, a community, a global API catalog and the API marketplace. It facilitates the transition from isolated teams supporting APIs to an enterprise-wide deployment and use of APIs. These are independent, versionable and scalable.
Architectural independence is one of the core values of APIs. As standards-based systems, they do not require central control. This is both good and bad. Uncontrolled APIs can cause chaos and affect application performance and reliability. But if control is too centralized, the flexible nature of the technology is slowed. API management platforms resolve this dilemma through self-service deployment. This extends control functions across the entire enterprise.
The platform provides the relevant participants with the necessary visualization so that all elements of the architecture function smoothly. At the same time, users can manage their own APIs to ensure overall agility.
APIs are now deployed in every hosting environment imaginable. They are on-premises, in private clouds, public clouds and hybrid clouds. For APIs to work at the enterprise level, management tools must be able to work across multi-cloud and hybrid deployments. This allows an enterprise to access APIs regardless of where it is located, with standardized applications for monitoring, managing and securing them.
Meeting the challenges of digital change with an API management platform
An API Management Platform provides a major competitive advantage for Mechanical Engineering companies in the handling and usage of APIs. It enables a larger number of users to take full advantage of APIs. They can use their know-how and flexibility to develop innovations and progress the company along the path of digital transformation. For APIs to be widely used, the management tool must have certain capabilities. It must be integrated, automated and applicable across departments. With these capabilities, APIs can create exciting new experiences for customers and partners in Mechanical Engineering.
SEEBURGER solution for API integration and API management
SEEBURGER offers comprehensive ‘API LifeCycle Management’ solutions for building digital business models:
We support customers in Mechanical Engineering with the:
- Identification of requirements and subsequent definition of a holistic concept for secure data exchange and integration,
- Design of internal and cross-company processes and organizational structures,
- Implementation of the defined concept with all necessary and associated solution modules (see table for use cases and solutions – excerpt),
- Sustainable optimization and adaptation of the implemented concept to changing conditions.
As a central integration platform, the SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) ensures a standardized exchange of information as well as data security and integrity between all players and other platforms.
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Written by: Michael DobrindtMichael Dobrindt joined SEEBURGER in early 2020 as Senior Account Executive for the Process Industries division and lives with his family in Berlin. With over 25 years of professional experience in a wide variety of sales and management functions in the dynamic markets of IT, EDI and telecommunications, he now helps companies in the mechanical and plant engineering, utilities and oil and gas sectors to find the right digitalisation strategy and implement it successfully. In his free time, he enjoys playing tennis. As a native Berliner, he loves his city with all its facets and enjoys the rich cultural offerings. However, he also likes to leave the city to take his vintage car for a drive into the countryside, to explore the surrounding waters by kayak or to go skiing and hiking in the mountains.