For the idea and the realisation of the Digital Fabricator, Dr. Dietrich Müller GmbH won the Digitaler Mittelstands-Award (DIMA) in the “Solutions in Sales” category. The online ordering system from the seller of electrical insulation, heat-conductive products, seals and technical films enables customers to upload digital construction files and select the right manufacturing process as well as materials. A cost estimate is then generated in real time.
In an interview with managing director Dr Michael Müller, he explains how he came up with the idea to develop the tool, what its greatest advantages are, and what he hopes to gain from winning the award.
Mr Müller, when and why did the idea come to you to design such a Digital Fabricator?
Several years ago, we thought about how we can push ahead with digitalisation in your company in a way that makes sense. So firstly, we said farewell to paper, introduced workflow management, and in the second step wanted to simplify the price calculation. In the past, I took care of this in Excel, then we launched a software which each employee could use to calculate prices on their own. But I still wanted to go a step further so that developers can upload their designs themselves and immediately see if their designs can be created and what it would cost. Ever since the end of 2020, this has been taking place in an automated way; employees only step in during the process in exceptional cases.
What the biggest advantage compared to the previous process?
The entire development and ordering process has sped up enormously. To date, a product developer would have to start a request procedure through the procurement team in order to find out what his innovation would cost. Then he would get an answer maybe about a week later. With the Digital Fabricator, he can design his product today, immediately find out the price, modify the product or manufacturing process as required, receive the adjusted price and then get it delivered quickly if everything works out well.
Dr. Michael Müller, managing director
Were there any barriers to overcome during the development of the tool?
The greatest challenge was actually convincing the team that the Digital Fabricator makes sense. Some employees first had to be convinced, due to their overall fear of change, or a possible redundancy in their job on account of digitalisation. There was naturally also a technical challenge or two, as machines analyse things differently than people. But bit by bit, we got a handle on the bugs.
The DIMA has honoured this innovative idea. What do you hope to gain from winning the award?
It has already resulted in an increased interest in our products; generally speaking, I hope to gain an overall higher awareness among the public. We are a seller within a niche market and have a clear objective: whenever a customer needs a part anywhere in the world that we can manufacture, they should think of us. And when this is the case in Australia, where a developer would like a price calculation at 3 o’clock at night German time, he can get it instantly from us, as the Digital Fabricator is available 24/7.