Most mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) manufacturers are already on board with digital transformation, whether it is by providing BIM objects for the MEP design process or by using digital tools for increased efficiency for internal and external stakeholders. When we look closer at the ways that the MEP manufacturers can benefit from the digital transformation, we can see four different levels of business activity. Have you considered where your company is right now, and is there something more you could do to benefit from the digital transformation of our industry?
You are probably aware of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. American psychologist Abraham Maslow theorized that undergirding human decision-making is a hierarchy of psychological needs, which form the basis for our motivation. Maslow’s needs are physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. Today, generation Z would presumably add having an internet connection to the most basic level of Maslow’s pyramid.
Jarkko Järvenpää, Chief Growth Officer for Vincit, suggested in his blog that a simplified version of Maslow’s theory could be applied to in the digital transformation of different businesses. He identified the following four levels: serving customer’s basic needs, improving the customer experience, extending your service, and disrupting the customer behavior.
- Serving customers’ basic needs
- Improving the customer experience
- Extending your service
- Disrupting the customer behavior
Järvenpää believes that it is not possible to skip to the highest level without first fulfilling the needs of lower ones, or at least without someone in the industry doing that. We can put Järvenpää’s theory to use in the construction industry, when we think of MEP designers as end customers and look at how digital transformation helps MEP manufacturers proceed through the different levels when providing services for them.
MEP manufacturers’ hierarchy of digital transformation
Serving customers’ basic needs in the digital MEP world means providing BIM objects for designers. Creating digital versions of real products by product data modelling is the natural first step in the digital transformation of an MEP manufacturer. But what makes a good BIM object and what should be taken into consideration in product data modelling? Read our earlier post about the top 5 things to consider when acquiring BIM object modelling.
The next step, improving customer experience, can consist of different types of digital tools that help the designer to work more efficiently. Digital product calculators, configurators, and selection tools can make the customer experience significantly better. It is worth noting, however, that providing these digital tools only makes sense if you also have the BIM objects to be used with them. You cannot skip the first step, as Järvenpää stated. The quality of the BIM objects also plays a big role here, as they need to contain right kind of data to function well in the digital design tools.
In the third level, BIM is a comprehensive part of a manufacturer’s business and thinking and processes are aligned towards digital solutions. Extending the manufacturer’s services could mean, for example, a plugin to internal software that allows a manufacturer to provide their product expertise by designing something directly into the designer’s project. In this case the service is more than passively providing high-quality digital twins and selection tools for products. Instead, manufacturers are able to actively offer consulting for end users with the help of digital tools.
In the highest level of the digital transformation hierarchy, MEP manufacturers can release the full potential of digitalization and serve their customers with tailored software that is game-changing or even revolutionary in the industry, potentially leading to disruption in the customer behavior. Imagine a simulation software that can interact with BIM software. It could calculate and simulate an optimal ventilation for a room in the design phase. The designer would then get automatic information about the ventilation system requirements for the room, what manufacturer products to use and where to place them. Furthermore, this information could be used by the manufacturer’s online shop for quotation and ordering purposes, and eventually shipping to the site, bridging the gap between design and construction, digital and physical. This would completely change the way the ventilation designer works, and the manufacturer introducing the game-changing solutions would be the preferred supplier for modern digital-era construction projects.
As Järvenpää pointed out, a higher level of hierarchy doesn’t necessarily directly translate into more business. Each level adds value to the entire value chain. The most important thing is to take digital transformation into consideration in your business and make a strategic decision on the level that you want to add value to the customer now and in the future. The transformation is happening no matter what, and you can see examples of it all around you. It is your choice whether you want to reap the benefits of it.
We at MagiCAD are able to support MEP manufacturers in all of the levels of digital transformation. We can produce BIM object modelling, make configurators and selection tools, provide plugins for connecting them into a design software, and create fully-connected tailored software for your needs. Where are you in the hierarchy at the moment, and are you ready to take the next step?