Materials Research Goes Digital

Online Editor

Samir Jaber details how engineers’ material selection process is shifting the industry to digital

The process of material selection has lately undergone a significant evolution and is prompting a transformation in the materials industry. Today, the majority of material research performed by engineers has moved from physical sources to online databases. A recent study found that as of 2019, 84% of all engineering content consumption is taking place in a digital space.

Researchers have also observed a strong correlation between the amount of consumed information and the level of authority in decision making. User research at Matmatch agrees with that, as engineers claim to be responsible for the final material decision no less than 50% of the time.

A more recent study by Trew Marketing and GlobalSpec exploring the impact of Covid-19 on the state of marketing to engineers also showed consistent results. Engineers are turning to supplier websites, material platforms and virtual events to learn about materials since real-world trade fairs have been facing cancellations. Eight out of every 10 engineers said they found value from virtual events, and almost two-thirds of them seek information on supplier websites.

Material selection is also becoming increasingly holistic, stepping beyond the traditional factors such as material properties, availability and cost. Today, engineers include numerous other conditions in their decision-making process on materials, such as recyclability, available manufacturing methods, corrosion properties, carbon emissions, potential suppliers, and source location.

Particularly, material sustainability and process sustainability have taken centre stage as engineers’ demand for such information is pushing suppliers and manufacturers to publicly guarantee those through certifications. More and more standards and regulations are being put in place to ensure accurate reporting of sustainability and quality of materials. And all this is available at the click of a button.

Faster And More Efficient

With easier access to digital data and information, engineers are able to research and compare both materials and suppliers in a faster and more effective manner than ever before. As a result, leading material suppliers have been actively investing in digitising their material data and displaying reports on their sustainability efforts to keep up with the transition the industry is undergoing.Whether on their own websites or dedicated material platforms, suppliers are turning their materials’ datasheets, reports, and use cases into computer-readable formats that can be searched and found online.

Evidence has shown that offline marketing channels, such as trade shows, reach a relatively smaller audience while requiring a considerable investment in money and time. And recent events of the coronavirus pandemic have exacerbated the situation, leading companies to shift and follow where the engineers go.

As engineers are now performing most of their material research and selection processes through online databases such as Matmatch, suppliers are relying on digital marketing to reach and target them wherever they are. Whether it is through digitised datasheets, online articles, videos, webinars, or virtual events, digital communication is becoming the norm.

What will this transformation lead to? And how will the industry react to it? Only time will tell. What is certain, however, is that this evolution in the material selection process has already triggered the digital shift in the materials industry.

Samir Jaber is with Matmatch

Recent Issues