Industrial technology trade fair Hannover Messe says integration is the future of the industry — an important challenge that companies must take on in order to remain competitive in tomorrow's intelligent, self-organizing factories.
"To stay competitive, industrial companies need to make their production processes as resource-efficient as possible," said Dr. Jochen Köckler, Managing Board member at Deutsche Messe. "They need to be able to respond swiftly to changes in the market, while at the same time satisfying the growing demand for product individualization and customization."
The lead theme for Hannover Messe in 2014 is "Integrated Industry – Next Steps."
"The answer to these challenges has a name: Integrated Industry – a paradigm in which production processes are geared for maximum flexibility," said Köckler. "Many technologies for implementing this paradigm have been developed over recent years. The next steps are about integrating these technologies into industrial production in such a way that they form a synchronized, harmonized and fully networked whole. And this is precisely the focus of Hannover Messe 2014, namely the steps industry needs to take in order to get from its smart-factory vision to a real-life, integrated Industry 4.0 factory."
There are several contributing factors involved in making the change from a smart factory to Industry 4.0. Hannover Messe said it is important for teams to discuss, share and coordinate information on how to make the transition. One of the biggest challenges companies face is standardization across all of their components, machines and factories.
"At the moment, each company's IT system speaks its own separate language. But now, in order to achieve integration, we need industry-wide agreement on a common 'international language of production,'" said Köckler. "Under the banner Integrated Industry – Next Steps, Hannover Messe 2014 will present a number of pioneering approaches and initiatives in this area."
An "Integrated Industry" is one comprised of intelligent systems in which all components including work pieces, machine and transportation systems are connected through a network that allow them to communicate independently. This enables maximum flexibility and efficiency during the production process.
"Flexibility and efficiency — these are the keys to continued survival in a highly competitive international market," said Köckler. "Therefore, the task now is to take the next steps — and, more important, the right steps — to ensure that industry realizes its vision of smart, flexible factories."
For a portion of Hannover Messe exhibitors, the "next steps" towards an integrated industry means focusing on the generation, transmission, distribution or storage of energy. Solutions to accomplish this include upgrading and expanding energy transmission and data networks, and seeking alternative energy sources.
"The energy of the future is not just green; it is smart as well," said Köckler. "In the future, the smart grids that carry energy and the end devices that consume it will communicate with each other, unlocking colossal potential for energy savings. Making this vision a reality requires collaboration and coordination across an incredibly diverse range of industries. With integration at its very heart, Hannover Messe is the ideal platform for marshaling future-defining technologies and concrete solutions in the interests of promoting and facilitating the transformation from an outmoded, inflexible energy system to a modern, intelligent energy network."