Like any tectonic event, Hannover Messe is so big that it's pre-shocks start to arrive way before the event itself.
This year's edition of the world's largest manufacturing exhibition will be held April 13-17 in its usual two dozen halls in Hannover, Germany, but organizers and more than 40 exhibitors delivered a comprehensive sneak peak of the fair's Industry 4.0 and related solutions on Feb.3 at the ewerk hall and former power plant substation in Berlin. Organizers expect the fair to exceed the 6,400 exhibitors it hosted two years ago. They'll also be joined by India as the event's 2015 partner country, which will feature its new "Make in India" program, an initiative that aims to make it easier for manufacturers to do business there.
Dr. Jochen Koeckler, member of Duetsche Messe AG's managing board, reports the organization has asked manufacturers if they're ready for Industry 4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the answer is almost always "no." "Research shows 50% of those in manufacturing have never heard of Industry 4.0, and 25% have heard of it, but don't know what it's about," said Koeckler. "So the message for the future is that we need to be prepared because another recent study found that an 18% increase in efficiency and a 15% increase in cost savings will be possible over the next five years thanks to the flexibility and productivity enabled by Industry 4.0."
To achieve these gains, Koeckler reports that Industry 4.0 will also bring radical changes to industrial production models and energy systems. In factories, there will be a shift away from mass production as customers increasingly demand customized products at the same low prices as for mass-produced goods. Likewise, energy grids will need to become smarter, so they can optimally balance and deploy available power, gas and heat from a range of sources.
Koeckler adds that the answer to these challenges is "Integrated Industry," which is the intelligent, digital networking and integration of industrial systems and processes. Integrated Industry is about enabling machines and workpieces to communicate with each another, which will allow whole production lines to autonomously and dynamically reconfigure themselves, and render small-batch and one-off production commercially workable in large plants.
"Manufacturing in Europe, North America and Asia will all depend on Industry 4.0, but most companies still don’t know what they need to do in order to be ready for it," adds Koeckler. "What they need to do, of course, is form close networks with all stakeholders involved in their production processes, and Hannover Messe 2015 with its lead theme of ‘Integrated Industry—Join the Network!’ will show them how.”
Examples of this integrated networking in action at Hannover Fair 2015 will be showcased in:
- Smart factory solutions and guided, walk-through tours;
- Smart grid exhibits with intelligent components combining manufacturing, power generation and storage;
- Human-robot collaboration, in which robots will work with operators to ease traditional workloads; and
- Additive manufacturing, which will include 3D printers from Arburg (www.arburg.com) and other builders.
"After Hannover Messe, visitors will be able to say, 'Yes, we're ready for Industry 4.0,' because they'll be able to take home ideas and achieve more competitive production," says Koeckler.