By Anke Henrich
When viewed from outside, most factories haven't changed in many years. On the inside, however, enormous changes are afoot. People and machines are working closely together and learning from one another. Machines are connected with machines, they exchange data amongst each other and the number of tasks they can take on independently is increasing. The opportunities offered by artificial intelligence in production scenarios are being researched and tested, and expectations are high. "Artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionize industry and the energy economy," says Jochen Köckler, CEO of Deutsche Messe AG. The components and systems used in mechanical and plant engineering and electrical engineering are increasingly being combined with digital technologies from software and IT companies.
German industry's most important showcase for industry, Hannover Messe, now also wants to set the bar when it comes to "industrial intelligence." "Our exhibitors will showcase over 100 specific application examples for machine learning. This is unique in the world," explains Köckler. 200,000 visitors are expected to attend the trade fair this year, an increase over last year. "Leading figures from the world’s top companies and research institutions are asking themselves how the industrial future will look. Hannover Messe brings them all together," adds Hartmut Rauen, Deputy Executive Director of VDMA. "Industrial intelligence is the main topic of our time. For manufacturing companies, the goal is to move their processes into new dimensions, such as completely flexible production from batch size one, while still offering maximum efficiency. At the same time, industrial intelligence needs to enable companies to access new business models, such as the platform economy," he explains. In his view, mechanical engineering is leading the way in this development: "We are bridging the gap between the virtual world and the world of real products."
The industry-related digital topics will also benefit from the integration of the now-defunct computer trade fair, Cebit, into the Hannover Messe. 40 of its exhibitors signed up for Hannover Messe as soon as they received notification of Cebit’s cancellation. Big data, IT security and 5G mobile technology will all be core topics at the expanded trade fair.
- Exhibits will include robots that can independently complete tasks in the factory and transfer their knowledge to other machines and AI systems that give detailed instructions for repair measures. That is how industrial intelligence works - the system constantly improves itself, as it learns independently from every new problem and piece of feedback.
- Pioneering technologies, such as machine learning in production and autonomous driving, will only be ready for use once the 5G mobile standard is in place. Together with network supplier Nokia, Hannover Messe is therefore presenting the "5G Arena" as an application test field.
- As is the case for all digitalization topics, autonomous driving completely relies on data security. The "Industrial Security" Forum will cover a wide range of topics in this field, including security by design, prevention strategies, detection and reaction, certification, cloud computing, 5G and blockchain/distributed ledger technologies.
- There will also be a broad spectrum of offers in the sector of electric vehicle infrastructure, a segment which deals with charging technologies, new billing systems and alternative mobility and transport solutions.
- And there will even be space at the trade fair for dandelions, with tire manufacturer Continental planning to present the findings from its "Taraxum Lab". For five years, they have been working with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology to research how dandelion rubber can be industrialized in a reliably and environmentally-friendly way.
Focus on people
Industrial intelligence is more than just artificial intelligence. It is the alliance of artificial intelligence with automation and energy technology, IT platforms and intralogistics. However, industrial intelligence can only play its part in driving the digital transformation if people have the requisite qualifications to combine all these aspects in a useful way and develop them further. This means that industrial intelligence stands on two pillars: technology and knowledge management. Neither can work without the other. The data analyses needed and the development of algorithms for artificial intelligence would not be possible without the qualifications and process expertise of people.
It is crucial that experts from a huge range of fields collaborate much more closely than in the past. Andreas Oroszi, Head of Digital Business at the process control and factory automation solutions specialist Festo in Esslingen, puts it like this: "When it comes to industrial intelligence in particular, the combination of the algorithms programmed by an IT expert and the specific expertise of an engineer are the factors that decide whether the implementation of AI-based automation applications is a success. I am certain that the topic of software, especially in relation to intelligent products and systems, will be assigned far greater importance in the future."
New, interdisciplinary teams like this are a challenge for managers and demand a great deal of skills and tools from staff. How can it be done? Experts will discuss this at the "Industrie 4.0" forum at the trade fair.
And then there is the existential question: What comes after Industrie 4.0? How will digitalization, AI, human-machine collaboration and the platform economy continue to develop over the next ten years? These will be just some of the questions discussed by innovators from industry, politics, business, research and society at the “Industrial Pioneers Summit” on the Tuesday of the trade fair. Ten years are almost an eternity in the digital age, and with so many options on the table, it is sure to be a lively debate.
Sweden - Partner country 2019
At the northern edge of Europe, yet leading the way in the digital age. Partner country Sweden is a perfect example of how much industrial companies can benefit from a national digitalization strategy.
After Silicon Valley, where can you find the most "unicorns" per head of the population? In Sweden! The partner country of Hannover Messe 2019 is home to plenty of start-ups with a market value of over a billion dollars.
Sweden's government and industry have been driving the digital transformation consistently since the 1990s, and their strategy is working. Sweden is placed third in the European Union’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), behind Denmark and the Netherlands. It is all thanks to their "ICT for Everyone - A Digital Agenda for Sweden" strategy. Their approach was to involve all the country’s citizens in the process: "The Digital Agenda has been shaped in an open process, partly through various different round-table discussions and other meetings. But good ideas and inputs have also been received, for example, by letter and e-mail and on web-based forums, Twitter and Facebook."
It was back in the 1990s that an IT commission compiled the first strategy paper. At the same time, the government was more active than other countries in driving the expansion of fiber optic networks, the basis of an "information society for all." Digital education became a compulsory part of the school curriculum. In 2016, the government issued an action plan for connected production.
Per Thöresson, the Swedish Ambassador to Germany, sees his country’s focus on technology and export as vital. With just 10.1 million people, the domestic market is so small that all companies, including start-ups, consider internationalization and worldwide competition right from their initial business plan. 70 per cent of Swedish exports come from industrial and industry-related service providers, including world-famous names like ABB, Terra Pak, SKF, Spotify, Klarna, iZettle and King. "We Swedes are proud of our openness and our will to work together and share knowledge," says Thöresson. "This is the only way to stay innovative long term."
In Hannover, the Scandinavians will present their "Sweden-Co-Lab," a digital factory that works under the principle of early collaboration with the customers and a constantly increasing intensity of research. Initial successes from the "German-Swedish Innovation Partnership," founded in 2017 with a focus on mobility, e-health and test environments, will also be on display. 40 Swedish start-ups will also be at the trade fair.