Month in Review – April 2018

By Philip Stoten

My April started in Mexico, spending more time with the local EMS companies and some exciting new startups at Plug and Play at Tec de Monterrey. April ended in Milan, but not before spending a few fascinating days at Hannover Messe, where this year’s partner country was, yes you guessed it, Mexico.

Each year Hannover Messe shines a spotlight on a particular country, this year that country was Mexico, and with good reason! Mexico is ranked 10th for patents, 3rd in the digital transformation index, 4th largest exporter of light vehicles and 8th for renewable energy. It has over 223,000 STEM graduates each year, nearly 100 research centers for innovation and advanced manufacturing, 34 industrial clusters implementing Industry 4.0 technologies and IoT solutions and 21 Automotive OEM plants pioneering smart factory technology. Mexico exports almost US$75 billion each year in the electronics sector and more than US$100 billion in automotive.

This promotional video offers a little more insight into why Mexico is becoming increasingly important.

Last week there were two major trade shows in our industry, leaving the hard decision of which to attend. In Shanghai, Reed hosted NEPCON China, which is always an interesting event, providing real insight into the development of electronic manufacturing in China. It is fascinating to observe China as it attempts to move from low cost ‘factory of the world’ to something that offers more added value around innovation and engineering. It is hard to imagine that any government in the world is doing more to promote technology than the Chinese government. Unencumbered by the political cycle, China is pushing to become one of the most technically advanced and flexible manufacturing locations, with well-funded development programs in many areas, not least Industry 4.0 (or Made in China 2025), robotics and automation. Perhaps most telling is the level of investment, research and development around AI (Artificial Intelligence).

I did not go to NEPCON China, instead opting to visit Hannover Messe again, along with more than 200,000 other people. I wasn’t disappointed. Hannover was where the topic of the fourth industrial revolution was first mooted and where the debate continues to develop year-on-year. This year many large players, like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google, IBM and Microsoft could be seen alongside German industrial giants such as Siemens, vying for the role of platform or operating system provider to Industry 4.0. Concepts entering the debate this year included blockchain as a solution to cybersecurity issues, as well as the idea of Everything as a Service (EaaS). Front and center again is AI, virtual reality and more than ever the term digital twin, offering real-time digital versions of products, processes, machines, lines, and even entire manufacturing ecosystems or supply chains.

Hannover Messe is a monster of a show, with literally hundreds of presentations taking place through the week covering every aspect of manufacturing. It offers a unique chance to see the latest trends in production in one place, and in a country that values engineering and engineers. The lead theme this year was man-machine collaboration and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel was once again present, this year fist bumping a robot and asking the world to connect and collaborate.

For me May starts in Milan, Italy and will see various stops in and around Europe before returning to Germany in early June for SMT Nuremberg. We will also be launching the first SCOOPsocial webinar in June. We will take some of the key topics of the industry and invite two or three executives to present their thoughts in ten slides and ten minutes or less. This will be followed by a short debate, before we open questions to audience. You’ll see an update on this very soon. And you’ll hear more from my travel in a month…