By Joanne Moretti, General Manager, Radius Innovation & Development and SVP & CMO, Jabil

first seen on Jabil Insights

Hannover Messe is one of the world’s largest shows and probably the biggest for manufacturing. The focus of this year’s event was all things digital, with Industry 4.0 once again appearing in large text on just about every booth. Whether you subscribe to this term or you prefer “smart factory” or “IIoT” (Industrial Internet of Things), there is no doubt that the digitization of manufacturing is taking a firm grip.

The show hosted a whopping 210,000 visitors this year, of which more than 70,000 were from overseas; and it had 5,000 exhibitors from 75 countries. The lead theme was man-machine collaboration and the partner country was Mexico, with more than 160 companies present as well as President Enrique Peña Nieto. Once again German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel was present, and after fist bumping a robot, she stated “I hope that the global economy takes to heart the tradeshow moto ‘Connect and Collaborate.’”

So, with that context in mind, here are my top 10 takeaways from the show:

1.     It All Starts with Digitization – That first industrial revolution was lubricated by oil, allowing parts to operate together with minimal friction. This time the lubricant is data, and our ability to move that data from machine to machine and beyond with the same minimal friction is essential to the success of the fourth industrial revolution. The result is that everything that exists in this new industrial order must have a digital footprint, not an analog one, and it must be connected by a digital thread. Some experts talk about the four “Rs” of Industry 4.0: the ability to Read, Record, Relay, and React. These are all driven by digital data. The first part of this industrial revolution is the digitization of everything, be that machines, processes or materials.

2.     Digital Twins are Taking Center Stage – The topic of digital twins has been discussed for a few years, but this year it seems to have become a fundamental part of everyone’s strategy, from design, through manufacture to product lifecycle. Digital twins of products, of processes, of manufacturing lines, or even of entire ecosystems and supply chains offer all kinds of benefits. Top on the list of uses is to simulate different scenarios while using a constant data exchange with the real product or process to ensure the twin is as data rich as it can be.

3.     Machine Learning, the Industry 4.0 Brain – Most people seem to agree that machine learning could accelerate the uptake of Industry 4.0 or smart factory adoption. Many companies are exploring this technology, and Germany is concerned it is lagging in this technology, according to the result of a global study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The share of AI pioneers is largest in the U.S., China, and India. Germany is only in sixth place, after Canada and Poland. Although in Germany every seventh company has already begun integrating AI, in China and India the ratio is already one in four.

4.     Are Platforms the Heart of the Digital Revolution? Many believe that market structures in manufacturing are changing, and platforms supported by players such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google, SAP, IBM, Microsoft, and Siemens are part of that trend. Julia White, Vice President of the Microsoft cloud platform Azure, announced in a blog post on April 4, 2018, that the company will invest a total of $5 billion in the Internet of Things over the next four years. The funds are intended to support research and development in key areas. But they will flow into new products, services, and programs. The focus will be on IoT security, development tools, and networked services.

5.     Does Industry 4.0 Need an OS? Some suggest that Industry 4.0 is looking for an operating system. “IT and industry have been moving closer together from different directions,” says Arno Reich, Global Director IAMD and Digital Factory with Hannover Messe. He adds that “In this period of digital transformation, they are now pulling together and can no longer be seen separately.” Automation specialists, who according to Reich now have excellent software skills, are upgrading their products and services with digital technology. “At the same time, IT and internet corporations are addressing the industrial sector and are discovering highly attractive areas of application for their products, such as the platform economy,” says Reich.

6.     Cobots: Man and Machine at the Top of Their Game – German industry currently deploys 290 multi-functional robots per 10,000 employees, and that figure is only expected to rise. Instead of replacing human workers, the machines are typically becoming their colleagues. Collaborative robots, known as cobots, are part of a new generation of robots that work hand-in-hand with their human colleagues. ANYmal, a robot that has been attracting high levels of media interest and was premiered in Hannover last year, once again was a major visitor attraction. This year, alongside ANYmal, the Zurich-based startup ANYbotics AG trained the spotlight on ANYdrive, an innovative, flexible robot joint that combines the motor, gears, titanium springs, sensors and intelligent motor electronics in a compact unit that is sealed with IP67 protection. The American injection molding manufacturer Plastic Molded Concepts (PMC) uses the Cobot Sawyer from Rethink Robotics in the production of plastic parts. PMC will use it to boost the efficiency of its 38 injection molding machines. Sawyer is currently manufacturing parts for a pressure gauge.

7.     Smart Factories Need Smart, Secure Supply Chains – Under the banner “Industry 4.0 meets Logistics 4.0,” Hannover Messe had a strong focus on logistics and supply chain. Many of the exhibiting companies are component manufacturers working with supply chain ecosystems to ensure that the digitization of production flows beyond the factory walls. As with all data-driven endeavors, cybersecurity is top of mind for many, particularly in light of recent data privacy issues with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. One of the technologies being promoted as a potential solution is blockchain, which while initially associated with cryptocurrencies is now finding increasing traction in the supply chain world.

8.     Enticing the Engineers of Tomorrow – While Hannover Messe is predominantly for German industry, it does a lot more. STEM education is important to us all. At Hannover Messe, academia is well represented, and students have a great opportunity to explore the exciting careers that await them in the world of manufacturing. The show looks a little more futuristic each year, and this year the sight of robotics and virtual reality design should entice more students to consider STEM more seriously than ever before. There is no shortage of programs supporting students; organized by the Association of German Engineers (VDI) and Deutsche Messe, Young Engineers Day offered a program with themed tours and information targeted to students. The format provided direct contact with exhibitors in the areas of robotics, Industry 4.0, lightweight construction, energy and drive engineering, as well as personal interactions with fellow students and young engineers in the VDI network. To end the day, Deutsche Messe and VDI invited students to a tradeshow party in a neighboring Hall, with music, snacks, and beverages.

9.     Validating Jabil’s Additive Manufacturing Network™ Strategy – Sometimes events like Hannover Messe brings new technologies and ideas, other times they do a wonderful job of validating what you know to be right. Recently, Jabil has been talking a lot about Additive Manufacturing and our own distributed manufacturing strategy. In fact, you may have seen our announcements in the press last week. This will provide Jabil with even greater manufacturing agility, and in turn business agility, for the brands that trust us to deliver their products and solutions directly to their consumers. This year advances in 3D Printing materials are really pushing Additive Manufacturing forward, and larger investments are bringing it into the industrial mainstream. Few technologies are more “Industry 4.0” than Additive Manufacturing, with its lot size of one and digital thread running from design to print and beyond.

BMW announced a 10-million-euro investment in 3D printing at their Additive Manufacturing Campus in Oberschleissheim, near Munich. They are already printing some of the production parts for the i8 roadster’s roof and are planning to roll out customized 3D printed parts for the Mini range. A partnership between the Fraunhofer IAPT, Bionic Production AG, and Bugatti has developed the world’s biggest additive-manufactured, titanium functional component. The development time for the 3D titanium brake caliper was very short, taking just three months from the initial idea to printing the first part.  We think these actions by companies is great news, and again, Jabil is really pleased that our own announcements in the world of additive are coming just at the right time!

10.  Hannover Messe Is a Must See for Anyone in Manufacturing – I thought CES was a huge show, and this one is even bigger.  But it’s not just big, it’s comprehensive, covering all areas of manufacturing. It has dozens of programs, hundreds of conference sessions and thousands of exhibitors, all with new technology on offer. It really does set the benchmark and the agenda for what’s to come in the industry over the coming 12 months.  So, if you are in manufacturing, empowering manufacturing in any way, or focus on innovation in manufacturing, you should put it on your agenda every year!

On a separate but related note, if this type of information really energizes you, and you’d like to explore an exciting career opportunity with an employer who empowers you to make a difference, you should check out our Career Pages right here on www.jabil.com.  We have more than 2,300+ career possibilities open right now in innovation, engineering, manufacturing, and supply chain roles, and you will never enjoy a more gratifying career anywhere else!