HomeInternet of Things (IoT)The hype and the glory: Industry 4.0 look-outs at Hannover Messe

The hype and the glory: Industry 4.0 look-outs at Hannover Messe

The real impact of industrial technologies will be discussed and demonstrated at Hannover Messe next week (April 23-27). Automation and digital twins, powered by data analytics and artificial intelligence, will be the mainstays of the developing Industry 4.0 movement, reckon Bosch, Cisco, Deutsche Telekom, and Hewlett Packard.

Momentum is picking up; the ideals of Industry 4.0 are within reach, according to Cisco. “Last year, we saw Industry 4.0 move from concept to an opportunity that businesses were starting to scope. This year customers are actually starting to see the early fruits of their IoT deployments,” said Bryan Tantzen, senior director of industry solutions at the US networking company.

The concept of industrial IoT (IIoT) is moving at last from slide-decks to factory floors. Manufacturers, traditionally reluctant to allow data to leave their premises, are now more inclined to leverage it in the cloud. “The focus this year will be about connecting data across plants, digitizing it and moving it into the cloud with partners. A big focus for the future will be around where cloud can apply in manufacturing plants,” said Tantzen.

They are also seeking to “connect deeper” into their factories. “The focus used to be about connecting at the controller level, but now manufacturers can connect a level below that directly to the front line on the plant floor – things like sensors, robots and pallets,” said Tantzen.

Industrial showcase

Hannover Messe is the leading showcase for technology’s burgeoning and transformative role in industry – and a marker of its progress towards industrial revolution, and a new Industry 4.0 era. It is the most important date in the trade-fair calendar for the leading exponents of Germany’s own manufacturing prowess.

Bosch will be among them. Stefan Aßmann, head of the company’s connected industry division, told Enterprise IoT Insights: “It is a good place to gauge the vibe of the industry – to see how it’s feeling about digitisation in general. There will be many discussions about how industry is going to change, and the real impact of Industry 4.0 – and whether everyone will be able to keep up with this transformation.”

But it’s an international affair, of course. Mexico is the partner country for the 2018 event. Other countries are renting space on the show floor too. Business Finland, the public funding agency for research funding in Finland, is pulling together 11 of the best of the country’s industrial tech start-ups at Hannover. The show will demonstrate how traditional terminology is in fact limited, it reckons, and how industrial technologies are for more than just process automation.

“Instead of just optimising industrial facilities with sensors and focusing on the production part of the processes, industrial companies should be interested in the wider potential of IIoT. In essence, it has the potential to transform the whole value chain of manufacturing by turning traditional manufacturers into service providers,” said Reijo Smolander, programme director for the industrial internet at Business Finland.

“If a company utilises IIoT to the fullest, it can broaden its scope from merely building and delivering a product to taking advantage of its whole life cycle and ultimately becoming a service provider with a new business model. That is the big issue here – not only using technology to improve process efficiency but also to unfold the whole potential of IIoT. This is as much about the transformation in the value chain as it is about technology or solutions.”

Factory mock-ups

Away from the conference rooms and meeting rooms, exhibitors at Hannover Messe will show their wares, typically as functions of conceptual smart-factory mock-ups. Germany’s Deutsche Telekom will show a “powerful process chain for a powerful industry of the future,” it says, marking out the planning, production and logistics stages of a digital factory, and integrating every modish tech concept from augmented and virtual reality to NB-IoT and OPC-UA.

“A robot controls the work while the human merely monitors,” the company said in a blog-post. “The production facility is implemented as a digital factory, integrating extensive automation functions. The work-pieces possess digital product memory, while a blockchain saves all production steps in the background, reliably and transparently – simply smart, all the way to logistics.”

Automation, big data, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) are the driving technologies for smart factories, the industry proclaims; their impact on the industrial workforce will be profound, and a major talking point in Hannover. “AI is a prerequisite to realize Industry 4.0 goals such as the convertible factory,” said Matthias Roese, chief technology officer for manufacturing, automotive and IoT at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) in a blog-post.

The concept of product and test simulation, through ‘digital twins’, will be familiar at Hannover, as. “Not only can computer-aided engineering dramatically accelerate the product development and testing process, but it can also streamline production planning by simulating the entire factory,” said Roese.

Bosch is mindful of the impact of automation on the workforce, as an undertone at the Hannover show, and in the market at large. “At the core of all these developments is the goal to make working life easier for employees – who will always remain the most important actors in the connected factory – and to support our customers in optimising their manufacturing and logistics processes in terms of transparency, agility, cost, quality and time,” said Aßmann.

Democratising IIoT

Another challenge is to make Industry 4.0 available to smaller organisations, and not just those with major national and international heft. “Software solutions should be easy to use, easy to implement and affordable,” commented Aßmann.

“They should be available both as individual solutions for a specific purpose and as a complete package, depending on the requirements. And it should be possible to implement them not only with an own platform, but also with existing solutions from other providers.”

For Cisco, the industry will address two major challenges for industrial IoT at Hannover Messe, and through the rest of 2018: the profound issue of cultural and technical interoperability, and the ultimate deal-breaker of data security.

“Data silos make it hard to extract data from devices. Being able to bridge legacy protocols while also taking advantage of new protocols will make this easier. The second big challenge is security, specifically around being able to safely connect everything and pull the data from all these systems without jeopardizing worker health, machine health and production uptimes,” he said.

Cisco is showcasing ways to secure the operational environment on the plant floor without compromising production systems. “These solutions are IT acceptable in terms of how we’re securing the plant floor and data flows,” said Tantzen. Cisco is also showing upgrades to its Cisco Kinetic platform, which extracts data across industrial systems.

“At Hannover, you’re going to see real solutions that are deployable today that tackle the challenges associated with security and data silos.”

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