Industry 4.0, IoT and all things manufacturing

Having returned from Hannover, Germany, Allan Behrens, founder of business technology consultants, Taxal, reports on his experience at the world’s largest industrial fair.

For those unacquainted with Hannover Messe, this is a mammoth trade show with more thn 5,200 exhibitors.

Allan Behrens, founder, Taxal
Allan Behrens, founder, Taxal.

The exhibitors aren’t just German companies either. According to the organisers, overseas accounted for almost 60% of the exhibitors; 465 from the US – this year’s partner country, and (unsurprisingly) around 650 from China.

While much of the show was in somewhat of a holding pattern on the first half day, (due to visiting dignitaries, President Obama and Chancellor Merkel), I took the time to attend a Siemens US-centric (customer and) press briefing.

Interestingly, and according to Siemens, much of the existing US manufacturing base has 35-Year-old+ assets, 27% of the workforce will be eligible to retire in 2025, and the country is a laggard in digital maturity.

While some may consider these somewhat depressing research points, I’d suggest these offer significant prospects for innovative suppliers, and an opportunity to increase US manufacturing productivity.

Industrie 4.0 / Industry 4.0

Given that I was only at the show for two days, I had barely enough time to scratch the surface on exhibitors. My time was spent in ‘Digital Factory’ halls where the focus was predominantly on Industrie 4.0, the internet of things (IoT), and IT solutions for the manufacturing industry.

Siemens being one of the largest (German-based) companies in areas of electrification, automation and digitalisation, had multiple stands, three of which I visited – one with a corporate focus, one around Siemens PLM, and an off-site demonstration area for the company’s MES (manufacturing execution systems) offerings.

The focus of Siemens’ main stand was particularly well thought out; presenting eloquent stories of virtual design and workflows through manufacture and test; the only demonstration I saw that covered most domains (and aspirations) of the digital (Industrie 4.0-based) manufacturing enterprise.

IoT

Although Industrie 4.0 logos and demonstrations were flavour of the day, in the Digital Factory halls the IoT acronym was as, if not more, prominent.

Intel, for one, had a large stand for IoT partners, and IBM highlighted its Watson IoT and Bluemix platforms. In fact, IBM were noticeable not only through its stand presence, but via the many IBM logos and demonstrations on numerous partner and ecosystem stands.

IoT Internet of Things
In the Digital Factory halls the IoT acronym was as, if not more, prominent.

The likes of SAP (one of the largest and busiest exhibits); HP; Dell; Accenture, and Atos were also high profile, and I was intrigued to see the likes of Huawei displaying its IoT connectivity solutions, so too the likes of AT&T.

Among the most interesting IoT flavoured stands were those of Microsoft and Bosch. Microsoft’s partner-centric Azure IoT/Cortana presence was made more prominent by the immense Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine on the stand.

Rolls-Royce demonstrated a software evolution of their well-known TotalCare service package which, in this case, leveraged Microsoft’s Azure IoT and Cortana analytics to support advanced (predictive) MRO capabilities. One of the most comprehensive demonstrations and examples of IoT/MRO value I’ve seen to date.

Some might naïvely think of Bosch as simply involved in industrial products, automotive components and building products. Not so. This 375,000-employee company is very much into other areas, including IoT.

Future of Making Things

Launched by Autodesk and The Manufacturer – and supported by key partners, the Future of British Manufacturing Initiative takes a hands-on approach to enable British design and manufacturing companies to respond to the challenges of trends the likes of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things.

Gain a firmer grasp of the trends that are shaping design and manufacturing, and how other companies are already responding to them, by attending one of the four regional Future of Making Things event at a High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centre:

  • May 25, The MTC – Coventry
  • June 15, AMRC, Rotherham
  • September 21, AFRC, Renfrew

And IoT isn’t simply seen by Bosch as a means to deliver value to its products and manufacturing capabilities, (the CEO has mandated that ALL Bosch products be connected by the year 2020,) but also to deliver IoT platform and (cloud) services to a much broader audience. Interestingly, competing with the likes of IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon.

Regarding the engineering software community. Siemens PLM and Dassault Systems had large neighbouring stands, highlighting both software workflows and partner solutions.

Autodesk’s stand centred on its Future of Making Things (FOMT) strategy with some key reseller partners, but didn’t have SeeControl on show.

While I understand that its SeeControl IoT solution isn’t currently focused on the German market, I’d suggest this was an opportunity lost to gauge appetite for their investments in connected technologies in the (German) market.