Robotics & Automation News

Market trends and business perspectives

Hannover Messe highlights smart factory technologies and artificial intelligence

The world’s leading industrial technology event, Hannover Messe, is this year highlighting smart factory technologies and artificial intelligence. 

The organizers of the show have decided on the theme of “Industrial Intelligence”, which probably encapsulates the trends perfectly.

However, its always going to be difficult to summarise what is going on such a large trade fair, let alone distill it into two words. 

With more than 6,500 exhibitors from 75 countries, all showing their own innovations in ample stands, the ground space required for the fair equate to the approximate size of a small town.

The exhibitors come from all sectors of industry, including industrial robotics, engineering, and computer technology.

Broadly speaking, in previous years when we visited, we identified a definite trend towards implementing more software solutions to industrial processes.

These software solutions have now definitely shifted into the realm of artificial intelligence.

To provide an example, in logistics, automated guided vehicles are being joined or replaced by autonomous mobile robots. They might look the same, but the automated one does not gather data and make its own decisions about where to go and what to do – which the autonomous one does, because of artificial intelligence.

AI is also capable of analyzing data collected from an entire facility or global business, not just while on board individual machines.

There basically is no limit to what AI can do, but it has to be developed first – the AI systems have to be programmed and created. And this is what has been happening in the past year or two more than ever.

Implementation is happening now, but it’s still in the relatively early stages. It’s difficult to say how quickly it will develop, but certainly there are those who have been articulating what the benefits will be.

Fully unmanned factories and warehouses, where AI runs everything, and reports back. Smart factories which are flexible enough to change with the demands of markets and customers.

These are just some of the possibilities.

There will always be a place for humans because AI systems will never be curious enough and have as broad a perspective as humans. To continue the theme of this article, while AI might know everything about managing machines and facilities, it will not know what the markets or consumers want – that will be something the humans will need to do.

Even if the AI system is fed data about market trends and customer preferences, the essence of design and experience is still human and, therefore, it will be humans who decide what products to develop and manufacture.

Nonetheless, it’s a pioneering time for industry, which is why Hannover Messe organized the “1st Industrial Pioneers Summit”, which we looked in on.

Taking part in the summit, and making speeches, were some significant thinkers from the sector, including:

  • Prof Dr Detlef Zühlke, Executive Chairman, smartfactory-KL eV: Industry 4.0 & Smart Factory – Needs and challenges for the production of the future and ways to global solutions
  • Volkhard Bregulla, General Manager Global Accounts Germany & Central Eastern Europe, Hewlett Packard Enterprise: Digital’s all about flexibility, adoption of Edge Intelligence with AI & Economics
    It’s time artificial intelligence is ready!
  • Georg Kube, Global Vice President of Industrial Machinery & Components, SAP SE: The Intelligent Manufacturing Enterprise – Thriving in the Experience Economy
  • Günther H. Oettinger, EU Commissioner for Budget & Human Resources, European Commission: Political Keynote by European Commission
  • Klaus Helmrich, Member of the Management Board, Siemens AG: Thinking industry further! The next level of Digital Enterprise
  • Cui Haifeng, Vice President, Manufacturing & Automotive Industry, Enterprise Business Group, West European Region, Huawei Technologies Dusseldorf
  • Åsa Tamsons, SVP and Head of Technologies & New Businesses, Ericsson: Another Step into the Wireless World: Why Reliable Mobile Connections, IoT and 5G Are Necessary for Industry 4.0
  • Çaglayan Arkan, Global Lead, Manufacturing & Resources Industry, Microsoft: Digital Leadership in the Age of Smart Manufacturing
  • Christine Boles, Vice President, General Manager, Industrial Solutions Division, Intel Corporation: Transformation in Industry 4.0
  • Dirk Ahlborn, CEO, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies: Building the Hyperloop – the fifth form of transportation

A lot of fundamental changes are happening in industry. For example, the global switch to electric cars will result in completely new ways of building cars in factories.

Autonomous driving will also enable a new way to build cars. One expert says there is the possibility of a car being built with the autonomous driving capability first so it can drive itself around the production facility, from one robotic cell to another, so that other parts of it can be added and the whole vehicle can be assembled.

The possibilities are endless.