Like any earthshaking event, Hannover Messe is so huge that it's pre-shocks start to arrive way before the event itself.
This year's version of the world's largest manufacturing exhibition will be held April 13-17 in its usual 26 halls in Hannover, but organizers and more than 40 exhibitors provided a comprehensive sneak peak of the fair's Industry 4.0 and related solutions on Feb.3 at the ewerk hall and former power plant substation in Berlin. Organizers expect the fair to top the 6,400 exhibitors it hosted two years ago. They'll also be joined by India as the event's 2015 partner country, which will feature its new "Make in India" program to make it easier for manufacturers to do business there.
Dr. Jochen Koeckler, member of Duetsche Messe AG's managing board, reports his organization queried manufacturers if they're ready for Industry 4.0 or the 4th Industrial Revolution, and the answer is almost always "no." "Research shows 50% of those in manufacturing never heard of Industry 4.0, and 25% have heard of it, but don't know what it's about," said Koeckler. "So, the message is that we need to be prepared because another recent study found that an 18% increase in efficiency and a 15% increase in savings will be possible over the next five years thanks to the productivity enabled by Industry 4.0."
To achieve these gains, Koeckler reports that Industry 4.0 will also bring profound changes to industrial production models and energy systems. In factories, there will be a move away from mass production as more customers demand customized products at the same low prices as for mass-produced goods. Likewise, energy grids will need to become more intelligent, so they can balance and deploy available power, gas and heat from many sources.
Koeckler adds the answer to these challenges is "Integrated Industry," which is the smart, digital networking and integration of manufacturing systems and processes. Integrated Industry is about allowing machines and workpieces to communicate with each another, which will allow entire production lines to autonomously and dynamically reconfigure themselves, and make small-batch and one-off production commercially viable in large plants.
"Manufacturing in Europe, North America and Asia will all depend on Industry 4.0, but most companies still don't know what they need to do to be ready for it," adds Koeckler. "What they need to do is form close networks with all stakeholders involved in their production processes, and Hannover Messe 2015 with its theme of 'Integrated Industry—Join the Network!' will show them how. After Hannover Messe, visitors will be able to say, 'yes, we're ready for Industry 4.0,' because they'll be able to take home ideas, and achieve more competitive production."
Defining Industry 4.0
One of the pioneers in Industry 4.0 is Maschinenfabrik Reinhausen GmbH (MR) in Regensburg, Germany, which manufactures tap changers and other devices for regulating power transformers.
"The history of MR as a high-performance manufacturer has given us decades to develop the strategies for accomplishing Industry 4.0 now," says Dipl.-Ing Johann Hofmann, consultant and senior vice president of ValueFacturing at MR, who anchored the keynote presentations at the Hannover Fair preview event. "To support power generators, maximum-voltage grids and medium-voltage networks, MR builds the biggest transformer step switches, which contain numerous mechanical components. As a result, MR and its subsidiaries typically have to retool manufacturing operations two or three times per shift, and so in recent years they began investigating how Industry 4.0 methods might help, even though the idea made us dizzy when we first heard about it."
Over time, Hofmann reports MR boiled their understanding of Industry 4.0 down to 12 primary terms. These include:
- Smart factory is a new concept for using the Internet for manufacturing that employs more resilient communications between machines, production lines, operators and support capabilities, which are linked by IP-based communications and supported by assistance systems. This results in improved energy and resources efficiency and better productivity.
- Interdisciplinary and integrated manufacturing, which connect and combine formerly independent disciplines and methods for the best possible outcomes.
- Social media tools, such as Facebook and WhatsApp, for easily exchanging knowledge between users.
- Mobile computing on laptops, tablet PCs, smart phones and other devices.
- Virtualization, including running and managing multiple computers, machines or other devices on fewer, unified operating systems or servers. This term can also apply to real-time modeling of manufacturing processes in virtual spaces.
- Smart objects typically include barcodes, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and other components with digital data storage and memory, which are placed in materials, products or packaging, and detected by scanners and computers. These objects link the digital and physical world to help individualize and assist production.
- Big data refers to the immense data volumes coming with increasing speed from analog and digital sources, which can be used to aid production via improved visualization, analysis and decision-making.
- Analysis, optimization and forecasting use heuristics, pattern recognition and other methods to filter out certain data, and gain useful intelligence from unstructured big data sources.
- Internet of things is combines Internet-enabled devices and products into universal, digital, communication networks.
- Internet of services consists of providers offering functions and capabilities via the Internet usually in on-demand and subscription formats.
- Assistance systems use lean manufacturing principles and manufacturing execution systems (MESs) between plant-floor and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. They address complicated problems that are predictable, manageable and can be automated with enough knowledge, and complex problems that can't be predicted, but can only be observed and influenced to some extent without foreseen consequences.
- Cyber-physical systems use computers to communicate via the Internet with physical devices and control them. Often referred to as embedded systems, they're are based on intelligent, industrial, assistance systems with direct access via data hubs to all facilities. This allows new production system designs, such as intelligent work-pieces navigating autonomously through the production line producing them.
Eventually, MR developed its Maschinenfabrik Reinhausen—Computer-Aided Manufacturing (MR-CM) data manager, which is web-based, paperless MES software that accompanies MR's production processes through all workstations, and ensures continuous information flows. This proprietary MES reportedly avoids the traditional interruptions that happen when data is passed between workstations, which cuts production cycle times and retooling, reduces required tool inventories, and makes MR's production processes more stable, reliable and efficient. Basically, MR-CM uses a common, open, XML-based data format for all of MR's production and enterprises systems, and makes them available to all users via a joint, web-based server.