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Changes in products, processes, and services using digital technology is taking place on two levels.

One the one hand, automation and manufacturing systems engineering is being enhanced digitally: Traditional products and services are equipped with new technology such as M2M, OPC UA, and Rami. Within the framework of the new leading trade show Integrated Automation, Motion & Drives (IAMD), you can see numerous examples of this development at HANNOVER MESSE 2018.

Digital Factory focuses on the second track: The use of digitalization technology in industrial enterprise. This takes concepts that have proved their value in the consumer or other areas and adapts them to the needs of the industrial sector. Platform economics, digital twins, AI/machine learning, and predictive maintenance are trends that reflect this.

"Digitalization technology has been used to support internal business processes for years. For example, product lifecycle management (PLM) is in demand in construction, manufacturing execution systems (MES) are used in production, and customer service makes use of customer relationship management (CRM)," explains Rainer Glatz, Executive Director of VDMA (German Mechanical Engineering Association) for Electric Automation and Software and Digitalization. "However, up to this point the necessary IT has been seen as a cost driver," says Glatz. "What is new is that digitalization is being seen as an enabler for new business models and additional sales."

To tap this potential, businesses must "revise their thinking and change," says VDMA’s computer science specialist. According to Glatz, examples of successful transformations are rising. "Automation specialists such as Siemens and Bosch are in part mutating into software companies, and mechanical engineers into providers of digital services and platforms."

The results of a study conducted by VDMA one year ago show that around 20 percent of member companies want to outsource their digitalization business. At Digital Factory several providers will be present that have already taken this step. AXOOM, the digital production platform of the Trumpf subsidiary of the same name, is a prime example of this: The goal of AXOOM is "the comprehensive integration of machines, software, and processes with people as the key center point." Vertical links can transport data to cloud-based platforms to enable "new business models and customized mass production."

In addition to numerous newcomers such as Oracle, Qualcomm Technologies, and Fujitsu established IT giants such as Microsoft, SAP, IBM, HUAWEI, Cisco, and AWS are showcasing platforms and tools at Digital Factory that support the digital transformation of the industrial sector. Several corporations are exhibiting alongside partners to demonstrate examples of use.