Another field of IT endeavor that's making the headlines at the moment is industrial cloud platforms. As with AI, it's an area where IT companies are partnering with mechanical engineering and automation technology specialists to shape the next phase of Industry 4.0. In the exhibition halls at HANNOVER MESSE 2018, these companies will be the living embodiment of the show's lead theme, Integrated Industry – Connect & Collaborate .
"We are in the midst of a paradigm shift," said Rainer Glatz, a director of the Electrical Automation and Software & Digitalization associations within the German Engineering Federation (VDMA). "For a number of years, digitization technologies such as PLM, MES and CRM were often cynically dismissed as contributing little more than added costs. But that's all changed now. Digitization is seen more and more as an enabler of new business models and increased revenue."
Cloud computing is increasingly being used in the IT systems of manufacturing firms, as new IoT and edge technologies bring the cloud closer and closer to production machinery. Microsoft Cloud is a prime example of this. Microsoft and over 25 of its industrial customers and partners are running a joint display at this year's HANNOVER MESSE (Hall 7, Stand C40). They will be presenting real-life examples of how Microsoft Cloud can help manufacturers to digitize their businesses.
Microsoft's General Manager Worldwide Manufacturing, Caglayan Arkan, explains: "Today's manufacturers are developing their business far beyond the boundaries of Industry 4.0. Thanks to technologies such as artificial intelligence, mixed reality and IoT and the predictive capabilities flowing from them, they are doing much more than merely transforming product development, marketing, sales and after-sales support; they are creating totally new digital value chains and business models. Visionary decision-makers are now embracing the next level of complexity and are tackling societal challenges like water scarcity, population aging, precision medicine, and the need for more sustainable agricultural and energy-industry practices."
Amazon Web Services (Hall 6/Stand D46) partners with leading manufacturers from multiple industries to provide cloud-based industrial software solutions for all parts of the value chain, from product design to production. HANNOVER MESSE's international trade visitors are the perfect target market for these solutions. Amazon Web Services will be partnering with a number of co-exhibitors, including Actyx, OSIsoft, rescale, Siemens und Splunk. The AWS showcase in Hall 6 will feature selected customer reference projects and will be rounded out by a comprehensive program of expert talks.
Software is integral to industrial production and has been for many years. In a whole range of areas, from engineering design and production to after-sales service, PLM, MES and CRM will remain key enablers of internal business processes. At the upcoming HANNOVER MESSE, these technology areas will be represented by companies like Siemens PLM, Autodesk, EPLAN, Dassault Systemes, PSI, MPDV and FORCAM. The steadily advancing digital transformation of industry is also giving rise to other technologies of vital importance for digital factories. These include AI and machine learning, predictive maintenance and, of course, industrial IT platforms.
"We are living in exciting times, with automation specialists branching out into software and classic IT companies discovering whole new markets in the industrial sector," commented Arno Reich, Global Director IAMD and Digital Factory for HANNOVER MESSE. "Digitization and Industry 4.0 are immensely powerful drivers of change. These technologies come in many forms, including AI, machine learning and cloud platforms, and they are no longer the exclusive preserve of big industrials. Indeed, they are making major inroads in the SME segment."
The term transformation may sound like a buzzword, but it describes a number of very real phenomena. Companies are radically rethinking what they do and how they do it. They are restructuring, entering into previously undreamt-of partnerships and developing new business models based on digitization technologies. New markets are popping up rapidly and are being conquered just as rapidly. At HANNOVER MESSE's Digital Factory show, these changes will be especially evident from the large number of partner pavilions based around providers like Microsoft, SAP, IBM and Amazon Web Services. The reason for these partnerships and alliances is that the tasks of building and operating cloud platforms and the infrastructure on which they are based are far bigger and more complex than any one company can handle on its own. This is giving rise to a new business model that consists of developing platforms for industry apps. Companies like Siemens and Bosch were among the first to spearhead these kinds of partnership-based industrial platforms, but more platforms are springing up all the time as more IT companies and industrial firms join forces.
The lifeblood of all these platforms and processes is data – huge amounts of it, processed and presented using something which not so long ago was of little more than academic interest: AI. Thanks to AI, the immense volumes of production and machine operating state data generated by sensors, actuators, cameras, microphones and the like are now a valuable commodity. Artificial intelligence has moved out of the lab and into industry.
All of these developments have pushed the importance of security into the stratosphere. "Process and data security are now decisive competitive factors in today's digitally networked industrial value chains," explains Ulf Theike, General Manager of testing and certification provider TÜV NORD Systems . "It is becoming clear that cloud-based industrial platforms will play an increasingly important role in these value chains. Lawmakers are currently unable to provide adequate regulatory frameworks for these developments, so it is doubly important to stick to certified, reputable companies when selecting service providers."
At HANNOVER MESSE, these and other challenges stemming from the digital integration of production will also be explored in depth at the "Industry 4.0 meets the Industrial Internet" forum in Hall 8. The forum is organized by the German Engineering Federation (VDMA), the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association (ZVEI) and the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC).