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Industrial production, materials flow and logistics systems generate virtually endless amounts of data. But without proper integration and analysis, all that data is pretty much a dead weight. HANNOVER MESSE, which runs from 1 to 5 April this year, will present the IT solutions that businesses need in order to turn their data mountains into money. HANNOVER MESSE, the world's leading trade fair for industrial technology, includes a Digital Factory trade show that features solutions for all areas of intelligent production – everything from data analytics to manufacturing execution systems (MES).

Hannover. Software can do a lot more than merely make work easier. It can earn businesses money – by helping them reduce energy and resource consumption, optimize their development costs and minimize downtime. It's called data analytics – the science of filtering, linking and analyzing large volumes of data – and it will be a key theme at HANNOVER MESSE this April. "Over the years, we have developed HANNOVER MESSE into by far the largest B2B platform for integrated processes and IT solutions," says Hubertus von Monschaw, Global Director Digital Factory for HANNOVER MESSE. "The companies exhibiting at the Digital Factory show will be presenting digital solutions for all areas of the industrial process chain, solutions that will smooth the way for the digital transformation of industry."

Digitization is the only way forward, of that there can be no doubt. "For companies in manufacturing, the challenge is to get on board sooner rather than later and embrace the transformation of their operations into digital factories as a pivotal opportunity to safeguard their future," explains Franz Gruber, founder and CEO of Forcam GmbH . "At a macro-economic level, the challenge with Industry 4.0 is to walk the talk and lay the economic groundwork for digital transformation – in the form of the fast-track upgrade of power grids and data networks, tax incentives and an appropriately qualified workforce." Forcam uses HANNOVER MESSE every year to tell industry leaders from all around the world about its own IIoT ecosystem, Forcam Force.

One result of the trend towards business process digitization and Industry 4.0 is that previously disjointed sub-processes are increasingly converging to form seamless digital value chains. This convergence trend is something that software providers have been quick to pick up on. "Increasingly we're offering our products as an integrated software suite," says Karsten Pierschke, head of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications at PSI Software AG . "At the same time, the growing trend towards product individualization increasingly means that business and production processes need to be flexible. Our software response to this development has been to integrate optimization functions based on industrial AI and advanced fuzzy logic."

More and more end customers want products that are individualized to their requirements. On the production and logistics side, the resulting push towards ever-greater flexibility is leading to batch-size one production – custom manufacturing with all the efficiencies of automation. At the same time, customers now expect delivery at precisely defined points in time, which in most cases means right away. In order to meet these expectations and still remain commercially viable, industrial companies need seamless systems that integrate all of their processes, from inward goods to production and assembly, right through to product dispatch. This is where intelligent MES systems come in. In modern production settings, they are core elements of value chain digitization. "Our warehouse management system viadat supports manufacturing companies by enabling them to track and organize all information and material flows in an integrated fashion across their entire value chain," explains Dr. Harald Göbel, COO viastore Software . "We join up material flows across conventional boundaries by integrating logistics and production through WMS and MES systems. We do this in close partnership with the experts at MPDV, because the only way to achieve a robust, sustainable intralogistics set-up is to have a properly thought-out, integrated process chain with optimal interoperability between software and systems."

For its part, MES specialist MPDV Mikrolab GmbH offers two different approaches to the complexity of greater variant diversity, shorter product lifecycles and regulatory requirements regarding traceability and documentation in manufacturing processes. One is MES Hydra, a multi-industry, out-of-the-box solution that features apps for monitoring, controlling and optimizing manufacturing. The other is the Manufacturing Integration Platform (MIP), an open platform architecture where companies can mix and match manufacturing apps from different providers and thus build their own production IT ecosystem. "We're really proud of a new function we've added to Hydra. Using collected real-time data, it enables real-time tracking of quality during production," says MPDV Vice President Sales Jürgen Petzel. "This allows manufacturers to make their production even more effective and resource-efficient."

Many software providers offer solutions for optimal integration of MES systems into allied systems. iTAC Software AG is one such provider. "By integrating our intelligent iTAC.MES.Suite solution with leading IIoT platforms it is possible, for example, to achieve integrated data analytics and predictive maintenance scenarios," explains iTAC Marketing & Communications Director Michael Fischer. The solution is used in a range of industries and applications, including production logistics. "Like production, material logistics needs to be automated and flexible. Hence, the increasing use of driverless transport systems and automated guided vehicles in logistics settings. Among other things, iTAC supports automatic replenishment control with driverless transport systems in SMT production."

MES technology also features prominently in the supporting program at HANNOVER MESSE. For example, during the 11th MES Conference on Thursday, 4 April, MES system providers and users in the manufacturing industry will gather at the Convention Center in order to discuss how manufacturing software can be used to boost efficiency in discrete and process manufacturing. The motto for this April's conference is, "MES in times of data integration".