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The last HANNOVER MESSE had a clear message: integrated industry has well and truly reached the mainstream. To prove its point, the show featured over 400 application examples of fully digitalized processes for the manufacturing and energy industries. The fourth industrial revolution, it seems, is well underway. However, to ensure that the factories of the future don’t remain castles in the air, it is necessary to shine a stronger spotlight on the benefits for industry, employees and society in general. And that is precisely what HANNOVER MESSE 2017 will do.

Hannover. "Integrated Industry – Creating Value" is the official lead theme for HANNOVER MESSE 2017. "Widespread uptake of digitalization in the manufacturing and energy industries will only happen if integrated technology providers make a strong case for the associated benefits," said Deutsche Messe Managing Board member Dr. Jochen Köckler. "Manufacturers and energy companies need to fully understand the direct, long-term benefits they stand to gain from digitalization. They need to recognize that digitalization adds value – and not just in terms of new and better machines. Value is also created by the ability that digitalization gives companies to update or completely reinvent their business models and improve the working lives of individual employees."

With Industrie 4.0, integrated energy, digital twins, predictive maintenance, digital energy, and networked and collaborative robots (cobots), companies of all sizes today have a multitude of high-tech solutions to choose from. But often they find it difficult to predict what value these sorts of solutions might add. Many understandably balk at committing to major capital investments without concrete prospects of measurable benefits. Which is where HANNOVER MESSE 2017 comes in. Next year, the world’s biggest industrial technology show will demonstrate how even companies with limited resources can pinpoint and harness the power of digitalization. Köckler: "Industrie 4.0 is not about replacing all manufacturing plant all at once; it is a gradual process. For example, companies can begin by fitting sophisticated sensors to existing plant to capture and evaluate data that will help them make improvements to their production processes or develop new business models." Next year’s HANNOVER MESSE will provide much-needed guidance to visitors from the manufacturing industries who are looking to leverage the benefits of digitalization for their companies and transform their plants into Industrie 4.0 factories, step by step.

Digitalization will completely transform the energy industry, too. In fact, it is the key to the energy transition most countries are striving towards. In the energy systems of the future, smart grids will control and regulate all parts of the energy supply chain, from generation right through to consumption. Without digitalization, it will not be possible to make the switch from today’s outmoded centralized power plants to modern, highly efficient energy systems that are based on renewables and distributed generation structures. Under the "Integrated Energy" banner at the upcoming HANNOVER MESSE, the world’s leading providers will highlight the changes the energy industry will undergo as well as the individual technologies that will play a critical role in this transformation. "HANNOVER MESSE will showcase integrated solutions all along the energy value chain – from generation, transmission, distribution and storage, right through to alternative mobility solutions," explained Köckler.

However, despite the ongoing and rapid spread digitalization, people will always be absolutely critical to success in industry. That is why HANNOVER MESSE’s motto of "Integrated Industry – Creating Value" applies just as much to people in industry as it does to plant and equipment. Industrie 4.0 technologies will add value to factory workers’ duties by making them more interesting and varied. Instead of focusing on repetitive manual tasks, factory employees will increasingly be called upon to solve problems, make decisions, innovate and drive value-adding initiatives. But this will not happen in a vacuum. Manufacturers need to invest in upskilling and education measures to prepare their workforces for Workplace 4.0. "In future, we’ll see more and more intelligent workstations that adapt to the skill level of individual employees and support them in their work," said Köckler. "In tomorrow’s agile, flexible manufacturing plants, training will take place on the job, right at the machine, without any production stoppages. Training tools will include virtual reality applications, smart glasses, smartphones and tablets – all of which will feature strongly at HANNOVER MESSE 2017."

But Integrated Industry will reach far beyond the walls of smart factories. The goods produced by smart factories will stay connected with their manufacturers throughout their service lives, supplying a constant stream of valuable data. This data will enable the manufacturers to develop additional web-based services and to pursue new business opportunities outside the confines of their traditional industries. In the energy industry, for instance, "prosumers" and virtual power stations are prime examples of opportunities that were opened up by digitalization in the form of distributed generation systems. The industrial supply industry is another good example. At the upcoming HANNOVER MESSE, industrial subcontractors will demonstrate how digitalization helps them to offer innovative and highly customized solutions more quickly than ever before. Another key aspect of the digitalization trend that will also be covered under next year’s "Integrated Industry –Creating Value" lead theme is arguably the most important one of all. "The biggest value-adding potential of digitalization lies in the development of completely new business models and in the markets these business models tap into," explained Köckler. "HANNOVER MESSE is increasingly turning into a platform for previously unheard-of partnerships. For instance, partnerships between IT companies and engineering firms, or between startups and major corporations. From radical, highly disruptive new business ideas to proven 4.0 business models – it will all be here this April."