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It is easy to be overwhelmed by the scale of Hanover Messe.  Approximately, 6,500 exhibitors representing 75 countries showcase their solutions in an exhibition center that covers more than 225, 000 square meters.  As in past years, senior political figures such as German Chancellor Merkel and senior management from leading industrial entities converged on this 5-day event.

Here are some of the event highlights:

  • ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer provided a demo to Chancellor Merkel on the factory of the future. Of most interest, was the collaboration between advanced robots and humans.
  • 5G wireless communication generated consideration attention and news of vendor partnerships. ABB and Ericsson plan to collaborate on the development of wireless enabled automation.
  • Several important announcements were made by Siemens including the ability for industrial plants to embed SAS streaming analytics with Mindsphere.
  • ABBand Dassault Systèmes displayed their joint solution offering following their recent partnership that provides customers with a broad product range including product lifecycle management (PLM) to asset health solutions.

Overall Assessment of Hanover Messe

Having attended Hanover Messe for the past few years, the practical application from this year’s show is limited for most O&M stakeholders.

First, those looking for the next technology breakthrough will likely be disappointed.  I recognize that its hard to create buzz year after year, but many of the product releases were underwhelming or superficial.   Although Industry 4.0 / Maintenance 4.0 is still in its infancy, we should be realistic about the pace of innovation as vendors invest in stabilizing their solutions offerings.

Even when vendors showcased technological breakthroughs (admittedly, some of the robotics demonstrations were spellbinding), most of these innovations are not yet applicable.

From a Maintenance 4.0 perspective, the following areas were relevant.

Improvements in Robotics:  It was quite impressive to experience advances in robotics.  Most significant is that robots are able to react to unexpected stimuli in real time.  However, to date, the adoption of robotics to repair and inspections has not been significant.

5G Showcase:  Network equipment providers demonstrated new applications in a 5G test environment. Whereas 5G can increase the volume of data that can be transferred, it is still in its infancy. In the future, 5G networking within in industrial plants will dislodge field bus technologies, but the near-to-medium term impact of this technology is unclear.

Industrial IoT Platforms:  Although there is more evidence of maturity in the offerings of leading vendors such as MindSphere, AWS, Microsoft and Cisco, no one platform stands out above its peers.  With a mix of approaches and dizzying array of applications, there is still confusion in the market which may delay plant infrastructure investments.

Maintenance 4.0:  First, Address the Basics

Based on my experience working with numerous industrial companies implementing Maintenance 4.0, understanding the latest vendor product releases is less of a priority than building the foundations of a long-term plan.

One pressing issue is the upskilling of current employees.  According to the 2019 Global Talents Trends Study by Mercer Management, more than fifty percent of executives expect AI and automation to replace one in five jobs within their companies.  Significantly, older workers tend to concentrate in roles that are most likely to be automated.  The disruptive nature of Industry 4.0 and Maintenance 4.0 cannot be overlooked and is likely to negatively impact implementations.

It is still common for Maintenance 4.0 projects to remain stuck in “pilot purgatory.” McKinsey & Company suggests that less than 30% of pilots in the “IoT” category start to scale.  A major concern is a lack of qualified data science professionals to scale Machine Learning based Industrial Analytics.

The payoff for industrial plants will come when they are able to operationalize the Big Data generated by embedded sensors so that machine uptime is improved. For instance, at Presenso, we apply Automated Machine Learning (AutoML) to sensor generated data which significantly reduces solution deployment on-boarding to only a few hours.

Summary and Conclusion

For those individuals responsible for Maintenance 4.0 roadmaps and technology scouting, Hannover Messe 2019 was a must-attend event.  However, for the vast majority of industrial plants addressing O&M issues, the vendor announcements and demos were mostly noise and are unlikely to help with near-to-medium-term decision making.

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Eitan Vesely

Eitan Vesely

Formerly a hardware specialist and a support engineer for Applied Materials. Specializing in software-hardware-mechanics interfaces and system overview. Experienced in the field of industrial automation and motion control. Holds a BSc. Mechanical engineering