The "Industry 4.0" Garnering Attention Around the World - Reporting from Hannover Messe 2016

Held yearly since 1947, with over 6,000 exhibitors from over 100 different countries and over 200,000 attendees, Hannover Messe is the world's largest industry trade fair.

Hannover Messe - A German Trade Fair for Industrial Technology

Since 2015, ITO Corporation has been sending a team of observers to the event. There are three objectives for this team. The first goal is to see globalizing market trends firsthand and understand cutting-edge industrial technology trends. The second objective is to collect and share primary information (which cannot be gained without physically being present at the source) with customers and manufacturers. The third goal is to seek out new products and build a network of new suppliers and business partners.

ITO Corporation recognizes that participation in these kinds of events is an important activity for a trading company and we work hard to proactively gather information on the event floor.

What is the Meaning Behind "Industrie 4.0," the Theme of Hannover Messe?

What is the Meaning Behind the "Industrie 4.0" Theme of Hannover Messe?

The theme put forth by Hannover Messe is "Industrie 4.0," also known as "Industry 4.0" and the "Fourth Industrial Revolution." In other words, the purpose is to dramatically improve productivity by linking industrial machinery via open networks. This is a national project supported by the German government and is currently attracting significant global attention.

Most of the companies promoting Industry 4.0 are making efforts to link each of their operating parts to the Internet to create an IoT (Internet of Things) and they are developing software to connect these parts and collaborating robots across a network. Companies focused on robots and software also stood out at this year's Hannover Messe. The following are exhibits that caught the attention of our observation team.

A Robot that Prioritizes Human Safety Above All Else

Pilz, a manufacturer of automation technology such as sensors and controllers, states its vision as "the spirit of safety" and strives for four different categories of safety: safety for technology, the environment, humans, and the economy. What stood out the most were robots focused on the safety of humans.

At the booth, a robot was blocked off by a heavy barrier. This was not to show how fast the robot could operate, but rather was a demonstration of a system that decreased the operating speed of the robot once the barrier was dropped and a human approached within a predetermined distance of the robot (see photo). The point Pilz made by prioritizing safety over efficiency is what made a lasting impression and clearly separated them from other companies.

Applications of Robot Manipulation - Developed by KUKA in Collaboration with Collegiate Researchers

KUKA is a well-known German robot manufacturer. Most of the robots used at the event as demo machinery were actually made by KUKA. At their booth, they presented on the KUKA Innovation Award, which they sponsor. The purpose of the competition is for college research institutions to develop futuristic applications to manipulate robots, using funding and robots provided by KUKA. When our team visited, they were performing a demonstration of applications developed by the six finalists who had passed the preliminary screening.

This photo depicts a house-building robot being researched by Germany's RWTH Aachen University. The young researchers who explained the robot said that it might take ten years, but the technology they employ would be helpful in advancing utilization of robots in architectural fields. This statement, along with the eagerness in the researchers' eyes left a lasting impression. We could feel the resultant momentum of a company partnering with a college research lab in order to produce new concepts.

IoT and the Global, Open Field Network "EtherCAT" - Supplied by BECKHOFF

BECKHOFF is a German manufacturer that supplies drive equipment such as I/O devices and servomotors for industrial PCs. They are currently promoting system architecture for open field networks including EtherCAT, one of their own products. The transition of industrial fields around the world to open networking is proceeding at a rapid pace, and most of the equipment manufacturers exhibiting at Hannover Messe displayed the ability to connect to an EtherCAT network.

BECKHOFF recorded a 22% year-on-year sales growth from 2014 to 2015, showing an increase in demand for open field networks that can connect multiple pieces of industrial equipment.

A Cloud-based System for Optimizing the Factory Manufacturing Process on a Global Level — Siemens AG

Siemens AG, one of the largest electronic manufacturers in the world and host company of the Hannover Messe, displayed a large-scale exhibit under the concept that "Siemens will connect factories around the world together." They introduced their "Mind Sphere," a cloud-based system that performs feedback for work optimization by collecting and analyzing information from various manufacturing equipment and factories (see photo for exhibit depicting functions performed by the Mind Sphere).

They stated that it would be possible in the future to deploy the technology employed by a main factory around the world. The huge scale of this global corporation's exhibit caught the eyes of many attendees. This technology could potentially be used for Japanese ironwork companies, paper manufacturing companies, and major chemical companies.

The Importance of a Trading Company Knowledgable in Cutting-Edge Information

In the future, a corporation's value to society will most likely be influenced by its ability to communicate information. A trading company like ourselves, which connects a variety of corporations and fields, must continually improve its ability to convey information. By attending the Hannover Messe, we were able to experience firsthand the most advanced and stimulating information in the world and understand what was transpiring in the fields for which we supply services. We hope to continue sharing what we obtained from this experience.

Using the knowledge and information received from this Hannover Messe, ITO Corporation will work to present to customers attractive business proposals as well as transmit stimulating information that has not been available until now.

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