By Manufacturing AUTOMATION
By Manufacturing AUTOMATION
The lead theme and official motto for Hannover Messe 2014 is Integrated Industry — Next Steps. The choice reflects the fair’s continued focus on integration as a challenge of pivotal importance for the future of industry, and the conference promises to map out the next steps to tomorrow’s intelligent, self-organizing factories.
“To stay competitive, industrial companies need to make their production processes as resource-efficient as possible. They need to be able to respond swiftly to changes in the market, while at the same time satisfying the growing demand for product individualization and customization,” said Dr. Jochen Köckler, member of the managing board at Deutsche Messe, the organizers behind Hannover Messe. “The answer to these challenges has a name: Integrated Industry — a paradigm in which production processes are geared for maximum flexibility. Many technologies for implementing this paradigm have been developed over recent years. The next steps are about integrating these technologies into industrial production in such a way that they form a synchronized, harmonized and fully networked whole. And this is precisely the focus of Hannover Messe 2014, namely the steps industry needs to take in order to get from its smart-factory vision to a real-life, integrated Industry 4.0 factory.”
Making the transition from smart-factory vision to an Industry 4.0 reality requires a great deal of information sharing, discussion and co-ordination. One of the main challenges is standardization — ensuring software compatibility across all the components, machines and factories that are to be networked with each other.
“At the moment, each company’s IT system speaks its own separate language. But now, in order to achieve integration, we need industry-wide agreement on a common ‘international language of production,’” said Köckler. “Under the banner Integrated Industry — Next Steps, Hannover Messe 2014 will present a number of pioneering approaches and initiatives in this area.”
The aim of Integrated Industry is to achieve adaptable production systems that can respond immediately to accommodate fluctuations in global demand and highly specific customer requirements. These are intelligent systems in which all components — from work pieces to machines to transport systems — are connected to each other via a network and are able to communicate with each other autonomously. The work pieces are not passed from station to station along a rigidly configured production line. Instead, they autonomously activate the necessary modular processing centres and independently initiate each required processing step. This enables maximum flexibility and efficiency in industrial production runs of all sizes — including single-lot production runs.
“Flexibility and efficiency — these are the keys to continued survival in a highly competitive international market. Therefore, the task now is to take the next steps — and, more important, the right steps — to ensure that industry realizes its vision of smart, flexible factories,” said Dr. Köckler.