Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Hannover Messe 2019 day 5: Our top 5 takeaways

April 5, 2019
By Kristina Urquhart


April 5, 2019 – It’s the last day of the Hannover Messe industrial technology fair for 2019 – so what have we learned?

With 6,500 exhibitors and 1,400 events, there were countless topics at the forefront of this year’s show, held in Hannover, Germany.

Here are Manufacturing AUTOMATION’s top five takeaways for Canadian manufacturers:

1. 5G is coming – and it may help your plant get more connected


The next generation of wireless communications is almost ready for commercial launch – Canadian telecom companies are expected to implement 5G capabilities in 2020. 5G is touted as the first real solution for manufacturers to achieve total, reliable wireless coverage – even indoors, so it will be useful, for example, to connect SCADA centres to the shop floor.

5G technology uses cellular “nodes” (like base stations, mounted to ceilings or walls) to transmit signals from point to point. 5G has ultra-low latency with a bandwidth that is 100 times faster than LTE networks. A company will have the ability to have many private, secure channels all operating in the same overall network infrastructure.

Several manufacturers we spoke with are waiting for use cases, especially with regards to reliability, and would be more interested to test 5G to improve intra-operations communication, rather than cut their cables altogether for transmission of sensitive data.

2. Artificial intelligence can help to improve performance

The prevalence of artificial intelligence (AI) in manufacturing is not a scary thing – it does not translate to humans being replaceable. In fact, the technology helps people to do their jobs better by performing real-time computations that we simply don’t have the capacity for.

The most practical implementation of AI is in predictive maintenance solutions, many of which were on display of the show. Manufacturers are interested in this kind of automation software to optimize their production efficiencies.

Just a couple of examples: Beckhoff Automation has added machine learning to its TwinCAT software – over time, the software will learn to recognize anomalies, and then correct the operation to achieve optimal energy and performance, helping to extend the life of the machine. ABB’s Ability dashboards, available on the cloud or the edge, help operators to monitor asset performance and can suggest tailored solutions when they detect an error, abnormality or inconsistency.

Manufacturers should take their time and do the research, because many of the large software players offer predictive maintenance solutions – and while they may offer similar capabilities, there are often small differences that make one system more suited for your operation over another.

3. The cloud and the edge will be part of your digital transformation

There’s a lot of talk about digital transformation – and what it really means is the digitalization of your operations. As Canadian manufacturers move from the Industry 3.0 solutions and into the Industry 4.0 mindset of connected manufacturing, they will start to amass more and more data.

All of that information needs somewhere to be stored and contextualized. Many automation software providers offer cloud and edge solutions – but what’s the difference? The cloud is especially good for remote access if a company has multiple locations. For example, if a manufacturer in Windsor wants to check data sets from a plant in Winnipeg, storing data in the cloud can help facilitate that.

Edge computing, where information is stored on local servers near the physical asset, has its own merits: it can be used to store large amounts of data, and it is perceived as more secure. Be warned: both the cloud and edge have their own risks. But with the proper security infrastructure in place, data can be safely stored and transmitted.

4. Cybersecurity in IT/OT is an immediate concern

There have been several reports of cyberattacks on manufacturers in the news in recent weeks, from an aluminum manufacturer in Norway whose information technology (IT) systems were held for ransom to pharmaceutical giant Bayer reporting that it had thwarted an attack on its IT system.

Think of cybersecurity as the underbelly of Industry 4.0 – because systems are becoming more connected, there are more ways for malicious operators to hack into your industrial systems. So you need a strong security infrastructure as your foundation for all of your systems, especially the previously ignored operations technology (OT) side.

For example, Dr. Marco Balduzzi, with TrendMicro Research, gave a presentation about protecting industrial controllers. Many controllers are 20 to 30 years old and were developed with no security procedures in place. So, unless a controller is encrypted or uses a communication language to transmit signals that differs every time, it can be operated or reprogrammed by outside parties through a simple hack.

5. Modularity and flexible production are central to the future factory

In 2019, flexibility is king, from an overall operations standpoint right down to the individual components used in manufacturing. Flexible production has great gains in custom or small-batch manufacturing, or on the supply chain for pick-and-place applications that identify disparate SKUs.

Some examples on the component side: At HARTING, modular power distribution and flexible connectors make it possible to swap components in and out as needed, from HARTING or other manufacturers. Beckhoff demonstrated a cabinet-free power supply module that can connect to five integrated servo motors.

Meanwhile, Omron showcased flexible manufacturing cells with machine tools that can manufacture a wide range of parts just by a change in software. And sensor company SICK showed visitors its brand-new 4.0 NOW Factory concept. 4.0 NOW is a real working factory in Freiburg, Germany that manufactures SICK components through just 12 fully automated production cells, four manual workstations and a hybrid workstation. The idea is to show the potential power and flexibility of Industry 4.0 when applied to its fullest capability.

More from Hannover Messe 2019
Hannover Messe 2019 day 4: More photo highlights
Hannover Messe 2019 day 3: Supporting workers in an age of automation
Hannover Messe 2019 day 2: Photo highlights
Hannover Messe 2019 day 1: Merkel sightings and a focus on 5G

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