Over 190,000 people from all over the World, including President Barack Obama, converged on Hannover, Germany, April 25th through 29th for the 2016 Hannover Messe industrial conference. This years event consisted of over 5,200 exhibitors spread across 17 conference halls broken down into 5 focus areas: Digital Factory, Energy, Industrial Automation, Industrial Supply, and Research & Technology.
Much of the event focused around Industrie 4.0, Internet of Things (IoT), and Digital Transformation. Achieving these sorts of futuristic advancements requires some futuristic technology, some of which was on prominent display at the event including:
Robotics – There was an entire component of the event dedicated to robotics. A who's who in the robotics industry was there to display the latest in robotic technology. This included:
- A robot shooting basketballs which a human could compete against in sort of an arcade type basketball challenge. The robot never missed.
- A ping pong playing robot where people could play against the robot. While very interesting, this feature displayed some of the challenges in robots in that the technology was consistently beaten by the more dexterous humans it was playing against.
- A robot roller coaster that gave riders an experience very similar to that of any coaster in an amusement park.
- A fully autonomous mock manufacturing environment from order to delivery without a single human involved in the process. This was a very basic environment, but one that displayed how robots are able to perform a variety of tasks.
- There was even a robotic "skin" applied to a robotic arm that made the device aware of its surroundings with 150 sensors embedded in the skin.
3D Printing – On display throughout the event were an abundance of examples of modern 3D printing technology. This ranged from software applications specific to 3D printing to displays of real life products made today using 3D printing. The key take away here is that 3D printing is certainly more advanced today than it has been and is continuing to improve, and manufacturers are finding ways to leverage this technology.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality – There were several exhibits that demonstrated how AR/VR can be leveraged to drive value in manufacturing. One really good example was an experience that allowed the user to traverse through the mechanics of an airplane in a virtual environment to understand performance, mechanics, and issue resolution. There were several other examples of AR/VR technology, indicating that this space too is maturing and delivering tools that have practical value for manufacturers.
Overall, the event provided the audience an opportunity to look into the technology behind Industrie 4.0, digital transformation, and IoT. These technology trends continue to evolve and improve and allow manufacturers to draw meaningful and actionable connections across the manufacturing value chain.
What This All Means For Manufacturing Supply Chain
In thinking about what this all means for manufacturing supply chains, I believe that we are in the midst of a very special evolutionary period. Modern technology is enabling manufacturers to connect with products, customers, suppliers, and the manufacturing process like never before. The technology on display at Hannover Messe provided a glimpse into what is possible for manufacturing supply chains such as:
- Aligning product design to meet the needs of the customer with real time IoT enabled insight
- Improving new product introductions through more rapid prototyping, product design, and quality control
- Linking the manufacturing process to quality control and supply chain execution
- Real time analytics of logistics to improve transportation
- Improving collaboration through real time value chain communications
It is not that the concepts of how to improve manufacturing supply chains are new, rather the technology available to enable manufacturers to actually implement and realize the benefit of such initiatives has improved. Everywhere you look today there is evidence of the IoT being implemented in ways which drive supply chain improvements or a new vendor emerging that has leveraged modern technology to develop cutting edge analytical capabilities. I believe that we are at a point in time where the technology has actually caught up to the concepts and we will continue to see manufacturers applying modern technology to deliver tangible value across the supply chain.
For a more in depth look into our experience at Hannover Messe 2016, be sure to check out our upcoming report that will cover our experience and vendor interactions in detail.