Hannover Messe 2019: Industrial intelligence - powered by humans
‘Integrated industry - industrial intelligence’: this was the theme of the 2019 Hannover Messe, the world’s leading trade fair showcasing industrial technology. Running from 1-5 April, this year’s event has welcomed over 220,000 visitors to its grounds in the northern German city. Over a vast site of around 500,000 square metres, 6,500 exhibitors from 75 countries have been presenting the latest innovations from across the tech spectrum - covering everything from the digital factory to integrated energy to automation, motion and drives.
As the theme suggests, the biggest buzz around the exhibition halls was to be found in the nexus where physical technology meets artificial intelligence and machine learning. Exhibitors demonstrated how bits, bytes and algorithms are being leveraged across sectors to enhance reliability, efficiency and safety - whether on the factory floor, in the power grid or in logistics.
Yet the displays also left no doubt that the human factor remains at the heart of these innovations. It is human ingenuity and skills that design, teach and guide the smart systems. At many booths, the robotic arms were not fenced off behind safety barriers but rather worked with people side-by-side - in one case producing custom watches for attendees; in another helping a table-tennis pro improve her game. And it’s humans that are reaping the benefits of this industrial intelligence: across the board the message was clear that AI, data and automation are not only making manufacturing more efficient and precise, they are also transforming how companies do business, enabling new business models and opening up new opportunities.
Europe at the leading edge - but challenges ahead
From the sheer scope and scale of the innovations on display, there can be no doubt that European technology firms are at the cutting edge of the digital transformation, particularly when it comes to business-to-business and industrial applications. “The targeted combination of algorithms with real-world physics - that’s the strength of our industries,” remarked Carl Martin Welcker, President of German mechanical engineering association and Orgalim member VDMA, during the VDMA press conference.
While these industrial strengths have been driving growth in recent years, an increasingly unpredictable global landscape is dampening forecasts somewhat. Both VDMA and ZVEI (representing the electrical engineering and electronics sectors) announced more modest growth expectations for their respective branches during the Hannover Messe, each citing the rise in trade conflicts and protectionism as a major reason for their more cautious prognoses.
Speaking during the opening ceremony, German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasised the importance of European-level collaboration to build momentum and take this new phase of technological evolution to the next level. In order to safeguard the EU’s industrial competitiveness in the digital era, she said, “we must take action together as Europeans, and find a shared approach”. Commissioner Günther Oettinger echoed this sentiment when he addressed the ‘Industry 4.0 Forum’. Whether data, AI, digitalisation or 5G, he underlined, “European cooperation makes us stronger, faster, more competitive.”
Orgalim at Hannover Messe
As the leading representative of the European technology industries at EU level, Orgalim - together with its member associations - once again had a strong presence at this year’s Hannover Messe. President Tomas Hedenborg and Director General Malte Lohan were both in attendance, participating in a number of sessions organised by Orgalim’s German members VDMA and ZVEI. Moreover, with Sweden as the official ‘partner country’ to the trade fair this year, Orgalim’s Swedish member Teknikföretagen played a prominent role throughout the week - showcasing the country’s strengths in co-creation and innovation.
The impressive display of cutting-edge industrial intelligence on show at this year’s Hannover Messe is evidence that Europe’s tech companies continue to go from strength to strength, putting them in a strong position to build leadership in arenas from AI to Industry 4.0 to 5G. And Orgalim will continue working to shape an EU framework that can maximise this potential - more on our priorities for the future of European industry here.