Industry 4.0 at Hannover Messe
The road to the “intelligent factory” takes you to Hannover Messe.
What do Lego bricks and a factory have in common? Unfortunately, not very much, some engineers would say. Why? Because the toy bricks are totally interchangeable and can be combined in an infinite number of ways, but you cannot do that with the machines in a factory. If you want to temporarily convert a production line because another variant of your product is suddenly in demand, you have to allow for a certain amount of time and effort, and probably even accept a brief halt in production. The ideal situation, on the other hand, would involve the kind of technology that developers describe as “plug and play”: all machines – not only in an individual factory, but outside it, too – are compatible and can be taken apart when required and put back together again in another way within a short period of time.
Focus on data protection
Plug and play – in other words, standardization – is only one of the many attributes of what is known as Industry 4.0. This concept, which was coined as part of the Federal Government’s High Tech Strategy, describes a form of production in which all machines and products are digitally networked together. It was presented to a broader public for the first time in 2011 at the Hannover Messe, Germany’s most important industrial fair. The question one therefore asks three years later, at Hannover Messe 2014, is: “How far have we advanced along this path?”
A considerable distance, says Henning Kagermann, President of the National Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech). “There are already businesses successfully offering the components of Industry 4.0. And pilot factories exist too – for example, at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI).” Of course, the digital revolution in industry also raises questions. How can data protection be upheld when suddenly all systems are compatible with one another? People at the Hannover Messe 2014 want to discuss critical issues like this. That’s why the fair has been titled “Integrated Industry – Next Steps”. For the organizers one thing is clear: “The route to the factory of the future leads via Hannover.”
Hannover Messe, 7 to 11 April 2014