Collaboration is the word at Hannover Messe

Big names announcing big partnerships to accelerate IIoT growth to help manufacturing productivity; Mexico is announced as the 2018 Hannover Messe Partner Country.
By Bob Vavra, CFE Media April 25, 2017

Besides the usual buses that transport the 200,000 visitors from point to point among the 26 halls at Hannover, there are a number of the old Volkswagen microbuses, decked out in bright colors and fully operational. Courtesy: Bob Vavra, CFE MediaHANNOVER, GERMANY: Collaboration seems likely to propel manufacturing productivity and ease of use with the number and type of recent announcements related to Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), especially at Hannover Messe.

Each year, the Oxford English Dictionary selects a Word of the Year that either is an existing word has taken on new meaning or has been created in the previous year. For example, the 2016 Word of the Year was "post-truth."

Just four months into 2017, if manufacturing were to have such a recognition, the word of the year would be "collaboration."

What already was known about the IIoT is that it will be built with pieces from a variety of hardware and software vendors, and driven by separate analytics and co-located on a series of cloud-based data platforms. What is clear from the first days at Hannover Messe 2017 is that the pace of the partnerships between these otherwise disparate companies is accelerating.

On Monday, Schneider Electric and Microsoft announced a collaboration around mixed reality (what company officials describe as a cross between augmented reality and virtual reality) even as Schneider Electric was announcing its new EcoStruxure for Industry, which is a full suite of connected devices, edge computing, and applications using the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. Microsoft announced a number of its own collaborations, with robotics manufacturer Comau and with end users such as Tetra Pak and Jabil. It also held a press conference Monday to tout its new Azure IoT Suite Connected Factory that itself will collaborate as part of the OPC UA protocol from OPC Foundation.

Caglayan Arkan, general manager of worldwide manufacturing and resources for Microsoft, said one key in this collaborative world is that humans will have to collaborate with other humans, especially in the area of training. "Enterprises are only as good as their people; that does not change," Arkan said. "We share one planet with limited resources; that does not change. One more thing does not change—we have to democratize IoT.

"Robots and humans can interact and make things safer and more productive," he added. "By redefining the workforce, we are going to give them technology skills on top of skills we already have."

Another interesting innovation at the show is the announcement by Phoenix Contact of its PLCnext Technology, which itself offers a collaborative environment. PLCnext will enable open-source programming for traditional PLC functions on a Linux platform. In announcing the product, which will be available in conjunction with the SPC show in Nuremburg in November, company officials said PLCnext will combine "classic PLC programming and high-level language programming and enables the creation of modern applications within the context of Industrie 4.0."

Mexico is 2018 Partner Country: Germany has decided to build a bridge to Mexico rather than to build a wall. Hannover Messe announced Tuesday morning that Mexico will be the 2018 Partner Country. It will occur just two years after Barack Obama led the delegation to Hannover when the U.S. was the Partner Country for the first time.

Hannover Messe officials see Mexico’s emergence as a manufacturing power very differently than some political leaders in the U.S. "Mexico is Latin America’s second-largest economy and has steadily grown in importance as a market and investment location for companies in many European countries, including Germany," fair officials said in a press release announcing the designation.

A look back in time: Even as Hannover Messe celebrates the great innovations in manufacturing, it also has taken time at this year’s show to look back. In 2017, Hannover marks the 70th year of hosting the world’s largest industrial trade show, which grew out of Germany’s rebuilding effort after World War II.

At Sunday night’s opening ceremony, the audience was introduced to Dietmar Harting, whose family-owned business is one of just a very few companies which has exhibited at every Hannover Messe. As a young boy, Dietmar Harting accompanied his father and company founder Wilhelm Harting to the first event, called the Export Messe, and he has attended every one of the 70 events.

The fair itself has a fairly whimsical reminder of the past on the grounds this year. Besides the usual buses that transport the 200,000 visitors from point to point among the 26 halls at Hannover, there are a number of the old Volkswagen microbuses, decked out in bright colors and fully operational. While Germans remember them for their utility, Americans, especially those on the West Coast, recall them fondly as a symbol of a different time.

Watch for continuing coverage on the Plant Engineering and Control Engineering  websites. For IIoT coverage on both sites, go to the pull-down menu, upper left. For more on control systems, see seven specific pages on the Control Engineering  website under “Control Systems."

Bob Vavra is content manager, Plant Engineering, CFE Media,; edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering,