Hannover Messe 2023 Recap: Considerations for the future

General observations on the Hannover Messe 2023 experience and what industrial transformation means for the future of manufacturing.

By Chris Vavra April 21, 2023
The convention center at Hannover Messe 2023 was home to many press conferences, meetings and other events during the Hannover Messe 2023 event. Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE Media and Technology

Industrial transformation insights

  • Hannover Messe 2023 returned to its normal state for the first time in four years and emphasized industrial transformation as its theme.
  • Manufacturers and attendees from all over the world arrived to meet and do business with one another in a real meeting of the minds.

Hannover Messe 2023 is in the books and is back to a normal-ish state for the first time since 2019. The partner country was Indonesia. Topics of emphasis included artificial intelligence and machine learning, carbon-neutral production, energy management, hydrogen and fuel cells and Industrie 4.0.

Hannover Messe had an abbreviated version in 2022 due to COVID-19 after two straight cancellations. It was, for many in the engineering and manufacturing world, perhaps the last indication things have returned to normal, or as normal as we’re gonna get. Masks were few and far between among the attendees, and there weren’t many signs encouraging social distancing.

This was my first trip to Hannover Messe (and first trip out of the U.S. covering technology developments), after years of hearing about it as this kind of fabled journey or rite of passage. There was a lot of hype behind it, but it did live up the high expectations.

Some general thoughts on the show:

1. Hannover Messe is huge.

I thought I knew “big” after being at McCormick Place during IMTS and seeing every square foot accounted for — including some areas I didn’t know existed. The analogy of it being like a college campus had been floated by a few people, but I think it’s more like the backlot of a movie studio. Several of the 27 halls at Hannover Messe sure had the look of one. Most of the halls were comparable in size to the ones I’d seen at McCormick Place. Halls 4-9, combined, felt as large as the four main halls at McCormick. It also helps thinking of it as a movie studio because a lot of hopes and dreams for the future are presented at these halls.

2. Hannover Messe is well-designed thematically.

While not all 27 halls were used, the ones that selected for use were near each other so attendees could go from 4-9 and 14-17 without feeling like they were going in the wrong direction. Halls 4-9, for example, focused a lot on machinery, robotics, motors and drives, encoders, actuators and more. Halls 14-17 had a stronger emphasis on cybersecurity, cloud computing, asset management, information technology (IT) consulting and digital transformation.

It wasn’t quite a complete divergence on IT and operational technology (OT), but it’s not far off. The two sides might be merging, but regarding Hannover Messe they’re not quite there yet.

3. Hannover Messe connects people through food and drink.

While some booths in the U.S. do offer you water or coffee or snacks, they’re infrequent. Many of the larger booths not only had food and beverages, they had a decent variety of both and encouraged people to sit down and have meetings and build a connection.

It’s comforting to know a water or coffee or orange juice isn’t far off because there will be plenty of walking. In three full days, I clocked about 58,000 steps and close to 30 miles of walking. Sure felt like a marathon at times.

4. The attendee list is more balanced geographically.

This isn’t a surprise because Hannover Messe is close to the middle of Europe. So of course there will be people from pretty much every country in the EU. Travelers from Japan and the United States have to travel about the same number of hours to get here. German was definitely the most common language and attendee. It was rare to hear a conversation in English while walking the show floors.

Hannover Messe experience

Engineers or manufacturers or thought leaders who haven’t gone to Hannover Messe should consider it. That said, the experience won’t be equal for all. Those who don’t do a lot of business in Europe might not get the same value out of the show, which emphasizes European business growth. Even the North American companies are emphasizing their European business operations as opposed to American units.

That makes sense, but it also is worth considering.

For the social aspect alone, and to be in the biggest manufacturing show in the world (the engineers’ Comic-Con), it is worth attending.

Industrial transformation: What does it mean?

The theme of Hannover Messe 2023 was on industrial transformation. It’s a somewhat nebulous term that can mean many things to different people and companies. Perhaps that’s the point. Industrial transformation could mean anything from changing how a supply chain operates to improving automation in a facility to creating a new philosophy for maintaining and improving operations. Like sustainability, Industry 4.0, digital transformation, factory of the future and other philosophies and concepts, its meaning depends on who you are and what your goal is.

The world of manufacturing has changed since COVID-19 — like it did for many others. Workers spent more time at home than on the factory floor. Many workers took the opportunity to retire. The skills and labor gap that have been a problem for manufacturing were exacerbated. Supply chains became snarled due to the pandemic and geopolitical issues.

Last year, I heard customers were going to trade shows to find a solution to their problems and weren’t all that picky about what it was. Anything would do. If it resolved their supply chain and personnel issues, they were on board for it.

That panic has abated somewhat and now consumers are emphasizing more targeted solutions for their problems. Manufacturers are also becoming more targeted and creating programs designed to help customers from the moment they purchase their product all the way down to maintaining operations. They want to be all things to their customers and deepen those relationships. This means they’re expanding their footprint and reach to their consumers.

Industrial transformation, in the end, may mean the old way of doing business is not going to work anymore. We need to change our thinking and see the world differently. That was a given considering all the seismic changes we’ve gone through in work as well as life.

Chris Vavra, web content manager, CFE Media and Technology, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

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See past Hannover Messe 2023 coverage linked below.


Author Bio: Chris Vavra is senior editor for WTWH Media LLC.