Setting records, making deals

U.S. presence at Hannover Messe a rousing success.
By Bob Vavra May 6, 2016

President Obama reviews robotic capabilities at the Kuka and Weidmuller booths as part of his tour of the Hannover Messe fairgrounds April 25. Image: Courtesy Hannover Messe.The United States waited 70 years to become Partner Country at Hannover Messe. It was worth the wait for all parties.

The U.S.’ presence at the world’s largest industrial trade show set records and established new relationships. More than 5,000 Americans came across the Atlantic to experience Hannover Messe, and many came for the first time. The impression they left on the show was as strong as the impact of the U.S.’ presence on the event.

From the arrival of President Obama on Sunday, April 24 to the final footstep on the fairgrounds on April 29, attendees got a look at the possibilities of global manufacturing, and the critical role American manufacturing will play in realizing those possibilities.

"Hannover Messe 2016 has shown that the United States and Germany are equal partners in the pursuit of digitalized manufacturing and energy," said Jochen Köckler, member of the managing board at Deutsche Messe, at the fair’s closing press conference on April 29. "In order to connect products, machines, industrial enterprises, and people across countries and continents, we need to arrive at universally applicable technologies and standards.

Here at Hannover Messe 2016, the USA and Germany—along with other leading industrial nations—have sparked the dialogue needed to make that happen."

It was impossible for the 190,000 attendees to miss the message of Industrie 4.0, the German equivalent of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

"This marks the breakthrough for Industrie 4.0," said Köckler. "Next on the agenda is the commercialization phase. The technology is ready to roll, and about to make its way onto the factory floor."

President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel share a smile during the opening ceremony of Hannover Messe 2016 in Hannover Germany on April 24. Image: Courtesy Hannover Messe.

Big attendance, big ideas

The final attendance at Hannover Messe exceeded even the most hopeful show official’s expectations. Although this year’s show did not include mMotion, dDrives, and automation (MDA) pavilions, attendance was still up from 175,000 in 2014, the last year that included MDA. Attendance outside of Germany also increased by 25% to more than 50,000 attendees.

"The roughly 5,000 American visitors who came in search of new technology for their manufacturing plants and energy systems are sure to have found what they were looking for here in Hannover, and to have made a lot of valuable new acquaintances along the way," said Köckler. "Industry initiatives from Germany, the USA, China, Japan, and the EU have come together here in Hannover to embark on a shared journey into the digital future."

One example was the "Industrie 4.0 Meets the Industrial Internet" forum, which attracted more than 8,000 attendees.

A dazzling opening

Obama’s first attendance to Hannover Messe was highly anticipated and tightly guarded. Unlike past years, there was strictly limited access to the Hannover Centrum, where 3,000 guests and media from around the world were carefully screened and transported to the venue.

Once there, the president received a warm welcome. "Our guest is the biggest economy of the world, the most important trading partner of Germany, the United States," said Stefan Schostok, lord mayor of Hannover, who opened the evening’s events. "We are proud for very first time to welcome an American president to our trade show. Welcome Mr. President."

Obama returned the warmth, and noted the historical significance of his attendance. "I’m pleased that this year, the United States is the Partner Country for the very first time. I am honored to be first U.S. president to attend Hannover Messe," said Obama, who noted that in 2016, Germans also are celebrating the 500th anniversary of its beer purity law. "I may join you in that celebration," he said.

In his remarks, the president declared the United States is "open for business" and delivered strong support for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Obama said the strong economic ties between the U.S. and Germany began at the end of World War II, just two years before the first Hannover Messe was staged. Since then, Obama said the two countries are each other’s closest allies in trade and economic development.

"We’re ready to do even more business with Germany, more business with Europe and more business with the world," Obama said. "As president, I’ve worked to make sure we are sustaining the spirit of innovation." In addition, Obama said that the U.S. is now the top exporter of German goods. "We need to build on that success," he said.

In that light, Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave strong endorsements on TTIP negotiations, which Obama said need to be completed in 2016. "We can’t let this opportunity pass," said Obama. "The United States is prepared to make an agreement this year."

Obama and Merkel both said the final TTIP agreement would raise labor, safety, and environmental standards and improve trade by lowering barriers. And both acknowledged the oppositions to the agreement from factions in each country, including a protest in the streets of Hannover on the previous day.

"The answer is not to pull up the drawbridge and stop trade," Obama said. "We can do trade the right way. TTIP will not lower standards; it will raise standards even higher."

A big show, and a big week

While the United States is looking to highlight its potential as a global importer of manufacturing companies and jobs, the opening ceremony featured two of America’s great cultural exports. Members of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performed interpretive dance to gospel music, and singers from the Broadway musical, Wicked," performed two songs, "For Good" and "Defying Gravity."

The opening also included a presentation where robots and humans worked and even danced together, a continuation of the "integrated industry" theme of Hannover Messe 2016.

Another highlight of the week was the celebration of the Select USA pavilion at Hannover Messe on Wednesday night, April 27. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and U.S. Ambassador to Germany, John B. Emerson, welcomed more than 1,000 people to the Select USA pavilion in Hall 3. It was a night to celebrate and to relax, as more than 13,000 bottles of beer were imported from the U.S. to help get the party started.

The party was highlighted by a performance from the U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus. Military personnel in uniform provided an entertaining night of music. The 10-piece band played and sang blues, swing, and rock songs to the delight of the workers from the Department of Commerce and more than 40 state and regional economic development groups at this year’s event.

Already paying dividends

According to a Select USA press release, the Berghoff Group will invest $30 million and create 100 jobs in Auburn, Ala. at its first U.S. manufacturing plant. Starting in 2017, Berghoff Precision Machining will produce parts in Auburn for customers in the equipment manufacturing, semiconductor, and aerospace industries.

"We welcome middle-sized German companies investing and succeeding in the United States," said Emerson in a press release. "The Berghoff Group is a family-owned firm with a strong tradition here in Germany. We are proud to join that tradition with U.S. productivity and innovation – among the many reasons foreign firms choose to invest in the United States."

"With the North America operation we will be able to serve our global customers both from Europe and the U.S.," said Oliver Bludau, CEO of the Berghoff Group. "Berghoff’s principles and processes will create the same quality and value for our customers for products made at our Auburn location. We are very grateful to the State of Alabama and the City of Auburn for the support that our project is receiving."