Traveling to Germany last week to attend Hannover Messe was an incredible experience I won’t soon forget. As the world's largest trade fair for industrial technology and manufacturing since 1947, the exhibition—now focused on Industry 4.0 [aka advanced/smart manufacturing or the industrial internet of things (IIoT)]—was a perfect opportunity to discover new products and services in the areas of automation, energy technologies, supply chain, research and development, and much more. As part of a commercial trade mission for Quebec, I had the opportunity to travel to Hannover with other business leaders from the province to learn more about the future of manufacturing.
Go big or go home
One of our core values at Osedea is "go big or go home," and that certainly seems to be the attitude of many of the 4,000 exhibitors at Hannover Messe. I've attended countless trade shows across North America in my life, including when I worked in the fashion industry earlier in my career, but I've never seen anything quite like this! The booths at Hannover Messe are simply gigantic—some equipped with restaurants, elevators, private meeting rooms, automated production lines, and even demo warehouses with automated robots. The “wow” factor is everywhere, making it hard to stand out from the crowd. With so much to see, I suspect you could spend an entire day at each booth and still discover something new the next day.
GreenTech and labor shortage technology to the rescue
It was promising to see so many exhibitors in solution mode, showcasing offerings to address climate change and the ongoing labor shortage. I demoed several Load Management Systems (LMS) designed to better manage energy consumption during peaks (functionality that will be especially impactful for the energy crisis Europe is facing). Microsoft showcased solutions for building a more resilient and sustainable supply chain, while Siemens exhibited their end-to-end vertical farming solutions for generating more crops using less energy. I also saw companies proposing remote assist solutions with Augmented Reality (AR), 3D printing, and smart factories. HoloLens 2.0, an AR helmet from Microsoft, seems to be the leader for remote maintenance, training, and other usages. This technology has the potential to help mitigate the climate crisis (i.e. less transportation means smaller carbon footprint) and labor shortages (i.e. engineers can be more efficient)! As one example of the HoloLens 2.0 in action, Phoenix Contact, a world leader in innovative products and solutions for all aspects of connection technology, electronics, and automation, was able to assemble a fully automated assembly line in the US in less than two weeks remotely from Germany, something that would have taken months without this technology.
German engineering at its best
One of the highlights of the trip was having the chance to visit the headquarters of Phoenix Contact. It was my first experience visiting a fully automated manufacturing plant like this, and it was very impressive! They’re vertically integrated, meaning they manage all aspects of the product development-to-delivery process—from producing their own bolts and screws to running an automated warehouse, to packing and shipping orders worldwide. But what impressed me the most was their PLCnext technology, which is an ecosystem for industrial automation that connects the information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) worlds. It can make your existing application fit for IIoT and 4.0. For example, in the Midwest, manufacturing plants can automatically detect if a tornado is coming, because they’re linked to the weather center, and they can shut down the plant with appropriate backups. This technology is truly cutting-edge and has the potential to revolutionize the manufacturing industry.
In conclusion, if you're interested in industrial technology, automation, R&D, and want to be blown away by what the future will look like, Hannover Messe is an event you cannot miss. And if you're a Canadian company, you’ll certainly want to get involved in the 2025 edition, when Canada will be the official partner host country. This partnership will include a central pavilion showcasing 100+ leading Canadian organizations and hosting daily conference programming on stage including product and technology presentations. It’s sure to be a great opportunity for Canada’s industrial and technological innovations to be on display, and for businesses to nurture new partnerships and shape the industries of the future.