"More attendees, more solutions, more international – that aptly sums up HANNOVER MESSE 2017," commented Dr. Jochen Köckler, Member of the Managing Board at Deutsche Messe. "Over the past five days, Hannover has served as a global hub for all things related to Industrie 4.0. Every sector involved in the digitalization of industry was on hand to showcase its answers to the key question faced by industrial enterprises everywhere: How can I best get my company into shape for the digital future? HANNOVER MESSE has resoundingly underscored its value as a prime source of orientation for decision-makers from around the globe," he added. The show's chosen lead theme of "Integrated Industry – Creating Value" put a major spotlight on the benefits of Industrie 4.0 and the role of humans in tomorrow's integrated factories. As this year's featured Partner Country, Poland called added attention to the need for close cooperation throughout Europe, while impressing attending professionals with its credentials as an innovative partner to global industry.
In his summation of the event, Thilo Brodtmann, Managing Director of the German Engineering Federation (VDMA), said: "HANNOVER MESSE 2017 has served as an unsurpassed showcase for the mechanical engineering sector. Industrie 4.0 is now well past the trial stage, and is already generating real benefits in application. The show clearly reflected the industry's buoyant mood – a mood powered by having exactly what it takes to get the job done for the benefit of people everywhere. And when it comes to international competition, we are definitely among the frontrunners. In short, HANNOVER MESSE 2017 has been nothing short of outstanding."
Dr. Klaus Mittelbach, CEO of the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association (ZVEI), remarked: "Industrie 4.0 is booming, and Hannover Messe has been promoting the topic from the very start. Moreover, the fair has made it amply clear that digitalization calls for a European identity. The pressing task at hand is to build the digital union at top speed."
Of the show's 225,000 attendees (up from 217,000 in 2015 as the most recent comparable event), more than 75,000 came from abroad. "This is an unprecedented figure in the 70-year history of HANNOVER MESSE," commented Köckler, adding: "This impressively proves that decision-makers from around the world rely on HANNOVER MESSE as their definitive source of Industrie 4.0 orientation and solutions." The largest number of foreign visitors came from China (9,000), followed by the Netherlands (6,200), India (5,300) and Poland, whose 5,000 visitors set a new Partner Country record. The long-term impact of Partner Country participation was underscored by an impressive 3,000 visitors from the U.S. as last year's Partner Country.
"In close collaboration with our exhibitors, we succeeded in making this year's lead theme tangible in the truest sense of the word," remarked Köckler. "With an array of more than 500 application scenarios, the show gave real shape to the promise that digitalization holds for industry and the energy sector."
Triumph of the cobots
A new generation of robots was also in the limelight: the so-called "cobots", i.e. collaborative robots, which are about to fundamentally transform the way we work in factories. Their connectivity, artificial intelligence, innovative sensors and intuitive operation allow them to communicate directly with humans, as they learn autonomously and swap instructions with other cobots. As Köckler pointed out: "There was huge interest in the displays in the robotics halls. Not only are cobots an exciting prospect for large companies – many SMEs were also at HANNOVER MESSE to find out about these new helpers for their manufacturing operations."
From sensors to platforms
Previously sensors were viewed as the main technology item connecting up different machines, but this year's event put platform solutions to the fore. Concretely, this refers to cloud-based network connections for the entire production operations, including data collection and analysis. "The trend towards the ‘digital twin' concept in the production environment is opening up entirely new vistas for industry," reported Köckler. If testing can be carried out in virtual reality – for example, to see whether a new production line is going to work out – this makes it possible to bring products onto the market faster, at lower cost.
Energy systems of the future
Exhibitors in the energy halls showed how the energy systems of the future might well operate. According to Köckler, "our Integrated Energy Plaza created a central hub for the energy industry. The exhibits showed how the revolution in power generation can segue into a true energy transition, including the heat and mobility markets." The main focus was on new energy storage technologies, which included serial production-ready electrolysis stacks, making hydrogen solutions a viable alternative even today. Some totally new approaches were also in evidence in the solar technology area, with several companies displaying ultra-thin, flexible solar foils that generate electricity even in low-light conditions, opening up new options for the practical application of the technology.
SMEs gearing up for digitalization
With almost every passing week, another consultant study is published with dire warnings that SMEs are not ready for digitalization. "HANNOVER MESSE 2017 has told a different story," said Köckler, pointing to the numerous component supplier companies exhibiting at HANNOVER MESSE. "These companies are now digitalizing their processes and establishing connectivity with their partners, because they know that their customers – from the automotive industry, for example – expect the end-to-end digital tracking of each and every part every component." Another example consisted of Salzgitter AG, which presented a coordinated display at HANNOVER MESSE underscoring how Industrie 4.0 and digitalization have changed the way they see their business, and the solutions that are already in place.
Growth in the startup segment
Following on the heels of last year's successful launch, the "Young Tech Enterprises" segment of the fair enabled young businesses to introduce themselves to potential investors, customers and partners. More than 150 startups were on hand, exhibiting storage devices for renewable energy networks, operating systems for augmented reality and mini-wind power plants for cars and trains: "The startup area of the fair is going from strength to strength. We are confident that many of them will decide to take the plunge next year with their own stand at HANNOVER MESSE," added Köckler.
Partner Country Poland
Featured as this year's Partner Country, Poland sent a total of 200 companies to Hannover, highlighting the country's strong credentials as a dynamic and innovative industrial location. Research and startups are a special priority for the Partner Country. This was the message conveyed by Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo in her address at the HANNOVER MESSE Opening Ceremony, and these themes were also at the forefront of the exhibits during the event. Poland also succeeded in underscoring its leading position in eMobility. The high degree of interest in HANNOVER MESSE among Polish political circles was confirmed by the presence of such high-ranking delegates as Jarosław Adam Gowin, Polish Minister of Science and Higher Education, and Mateusz Morawiecki, Minister of Economic Development and Finance.