For the first time in its 73-year history, the Hannover Messe 2020 did not physically take place in April this year due to the corona crisis. Instead, they switched to a digital format in July: the Hannover Messe Digital Days. In the past, hundreds of thousands of visitors to the exhibition center informed themselves live in the exhibition halls on topics such as Industry 4.0 or digital transformation. During the Digital Days this year, they could only follow the discussions about the future of Germany as an industrial location via streaming.
Otherwise, the trade fair feeling for 2020 is completely different. In the past, the trade fair visitor simply switched from hall to hall to marvel at presentations and demos about the latest developments in digitization and automation. This year instead of indoor hopping, the website search is the order of the day. A number of exhibitors relocated their trade fair stands to the virtual room in need and held additional summits there.
A digital trade fair experience that also had annoying aspects. Instead of registering only once, as with a real trade fair visit, the virtual trade fair visitor has to repeat the complex procedure on each website. Or to quote Friedhelm Loh, owner and CEO of the Friedhelm Loh Group – to which Rittal (Rittal at the fair) belongs – from the opening event of the Digital Days: “Digital is good – a living fair is better”.
One thing was clear at the opening event: Corona does not seem to be an agenda changer, but, according to Oliver Jung, CEO of the Festo Group, leads to “accelerating key trends”. Trends such as the impression at the Digital Days include topics such as digitization, AI, 5G connectivity, Industry 4.0, automation or the question of European data sovereignty with GAIA-X.
Jung demonstrated how strongly Corona acts as an accelerator in his own company. Festo had to set up 7,000 new VPN nodes almost overnight and set up a digital customer journey so as not to lose contact with customers. An effort that was worthwhile for Festo. According to Jung, the company did not have to close a single plant, not even in India.
The Festo boss is also convinced that with Corona globalization has peaked and that we will experience a regionalization of production. “For a high-wage country like Germany,” Jung continued, “this means that we need more automation and flexibility. And we can achieve this with digitization and AI as well as factories that are more autonomous and, at the same time, better synchronized with each other.” (You can find the Festo virtual exhibition stand here).
Klaus Helmrich, Member of the Board of Siemens AG and CEO Digital Industries, also underlined the value of the flexibility gained through digitalization. About 40 percent of the service tasks for maintenance of factories and machines could have been done from the home office. According to Helmrich, development and administration took place entirely from the home office. For Helmrich, this flexibility, but also the increased use of autonomous systems, are the next steps that companies have to take when it comes to Industry 4.0.
For Siemens itself, the next step is a partnership with SAP. Together, Siemens and SAP want to create a “digital thread” to help companies break down traditional silos and drive digitalization. SAP offers the Siemens Teamcenter software as the centerpiece for product lifecycle collaboration and product data management. In return, Siemens takes over SAP’s intelligent asset management solutions and the SAP project and portfolio management application in order to maximize business value for customers over the entire product and service life cycle and to enable new collaborative processes between manufacturers and operators .
The importance of agility and flexibility in processes, production and supply chains was also emphasized by Thomas Saueressig, member of the SAP SE board and responsible for SAP product engineering. However, sour vinegar sees not only the companies, but also the politicians. For example, he warned of the still lacking network expansion in Germany and called for tax equal treatment of digital offers – for example in energy – with industry. He also expects support on GAIA-X.
For Saueressig, GAIA-X is a very important, future-oriented idea for confident data storage in Europe. However, the challenge is to create competitive and attractive offers. Friedhelm Loh also sees the importance of an area for better protection of intellectual property in Europe. Not only is he a founding member of GAIA-X, he has also developed a turnkey edge cloud data center with ONCITE. The solution stores an
d processes data almost in real time in production (“on premises”) and then harmonises it for analysis based on artificial intelligence (AI).
Ursula Morgenstern, CEO of Atos Germany, also sees the importance of an EU data ecosystem as it arises or can arise with GAIA-X. At the same time, the manager is also convinced that in the next few years 75 percent of the data will no longer be processed in the cloud, but in the edge, i.e. directly on or in the machines.
For Rolf Najork, Managing Director / CEO of Robert Bosch GmbH / Bosch Rexroth AG, it is astonishing how quickly German industry, in part during the crisis, tackled digitization. For him, the factory of the future must enable flexible production in order to enable a quick change in production. He sees challenges not only in terms of connectivity, but also in the user interfaces – here sales and sales would have to be digitized. Furthermore, the topic of CO2nd should not be forgotten, since an appropriate ecological footprint is increasingly becoming a competitive factor. Ultimately, according to Najork, the factories would have to look for new value chains.
All participants agreed that new forms of learning must be found simultaneously with the digitalization of industry, both in professional life and before. Dieter Kempf, President of the Federal Association of German Industry (BDI), went tough on the demands and expectations of many Germans in times of the corona crisis. He spoke of a “certain neglect of prosperity”, because previous generations would have seen much worse. Especially since in this country, as the examples show, it was still possible to run the economy despite the crisis.