In the factory of the future, most elements will be mobile. This represents a shift from fixed production lines to more independent, or even self-organizing, production cells. Research institutes such as KIT (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) and “Smart Factory Kaiserslautern” said during the event that they were working with industrial companies to realize this goal.
While this is certainly an attractive future vision, especially for greenfield approaches, we have no doubt that existing factories (brownfield) will also become more mobile, and thus more flexible, in the coming years. This will mainly be achieved through the increasing use of autonomous vehicles and moveable, lightweight robots/cobots which work among the existing machines in the factory.
To enable this, software and AI will be growing in relevance, not just to give robots and vehicles more cognitive capabilities (for vision-based gripping or intelligent indoor routing), especially to increase ease of use for factory workers. This is essential to boost adoption of these technologies beyond large industrial companies in automotive and electronics. To speed up the introduction of low-code/no-code software and new AI-based capabilities, providers of vehicles and robots have to broaden their ecosystem of software development partners.
To enable the evolution of this ecosystem, KUKA presented a preview of a new operating system for its robots (iiQKA.OS) at Hannover Messe Digital Edition 2021. "Our mission by 2030 is: Automation will be sim-pler, more intuitive, and thus available to everyone. This will lower the entry threshold. Programming a robot will then be as easy as working on a PC today," says Peter Mohnen, CEO KUKA Group. From our perspective, this development is fundamental in unlocking the potential of smart robots for new areas such as hospitals, buildings, retail, and pharma. Companies such as Reply (as partner of Boston Dynamics' robo-dog, Spot), cobot provider AUBO, and drone control platform provider HHLA Sky presented interesting use cases for robots outside the factory during the event. Examples are damage inspection for rental cars, massage robots in healthcare, and drone fleets to inspect and secure industrial sites. If you would like to find out more about this topic, please refer to our analysis of the robotics market from February 2021.
Digital twin platforms and ecosystems
Siemens and SAP announced the expansion of their strategic partnership, launched in July 2020. Most interestingly, Siemens will start to offer Teamcenter (PLM), MindSphere (IoT platform), and Mendix (low-code app development platform) together with SAP Intelligent Asset Management to orchestrate data exchange between third parties.
The SAP solution allows to collect asset-related data in a central repository, facilitating collaborative asset management. As it can also map different data models to each other, it can be seen as an integrator for different digital twins. Beside the introduction of the Open I4.0 Alliance and the newly established Industrial Digital Twin Association (IDTA), this step represents another move toward establishing the SAP Intelligent Asset Management solution as some kind of digital twin platform, a standard component of asset-related data exchange.
A digital twin platform also plays a role in a new offering from T-Systems and GFT. They announced a joint manufacturing industry solution for analyzing large volumes of machine, production, and planning data – an end-to-end solution for the production floor. For this purpose, the partners combine GFT's digital twin platform "sphinx open online" with edge computing from T-Systems and artificial intelligence from the cloud. The collaborations around SAP Intelligent Asset Management and GFT's sphinx open online underscore a top priority on the current market, the evolution toward joint semantic models to create understanding between different data models and digital twins.
Hyperscalers in automotive
The collaboration between the German automotive industry and the hyperscalers keeps intensifying. This is certainly not a new topic. Automotive OEMs such as Volkswagen and BMW started their collaborations some time back, for the shop floor and around connected cars. In the current phase, tier-1 suppliers are intensifying their collaboration with hyperscalers. Bosch announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft in February 2021 to develop a cloud-based connected car platform. At Hannover Messe 2021, Continental announced a similar partnership with AWS. The hyperscalers' global infrastructure and AI capabilities are certainly of fundamental importance to connected car services and autonomous driving. To find out more about the CAR.OS topic, please refer to our Expert View.
New services to reduce carbon emissions
Reducing carbon emissions was a new hot topic at Hannover Messe. During the event, Bosch announced the establishment of Bosch Climate Solutions, a newly created unit that advises manufacturing companies on how to reduce their carbon emissions. For this purpose, Bosch combines consulting services with its own technology. The Bosch Energy Platform controls the consumption of heat, electricity, and compressed air at more than 120 of Bosch’s locations today. We expect to see a much stronger focus on this topic at the next event in 2022.
The future of Hannover Messe
In short, 90,000 visitors and 1,800 exhibitors participated in HMI 2021 (2019: 225,000 visitors and 6,500 exhibitors). It was a disappointment that IBM and ABB did not participate this year. In our view, this was not because they had decided to pull out of HMI for good, but rather because both companies are currently undergoing a major transformation that has not yet been completed. We expect the two companies to return to HMI in 2022. It was encouraging to see that 500 new exhibitors joined the event for the first time. In this context, it makes perfect sense for the next HMI to be a hybrid event, combining digital and physical event experiences. The good thing about digital is that you can review all sessions “on demand” until June 10.