'Connect and collaborate' was the catchphrase of this year's Hannover Messe, encompassing a myriad of new developments and trends. For a brief overview of the 2018 edition of Europe's leading industrial trade show, read on!


Connect and collaborate

The digitalisation of manufacturing processes and the collaboration between human beings and highly automated machines were the two main technological trends directly encompassed by the Hannover Messe 2018's catchphrase. The co-bots (collaboration robots), exoskeletons and augmented reality systems presented during the show made for interesting examples. These technologies are designed to increase productivity, create more sustainable employment and lead to new business models. 

Flexible manufacturing systems

The leading innovations and strong points of the Hannover Messe can be summed up in a few words: in the future, everything will be based on flexible manufacturing systems, optimisation of the collaboration between humans and robots, widescale digitalisation of manufacturing processes and the use of data for monitoring and optimisation within an integrated data platform. To take the next step towards the factory of the future, companies must collect the right data throughout the manufacturing processes, through the introduction of intelligent sensors, machines, systems and processes. Thus, manufacturing processes can be mapped and monitored. It will also mean that manufacturing gaps and faults can be detected sooner and will lead to the use of predictive maintenance. A notable example is ZF's autonomous electric fork-lift, which uses sensors and cameras to observe the environment, detect pedestrians and avoid collisions. The significant presence of communications companies such as Huawei highlights the importance of communications and digital networks for the industry of tomorrow. 

Synergies

The fusion of the traditional Hannover fair with the CeMAT show was another first for this year. The CeMAT show focuses on internal logistics and supply chain management. The attention given to these fields in this technology fair demonstrates an important change in mentality within the industry. It is vital for collaborations to be forged in all areas in which digitalisation can offer opportunities, so as to achieve greater (and faster!) progress together. Synergies must thus be created between manufacturing on the one hand, and (internal) logistics on the other. This year's show also saw a massive presence of companies from the energy sector, which clearly demonstrates that the synergy between this sector and the development sector, driven by electric transport in the car industry, constitutes another great pillar for collaboration. 

Robots, robots, robots!

Another noteworthy trend is the ever-greater use of robots for a variety of tasks in manufacturing processes, such as advanced pick-and-place robots, equipped with specialised grippers, often with advanced vision systems used for recognising objects or inspecting products. These vision systems sometimes use self-learning algorithms (machine learning or artificial intelligence). We are also seeing a trend of robots with ever more complex vision systems, capable of building complex systems to a very high degree of precision, along with the emergence of collaborative robots (or co-bots) able to work safely in their operator's surrounding environment, rendering the collaboration between humans and machines more and more achievable. 

Technology and society

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, highlighted the opportunities that this fourth industrial revolution presents. The Hannover fair is the ideal opportunity for many companies to forge new contacts and meet existing clients and subcontractors. For the first time, a Latin-American country was represented at the show. Mexico had 150 stands which saw Mexican companies presenting their new products in a variety of technological fields. In recent years, Mexico has become an important market for German companies. A trade deal between Mexico and the European Union is also in the pipeline. 

Last but not least, Belgium was also represented by the Minister-President of the Flemish government, Geert Bourgeois. He visited the stands of well-established Belgian companies (such as the Belgian branch of Siemens), the Flanders Make stand, and a few Flemish start-ups such as the high-tech company iQunet from Hamme.

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