My Website traffic dropped significantly during the week of Hannover Messe in April. As an independent thinker/writer, I cannot afford such a trip unless I can find a sponsor. There were none this year. I do enjoy Hannover. It’s an intense few days walking about 10 miles a day.
I did view it from afar through press releases and other websites and correspondence. Two analyst firms that I trust sent me their thoughts on trends seen at the show. It is important to note that both are European (does England count as European?) and one is German. There is a decided emphasis that way that might be missed in the US. They have a few different issues. Interact Analysis and IoT Analytics each had several analysts in attendance. The links are to their reports for greater depth about companies covered. I should note that I have worked with IoT Analytics in the past but have nothing going on with them now.
Interact Analysis, analysts Blake Griffin, Brianna Jackson, Tim Dawson
Over the years, Hannover Messe has evolved to include an ever-broadening range of products and companies. Despite the wide range of technologies on display, an emphasis on energy efficiency and flexibility emerged as the central theme of the 2023 show. As more sustainability-conscious legislation, such as the Net-Zero Industry Act and the EU’s Eco-Design Initiatives, are being enacted, industrial automation technology is being pushed to evolve to support these efforts. Additionally, we continue to see increasing emphasis placed upon flexibility within intralogistics. Both of these trends were on prominent display throughout the fairground. In this insight, we aim to highlight the products on display that we believe most clearly represent the current status quo within the industrial automation markets we cover.
Against the Backdrop of High-Electricity Prices Across Europe Energy Efficiency Technology is Paramount
While motor drives are inherently an energy efficiency device, new models are pushing this idea even further. Nearly all drive vendors that exhibited at Hannover Messe were displaying models of their drives which provide additional efficiencies to the system through features like regeneration, harmonic mitigation and electronic bypass.
Motor Vendors – IE4 & IE5 Technology:
2023 is a big year for the low voltage motor market, particularly in Europe. In July of this year, the EU Eco-design Initiative will mandate that motors between 75kw and 200kw carry an efficiency level of IE4 at minimum. This represents the first time IE4 efficiency levels will be required in any region. In preparation for this legislation, many vendors of motors had their high-efficiency capabilities on display at Hannover Messe.
Despite the standard not being properly defined yet, many vendors were going beyond IE4 to show their IE5 capabilities.
Battery Manufacturing and Recycling – Festo
According to the European Federation for Transport and the Environment, Europe comprised 41% of new investment in lithium-ion battery production in 2021. However, legislation from other regions, such as the Inflation Reduction Act in the US, posed a threat to European industries, with the US act incentivizing European manufacturers to expand their operations within the US. Europe’s answer to this is the Net-Zero Industry Act, which aims to push the EU to produce more of its technology domestically and localize supply chains. As a result, battery manufacturing in Europe is expected to see increased investment in order for the continent to remain competitive globally.
Smart Conveyance Technology
Alongside energy efficiency, Interact Analysis has also provided substantial commentary about new entrants shaking up the supplier landscape for smart conveyance technology (here).
The focus for Hannover Messe has shifted over the years to incorporate a broader range of technologies, and it can be difficult to find common themes across products as a result. However, flexibility, energy efficiency and sustainability were clearly identifiable in the products on display across the industrial automation halls. This perhaps speaks to the strengths of these trends across Europe. While energy prices and supply chain woes remain a concern, you can expect continued emphasis to be placed on solutions like the ones we observed at Hannover Messe 2023.
1. Modularity is becoming the top theme for future manufacturing
Almost all exhibitors somehow highlighted the need for modularity and interchangeability.
2. Hardware platforms are consolidating
The lines between PLCs, IPCs, gateways, and other hardware devices are further fading as powerful multi-purpose chips such as the new Intel 13th gen Raptorlake CPUs become the go-to compute platform across devices. At the same time, hardware devices become smaller while integrating more functionality inside that separate devices (e.g., I/O master functionality) used to be handle. Another notable, recent change is the addition of AI acceleration across the hardware stack so that companies can run AI interference (mostly for vision use cases at this point).
3. Decoupling of hardware and software is gaining momentum
To the surprise of many at the fair, the world’s leading industrial automation vendor Siemens announced a “virtual PLC” software offering that is completely decoupled from proprietary hardware. This announcement marks a paradigm shift for industrial automation as it allows Siemens control software to basically run on any third-party (standard) hardware. Siemens is not the first to announce such an offering (e.g., Schneider Electric, BoschRexroth, Beckhoff, and Codesys have done so before), but it shows that the market leader is further opening up and getting ready for a truly software-defined automation stack.
4. More and more IT technologies are coming to OT
There is a push toward using an IT-style approach (e.g., low-code, integrated development environments and containerization) to configure/engineer/deploy OT applications and control logic.
5. The industrial metaverse is starting to take shape
HMI 2023 saw a revival of the “industrial metaverse.” While it had become quiet regarding the usage of the term leading up to the fair, a number of companies presented their vision of the industrial metaverse, including Microsoft, Siemens, CapGemini, SAP, and Schneider Electric. We noted that the visions were clearly not aligned, with some putting augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) into the center, whereas others clearly excluded AR/VR. In all cases, the industrial metaverse was, to a large degree, a new marketing term for an existing set of technologies. The most common denominator was the fact that digital twins played a key role for all companies, with some saying that the industrial metaverse is the next step in that journey.
6. There is a strong push toward sustainability
At last year’s Hannover Messe (2022), we highlighted how sustainability had entered the fair as a key theme. This year, we noticed a lot more “meat to the bone.” We came across a considerable number of solutions to help companies track their carbon footprint, driven in part by new ESG regulations such as the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD).
7. Generative AI is being implemented in manufacturing
With generative AI unarguably the #1 buzz in tech right now, the first applications in manufacturing were visible at the fair.
8. Interoperability focus is shifting from assets to data
Discussions at the fair showed how specific asset connectivity technologies such as OPC-UA, IO-Link, or MQTT have become or are in the process of becoming global interoperability standards. With such standards establishing themselves, at the same time as AI and data are taking a much bigger role in many digital transformation initiatives, the focus is shifting away from standards to connect assets toward data format standards and architectures.
9. DataOps is maturing
Making data interoperable is one side of the coin, whereas ensuring manageability in day-to-day operations is the other. Therefore, unsurprisingly, we noted a lot of interest for vendors (often start-ups/scale-ups) that promised to manage and optimize OT data streams. These vendors target the severe need for high-quality data without spending too much time on preparing/cleaning the data.
10. Wireless connectivity on the shopfloor is becoming a reality
Shopfloor control operations are traditionally performed using wired/tethered connectivity between sensors/actuators, IO devices, controllers, and other compute platforms. However, HMI 2023 revealed that wireless may be becoming a viable alternative in some cases.