by Gary Mintchell | May 26, 2023 | Commentary, News
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.
by Gary Mintchell | Apr 20, 2023 | Commentary, Enterprise IT, News
An invitation came my way to talk with Alwyn Joseph, Chief Revenue Officer for FPT-USA. OK, I said, just what is that company? In brief, FPT is an information technology and services company based in Vietnam. This from a recent press release:
FPT Software is a global technology and IT services provider headquartered in Vietnam, with more than $632.5 million in revenue and 25,500 employees in 28 countries. As a pioneer in digital transformation, the company delivers world-class services in Smart factories, Digital platforms, RPA, AI, IoT, Cloud, AR/VR, BPO, and more. It has served 1000+ customers worldwide, a hundred of which are Fortune Global 500 companies in Automotive, Banking and Finance, Logistics & Transportation, Utilities, and more.
Joseph emphasized the company is more than just services, it is a technology company. It’s the second-largest ISP in Vietnam. The largest profit comes from work in the Americas. The leadership is intensely interested in helping people and even has developed a university with 100K students. They get intern work at FPT while in school. In fact, he added, the purpose of the company—it was founded to help community and nation building, invest in young people. It has brought many families out of poverty, creating healthy community.
I applaud the approach to projects—they start with the business outcome in mind. Too many engineers start with the engineering problem in mind and miss the big picture—why. He says they approach digital transformation initiatives to “think big, start smart, and scale very fast – with initial focus on 6-month projects, not 3-5 years.”
The latest news concerned the company positioned as a “Contender” in The Forrester Wave: Cloud Migration And Managed Service Partners In Asia Pacific, Q4 2022.
The report researched, analyzed, and scored the 14 most significant services providers across 27 criteria covering the current offering, strategy, and market presence. It shows that FPT Software received the highest score possible in the execution roadmap criterion. According to Forrester, “FPT Software has an impressive future roadmap and evidence that it has successfully delivered on its previous intentions.”
Additionally, the report stated that the company “supports delivery with its Japanese-inspired Digital Kaizen method and a cohesive, well-structured set of in-house developed tools… including the [platform CloudSuite] for multi-cloud management, monitoring, and cost optimization across AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP)”.
It is always interesting to become acquainted with a new (to me) company.
by Gary Mintchell | Apr 18, 2023 | Commentary, News, Productivity
US manufacturers have been moving the actual making of products out of the country for many years. This, of course, is a concern for this country. We’ve seen Germany and Italy and China aggressively move to strengthen manufacturing in their countries. Only recently has there been a concerted effort to bolster manufacturing here.
I’m an internationalist on the one hand, but each country owes it to itself to have solid manufacturing. I wondered a long time ago about the future where we would be required to import products needed in an armed conflict. Well, many organizations including this one are working to restore America’s manufacturing prowess. Making Lean Manufacturing more widespread is a good start.
Industry Reimagined 2030 just released its research report “The State of Lean Manufacturing.” The report aims to vastly increase company adoption by equipping practitioners, external experts, and educators with compelling facts and insights to make Lean highly relevant, friendly, and compelling to the interests and concerns of mainstream manufacturers.
Lean Manufacturing continuously eliminates waste, bottlenecks and improves customer value through employee engagement and utilizing data-driven tools. Seventy-four percent of survey respondents reported productivity gains over 40% without intensive capital investment. Yet only 10-15% of U.S. companies systematically use Lean and reap its competitive and financial benefits.
Lean solves many problems
- raising the level of production capability and worker productivity without intensive capital investment;
- competing against lower labor cost countries;
- creating an engaged workforce;
- building a problem-solving culture;
- truly benefitting from advanced production technology and Industry 4.0;
- becoming agile and resilient in responding to disruption.
Industry Reimagined 2030 surveyed three hundred manufacturers on the performance gains in ten manufacturing areas. The survey included both measurable and qualitative responses. Gains were cross-analyzed by a variety of demographics. The survey prompted respondents to provide personal views on gains and the ways in which Lean was implemented both initially and over the longer-term. Sentiment analysis was performed.
by Gary Mintchell | Apr 7, 2023 | Commentary, News
I arrived home this afternoon after getting blown off on a meeting in downtown Chicago. I found an issue of Industry Week in my mail. As I scanned it I saw in the editorial that I was holding in my grubby little hands the last print issue of IW. I remember it as a weekly (thick). Then a monthly. Last year a quarterly. This year–one.
Following the lead of what I’ve experienced with IT, PC, software journals, IW will become digital only.
Endeavor, a new company busily engaged in consolidating media properties, made this decision. Marketing people in this market still expect to get publicity without paying for it. And I don’t just mean “pay to play”, which some magazines have gone to in order to survive. They just don’t see value in advertising and don’t seem to realize that the publicity can’t exist in a void.
I saw difficulties 10 years ago when I left the print world as it was evolving into pay-to-play and went digital only. I have had several sponsors over that time. I’m very fortunate to have a long-term ethical sponsor in Inductive Automation who supports the lone individual (with perhaps more readers than…well, we won’t go there).
Most companies have their own email databases (hint: you’ve been sold so many times, you can’t know where your next email blitz will come from), they produce their own webinars, they have their own newsletters, some even have their own magazines. Independent journalism and independent analysts are few.
I’m always sad at the passing of an era. It means that this industrial technology market has matured and consolidated enough that vibrancy, energy, leaps of innovation are maybe in the past.
Unless, that is, unless some of you find a new way to shake up the market. I’m old, but even I’m contemplating where the market can go. What do you think?
by Gary Mintchell | Apr 4, 2023 | Commentary, News, Personal Development
It speaks for longevity and persistence if nothing else. This is post number 6,000 over two different websites. I actually contributed a few posts to MESA many years ago and had an asset management website briefly when I was working with MIMOSA. I don’t count those.
Dave, Jane, and I along with Jim, Wes, and Mike started Automation World in 2003. I was busy with that as editor-in-chief. Blogging was catching on. When I had a chance to pause and think, I started a blog on Dave Winer’s Radio Userland in 2003 as an experiment. The sales guys wanted to sell my blog to advertisers. We worked out a process that kept me pure but used it for promotion. I later moved the blog to SquareSpace when Userland folded. I renamed it Gary Mintchell’s Feed Forward—the title of my AW Editorial Page.
I left AW in 2013 after many changes. I hired a guy to remake the website. He moved it to WordPress. I renamed it The Manufacturing Connection—I could buy the domain name and wanted to feature the word Connection.
I have a second blog ongoing since about 2007 that focuses on personal and spiritual development called Faith Venture just because I have many and varied interests.
We came to Automation World from Control Engineering (both magazines still exist). I believed technology and requirements had moved from control and instrumentation to automation—which I defined as control + information. I wanted to cover how users (people) used these new technologies to make their operations better. I had writers focus on the “automation team” emphasizing that it takes teamwork to accomplish goals.
The industry has seen many fads come and go over the past 10 years of this incarnation of this blog. The market has consolidated greatly. That has resulted in loss of advertising revenue for the magazines (and me). I appreciate the long-standing sponsorship of Inductive Automation—which also seems to be the one software company still growing and “killing it” as one industry veteran told me.
Through it all, you all are still out there solving the same problems I was trying to solve when I was out in industry. The tools are better. Software mostly doesn’t require you to change your processes to fit their model. But the problems remain.
That means my focus must continue to evolve to match what is happening.
Let’s just see what 2023 brings. All the best!