Industry is undergoing transformation, as is the distribution of tasks between man and machine. How this may look can be seen at Automatica 2018. The significance of the fair and its highlights were the subject of MM Maschinenmarkt’s meeting with Falk Senger, CEO of the Messe München.
Industry 4.0 and digital networking are changing industry fundamentally. In assembly, one finds ever more cobots, digital assistance systems and transport drones, and in production software and edge-computing are established vocabulary. As the internationally leading fair for automated production, Automatica is showing robotics in industry and services, assembly installations, industrial image processing systems and components in a diversity seldom encountered in one place. What specialist visitors can expect in Munich is explained by Falk Senger, CEO of the Messe München in an interview with MM Maschinenmarkt.
2018 is an Automatica year again. How do you see the mood in the sector?
Falk Senger: Because of the developments in global competition, robotics and automation are becoming increasingly important. For us as fair organisers, the growing participation of exhibitors is clear proof of this.
Rapidly growing computing power and the Internet of Things are accelerating digitisation in production. These changes will continue to put wind in the sails of suppliers of robotics, automation and industrial image processing.
With IT2Industry, Automatica is offering an integrated topic field. What is the intention behind this, and what is waiting for the visitors?
Falk Senger: Digitisation is a major factor in competitiveness and future success. With its own topic field, IT2Industry, Automatica is building bridges between robotics/automation, information technology, and Cloud Computing/Big Data. The idea is to provide manufacturing firms with an overview of current digitisation trends, promising strategies, and important IoT technologies.
The digital transformation is moving ahead powerfully. How far is production along the path to the Smart Factory?
Falk Senger: The Federal Ministry of Industry estimates that processing businesses are only “moderately digitised”. Nevertheless, there are already successful examples in practice for smart production concepts. Small and medium-sized firms in particular are dependent on support and clarification. There is still a lot of catching-up to be done.
How far is Germany in particular along the path to comprehensive networking, that is, to the Internet of Things?
Falk Senger: Digitisation is recognised as a key topic in Germany and is right at the top of the agenda for decision-makers in industry, science, politics and their social partners. But it is also clear that the Internet of Things is not realised from one day to the next. Rather, digitisation is tied to a step-by-step development which has different dynamics in different fields of application. In total, Germany is in a good position, and firms in automation, robotics, and machine and installation construction are well-positioned as suppliers and users of Industry 4.0 technologies at the top of the international field.
Once strictly separated, today increasingly interwoven: what role does IT play in production at the moment?
Falk Senger: The start-to-finish digitisation of the entire production chain, from design engineering to production and on to the final product, is making series production increasingly flexible and saving costs. IT is therefore the key factor as the connecting link in tomorrow’s intelligent production.
At Automatica 2018, three major trending topics have been taken up: Digital Transformation in Production, Man-Robot Collaboration, and Work 4.0. Why did you decide on precisely these three topics?
Falk Senger: Automatica is the leading marketplace for automated production. With industry and service robotics, assembly and handling technology, image processing systems and components, we are making a unique offer. Yet, for future-capable production concepts, the cross-technology trending topics “Digitisation” and “Collaboration” are path-breakers. Requirements in the working world are changing. Technological progress and societal changes are thus advancing hand-in-hand. Automatica is therefore making an important contribution to shaping Work 4.0 – where the human being will in future be carrying more responsibility than ever before.
Work 4.0 is directly linked to digital transformation. Which aspects of work in the future will be discussed at the fair?
Falk Senger: Automatica will provide direct experience of the Working World 4.0. Under the motto “Man in the Smart Factory”, the specialist association VDMA Robotik + Automation is mounting a special exhibition. Their visitors will discover how productivity can be raised by an optimum interplay of man and machine, and how workplaces and working conditions can be improved. Work 4.0 is furthermore the topic in lectures and discussions with sector experts.
Keyword man-robot collaboration: where is Automatica placing the emphasis here?
Falk Senger: From sensors to gripping technology and mechanics, all the way through to programming and work allocation – man-robot collaboration is an important topic for all exhibitors at Automatica and will be illuminated from varying technological points of view. The emphasis here will be on concrete applications. With short series in particular, the radically simplified programming of robots is bringing in many new application possibilities.
Professional service robotics is advancing rapidly. At a demo-park, visitors can interact with service robots. What can the visitor expect here?
Falk Senger: That is correct: in Hall B4, visitors to Automatica can see and handle service robots. Tactile surfaces, smart cameras, sensitive drives, improved voice recognition, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence are increasingly making robots our assistants. In the Service Robotics Demo-Park, we give visitors the chance to experience these developments at first hand.
Is there a certain highlight which you are especially looking forward to at Automatica?
Falk Senger: For me, the entire event is a highlight, for Automatica lets you experience the future! Our Industry 4.0 demonstrators, for example, will be showing the enormous technological advances in the sector. In the fair halls, ideas and inspirations are developed which will capture our visitors’ imaginations and lead the world of automation into a successful future. And, last but not least, I greatly value the significance of the fair as a communication platform. The entire Automatica team and myself are particularly looking forward to the numerous conversations and discussions.