Hannover Messe 2019: It's all about enabling the smart digital factory - #2

This year’s motto at Hannover Messe was “Integrated Industries – Industrial Intelligence”. With only three days to get an overview of the major trends out there, I tried to focus on what’s happening in particular in the digital factory domain. Find my views of end-to-end process optimization and integration and autonomous transportation systems (#1 in my series of blog posts from HMI) here.

High computing power on the shop floor: edge computing and quantum-inspired technologies

Clearly among the trending topics in the digital factory is edge computing. Particularly in manufacturing environments with close to real-time requirements for data processing, edge computing solutions will play an increasing role thanks to advantages of low latency, speed and no connectivity costs (cf. PAC Blog: Edge computing – more than a hype?). Atos’ answer to this is its portfolio related to the “intelligent edge data center”, in which Atos leverages its own portfolio of Bullion servers (in partnership with Rittal). Atos is also partnering with Siemens to jointly develop software solutions for the Siemens Industrial Edge data analytics platform, which was launched by Siemens in 2018.

Closely linked to computing power at the shop-floor is Fujitsu’s answer to quantum computing, its so-called quantum-inspired “Digital Annealer” technology. This is next-generation architecture i.e. digital circuit design, which allows for a much faster solution of large-scale combinatorial optimization problems that cannot be solved using today’s classical computers. A use case in the digital factory – which was among others showcased at the fair – is how job shop scheduling can be optimized and how bottle necks in production can be eliminated.

Data management – major enabler of digital transformation

Data management is a rising topic among manufacturers as many have started to realize that the success of any digital transformation initiative is closely linked to the availability of information (cf. PAC’s prediction #2 on virtual data platforms). Building appropriate information architectures in order to have a unified view of data is for example a major topic for IBM. With its new “Intelligent Manufacturing Assistant”, which has its roots on the automotive shop floor, IBM is currently working with customers on testing a company-specific “marketplace”, where various users of a company can have role-based access to micro-services related to AI, analytics, augmented reality or IoT platform services and applications.

Manufacturing execution systems (MES) in order to increase transparency on the shop floor

Among the prerequisites for enabling agility and flexibility on the shop floor is increasing the transparency of shop-floor operations. Implementing MES solutions is a means to achieve this. Among others, examples were showcased at the DXC booth with project references to Daimler and Continental AG. Besides all the “usual suspects” in the MES exhibition area (e.g. FORCAM, MPDV, Industrie Informatik), I had an interesting conversation with Proxia, which besides its core MES portfolio, has also demonstrated a tool that tracks the progress and success of measures agreed upon for process optimization. So basically, a lot of data can be captured, stored, managed and analyzed leveraging MES and can subsequently be leveraged for optimizing shop-floor processes. But how can progress and success of these measures be tracked? Something most of us are very familiar with at the wrap-up of team meetings: If it’s not tracked, it will most likely not progress. I found this quite an interesting aspect and worth mentioning.

For further insights from HMI 2019, read my blog post on production networks in the cloud, and the rise of industrial ecosystems (#3);