Optical sorting systems using artificial intelligence (AI), digital twin technology, creation of new value chains… Hannover Messe (HMI), the world’s largest annual manufacturing exhibition, keeps on growing, and this year’s event truly showcased intelligent manufacturing. Across the board, industrial companies have made tremendous progress optimizing their manufacturing processes. It was amazing to witness firsthand the numerous ways in which manufacturers are continuing to lead the digital revolution by investing in AI, the intelligent cloud, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to turbocharge their efficiency, while developing innovative, new revenue streams.
This is the fourth year I’ve attended Hannover Messe 2018, and this year’s conference marked a turning point for IoT. Here are my key takeaways from attending the trade fair:
- Industrial IoT has reached the mainstream. IoT was everywhere at HMI—in nearly every booth, large and small. What’s more, many leading tech companies arrived on the scene, showcasing their IoT products to industrial customers for the first time. Another indicator that IoT has achieved widespread acceptance was the quality of customer inquiries we received at our booth. We’re no longer explaining what IoT is, but instead focusing on how customers can use it to enhance specific operations. In a nutshell, IoT has become a critical component of modern industrial manufacturing.
As IoT becomes a critical component of modern manufacturing, many customers and partners are putting their trust in the Microsoft Cloud. For example, Siemens announced its IoT ecosystem Mindsphere is now available on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, giving our joint customers the ability to make their IoT applications available on our cloud. Our Azure cloud is also used by IoT platforms from many other leading automation companies including ABB, Emerson, GE, Honeywell, PTC, Rockwell Automation, SAP, Schneider Electric, and Yokogawa. In addition, we’ve established one of the largest partner ecosystems in the world, working with more than 8,500 cloud partners across the globe.
- AI and machine learning are maturing. At HMI, customers demonstrated a lot of interest in applying advanced AI and machine learning to IoT manufacturing scenarios. Nearly every customer and partner I talked to on the show floor brought up these technologies, further revealing an evolution in their thinking. Beyond that, many customers and partners are already incorporating AI into their operations to improve safety and efficiency on the shop floor.
A great example is the global industrial solutions company ABB, which offers one of the largest industrial IoT platforms in the industry. The company demonstrated its ABB Ability Ellipse Workforce Management solution, which uses AI to automatically detect anomalies and minimize maintenance costs across a company’s operations.
- Manufacturers are finding ways to monetize IoT. Manufacturers are using IoT to create entirely new business models and service offerings. For example, the multinational company Bayer historically sold pesticides to control rodent infestations. Now, the company is extending its pesticides with an IoT-based service. Specifically, the company has developed a smart “digital mousetrap” built on top of the Azure IoT platform that collects information about each trap and predicts the future risk of rodent problems so customers can apply the precise amount of chemicals needed to prevent future infestations.
Many other companies are supplementing their product lineup with IoT-powered service offerings as well. For instance, Sandvik Coromant is analyzing data from its cutting tools to help customers optimize the manufacturing process. And elevator manufacturer ThyssenKrupp provides a predictive maintenance service to fix elevators before they break down.
- IoT is helping manufacturers improve supply-chain efficiency. Many manufacturers are integrating IoT into their operations to improve supply-chain planning and logistics. For example, o9 Solutions is using Microsoft Azure and AI to help companies connect their operations and planning processes in real time to better forecast product demand and more reliably manage supplies.
On the logistics end, Toyota Material Handling Europe is using AI and machine learning to train autonomous pallet drones to recognize warehouse patterns, automate processes, and learn the flow of the plant floor—with the goal of reducing disruptions to warehouse operations. The company is also using advanced technology to predict forklift breakdowns before they occur.
- Manufacturers are using IoT for social good. At a time when global warming and dwindling supplies of clean, fresh water threaten the planet, manufacturers are harnessing IoT to increase food yields while reducing the amount of water and chemicals required to grow crops. For example, the food processing systems company Bühler Group is combining AI, the intelligent cloud, and IoT to boost maize product yields while minimizing toxic contamination of the grains. The company’s revolutionary optical sorting system LumoVision quickly and accurately sorts through harvested grains, eliminating up to 90 percent of contaminated maize.
Bühler Group joins many other organizations using IoT to protect the planet and improve human health. For example, India’s Central Pollution Control Board is harnessing IoT to clean up the Ganges River and pump manufacturer Grundfos is turning to IoT to increase access to clean water and sanitation.
Although Hannover Messe 2018 heralded IoT’s entrance into the manufacturing mainstream, it’s still just the beginning. Over the next year, we expect the use of IoT, AI, machine learning, and other advanced technologies to mature even further—and we will continue to work with our manufacturing customers and partners as they set the industrial agenda.
To learn more, please see our previous blog post, “Build a better future with intelligent manufacturing at HMI 2018.” Also, take a look at my interviews with customers and partners on the Microsoft Cloud Facebook channel and read about some of the solutions they demonstrated at HMI 2018.