Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial fair, opened its doors today, revealing a glimpse of what the manufacturing industry of the future might look like.
Microsoft has a significant presence at this year’s event, hosting nearly 30 customers and partners on its booth in the Digital Factory Hall.
“The progress manufacturers have made this past year is tremendous,” said Çağlayan Arkan, general manager for Worldwide Manufacturing at Microsoft in a blog post published today. “Smart factories have already seen an average of 17 to 20% increase to overall productivity. They have created higher-quality products at lower costs. They are building entirely new business models and service offerings. But our customers’ aspirations are bigger and bolder. For example, by the year 2050, the demand for food is expected to outpace production by more than 70%. Agricultural stability is being threatened by receding levels of fresh water, decreasing availability of arable land and global warming, causing issues like toxins in our food supply. The workforce will continue to modernise and shift.”
Arkan says the next step is to advanced levels of intelligence, enabled by Internet of Things (IoT), to optimise the entire manufacturing process and solve for these challenges. He outlines three distinct themes that will stand out at this year’s Hannover Messe event:
Increased productivity and safety
“What we have built with customers is driving tangible results,” Arkan says. “Today’s new data-driven manufacturing capabilities are not only lowering costs and reducing waste, but they are also keeping people safer and mitigating our impact on the planet. For example, Swiss technology firm Bühler AG, a leader in food processing systems, has worked closely with Microsoft to develop LumoVision, a revolutionary optical sorting system that not only significantly improves current food cleaning practices, but can eliminate nearly 90% of contaminated grain compared to 50% for conventional sorting machines. Empowered by the Microsoft cloud and IoT technology, this solution builds on Bühler’s advanced process expertise, and as a result, LumoVision is faster and more precise than other grain-sorting technologies.”
Microsoft will also demonstrate how HoloLens has become an invaluable tool in taking digital twin technology to the next level. “Thanks to the explosive expansion of Industrial IoT, digital twins have become cost-effective to implement and are helping companies head off problems before they even occur,” Arkan says. “Our customers are using digital twins to prevent downtime, improve equipment performance, develop new service opportunities and even plan for the future by generating simulations and visualizing their processes in mixed reality.”
For instance, Schneider Electric, whose industrial software business has recently combined with AVEVA, is leading the evolution of what the industry refers to as a ‘process digital twin’. Schneider and AVEVA are leveraging HoloLens to optimise ItalPresse’s entire manufacturing process by creating virtual prototypes even before a plant or manufacturing asset is built, which can provide significant cost and efficiency savings. Schneider will also showcase its recently announced traceability tool for the food and beverage industry, combining its knowledge of the food and beverage industry with Microsoft’s expertise in blockchain, given the growing complexities with tracing food products.
Additionally, one of Microsoft’s robotics automation partners, ICONICS, will demonstrate how a technician wearing a HoloLens can work alongside a factory robot while receiving instructions and key factory performance indicators displayed over his field of vision via HoloLens.
Arkan says that Microsoft’s customers and partners are creating new value chains and services that simply did not exist five years ago. “Tech innovations have allowed them to establish digital SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) teams, open new ‘one-size-fits-one’ plants, and monetise things like predictive maintenance, 3D modelling and smart operations,” he explains. “For example, just last week thyssenkrupp announced it is expanding MAX, the company’s IoT-based predictive service solution for elevators, to Latin America. thyssenkrupp is confident that MAX can reduce elevator downtime by up to 50%, making its predictive models second to none in the global elevator industry.”
ABB meanwhile, a global leader in industrial technology, is leveraging Microsoft’s Azure cloud technologies for its ABB AbilityTM platform, one of the largest Industrial IoT platforms in the industry. ABB will showcase its ABB Ability Ellipse TM platform. Leveraging AI from Microsoft, it can empower organisations to optimize Enterprise Asset Management and automatically detect anomalies to minimise maintenance costs across its customers’ install base.
And Bayer’s Environmental Science Business Unit is digitally transforming a decades-old pest control practice for trapping rodents with a smarter digital mousetrap that provides remote monitoring built on top of the Azure IoT platform. The solution collects information from sensors installed within each trap and immediately alerts pest management professionals when rodents are present, so they can head off infestations and increase the effectiveness of pest control programs.
By 2020, IDC predicts that 60% of plant floor workers will work alongside assistance technologies that enable automation, such as robotics, 3D printing, AI and mixed reality. Arkan says that several leading manufacturing and robotics companies have already created new and evolved lean processes that leverage these capabilities to help service technicians optimise tasks and lower waste and inefficiencies, while providing better customer service.
“For example, Toyota Material Handling Europe is planning its ten-year vision for the factory of the future by evolving its traditional lean processes,” Arkan explains. “Its goal is to find more efficient ways to distribute intelligent logic across the factory and its robotic systems. Using AI capabilities like Microsoft AirSim and mixed reality, the company can train autonomous pallet drones to recognise patterns, automate processes and learn the flow on the plant floor safely alongside humans. This innovative solution would drastically reduce disruptions to warehouse operations, one of the key roadblocks to deploying autonomous systems. Toyota Material Handling Europe has also worked with Microsoft to develop T-Stream, a brand new, all-in-one solution. Built on Microsoft’s Azure cloud, it runs on Windows and utilises Bing Maps and GPS systems to provide technicians with improved, proactive services that can carry out maintenance for customers before breakdowns occur.”
Why customers and partners bet on Microsoft
Arkan outlines the many reasons that customers and partners are betting on Microsoft. “Our cloud platform is now available in more than 42 regions across the globe and meets a broad set of international standards and compliance, including the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and intellectual property (IP) requirements, which are critical as the May 25 GDPR deadline looms. Additionally, we have one of the largest, if not the largest, partner ecosystems co-selling solutions with us at Hannover Messe. Partners are not only an important part of a complex Industrial IoT ecosystem, they are critical to how we do business. Today, 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. More than 90 percent of our revenues come through our 8,500 trusted partners across the globe. Every major Industrial IoT provider, including ABB, Accenture/Avanade, COPA-DATA, EY, GE, ICONICS, Kapsch, OSIsoft, PTC, Rockwell Automation and Schneider Electric, have joined forces with Microsoft to integrate and offer their manufacturing services and solutions on top of our global Azure cloud.”
Read Arkan’s blog post in full here.