Report from Hannover
They talked of a manufacturing world without boundaries or trade restrictions, where innovation, skill and initiative would solve both the economic crisis and the global energy crisis.
Cynics might contend that could happen about the same time penguins fly. Well, they’ve solved that problem, too.
The opening of the 62nd Hannover Messe in Germany came with a firm acknowledgement of the crises that face global manufacturing. With energy a prime theme of this world-wide conference, speakers at Sunday night’s gala opening and suppliers who provided the international press with a sneak preview of their booths both spoke of the need to use technology to address the global crisis in energy.
"Our industry is ideally equipped to return to the long-term growth track. The current and future challenges demand effective answers," said Dr. Manfred Wittenstein, president of the German Engineering Federation (VDMA). "You are all aware of our technological skills. We can offer effective solutions to the following issues: the conservation of natural resources; energy efficiency and CO2 avoidance; alternative energy – in particular solar and wind power; electro-mobility and hybrid propulsion systems for vehicles and machinery."
Nowhere was this more evident than at Festo’s booth on the fairgrounds. Last year, Festo’s robotics created a self-propelled jellyfish. On Sunday, they showed off a lighter-than-air bionic silver penguin, free floating through the booth space. It was a spectacular demonstration of what Festo officials said was a fairly fundamental problem for its customers.
"We are using bionics to sound out new technologies and to offer our customers more efficient solutions in automation," said Festo chairman Dr. Eberhard Veit. "We must travel down new, entirely different paths in order to provide our customers added value."
Energy was also a major driver in the presentations from Phoenix Contact and Siemens during the press preview. Siemens’ presentation on energy management at Hannover Messe will focus on three key areas:
• Identifying how energy flows through a system
• Evaluating the savings potential
• Realizing energy efficiencies.
A Siemens official noted that "energy efficiency is not only something to address where energy is consumed, but also about what are the appropriate measures toward productivity."
Part of the Phoenix Contact presentation was focused on using energy efficiency in consort with production management systems to create a flexible manufacturing process that could meet a customer’s individual needs while bringing the plant and enterprise closer together. "The underlying automation is what makes it efficient," said one Phoenix Contact official.
The fair is also putting its euros where its mouth is on energy. The co-located World Energy Dialogue brings together energy leaders from around the world to discuss how to secure and develop future energy supplies.
The dialogue is also a venue where the German Energy Agency in cooperation with Deutsche Messe awards the Energy Efficiency Award to "commercial and industrial enterprises that have made an outstanding contribution to promoting energy efficiency and cost effectiveness by means of exemplary innovation." Potential for climate protection benefits will also be considered by a jury consisting of experts from commercial industries, trade press, and R&D and government institutions.
The award comes with a prize of 15,000 euros for first place, 10,000 euros for second, and 5,000 euros for third.
If the first impression from a distance is that Hannover Messe is just another trade show, the numbers speak a different message. In Hannover this week, there will be 6,150 exhibitors from 61 different nations mingling in 25 buildings, and over 500,000 people attending over five days. The main focuses of this year’s show are industrial automation, energy technologies, power transmission and control, mobility, subcontracting, cutting-edge innovations and the next-generation workforce.
Fair officials have made a concerted effort to reach out to U.S. companies interested in expanding their distribution base to exhibit at the fair. They see the United States as a crucial player in the global manufacturing landscape.
Political leaders from Germany and Korea, the sponsor nation at this year’s Hannover Messe, spoke at Sunday night’s opening ceremony about the need to aggressively address the global economic crisis. Leaders from both nations urged a cooperative approach to manufacturing and economic issues.
"He who waits now will miss the opportunities of the future," said German president Horst Köhler. He emphasized free trade and a greater emphasis on technology, education and energy efficiency.
South Korean prime minister Dr. Han Seung-Soo echoed many of those remarks. "All the world faces an unprecedented economic crisis," Han said. "Some countries do try to isolate themselves at a time like this. Increasing trade barriers causes accelerated protectionism. Free trade provides a stimulus to help us master the recovery."