Innovations Showcased at Hannover Messe Will Not Scale unless IT and OT Teams Are in Sync

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By Michael Larner | 2Q 2023 | IN-6925

Reflecting on all the attention-grabbing innovations displayed by technology vendors during Hannover Messe, the key issue remains that implementations will fail to scale unless customers harmonize their Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) environments. Suppliers must verify the customer’s readiness for the innovations, anticipate issues, and prepare workarounds to help customers implement, scale, and thrive.

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Return to Normal at Hannover Messe 2023


Compared to 2022, the halls at Hannover Messe 2023 were much busier, boosted by the return of attendees and exhibitors from the Asia-Pacific region. During the pandemic, Operational Technology (OT) teams reconfigured their equipment to produce hand sanitizer or ventilators, and Information Technology (IT) teams enabled staff to work remotely. OT and IT teams came together to enable their organizations to survive through the pandemic.

Today, pressures come from, among other things, supply chain constraints and labor shortages. Exhibitors were demonstrating how their solutions help resolve the challenges manufacturers are facing with software aligned to manufacturers’ workflows and assembly lines using robotic arms. OT and IT teams need to align to minimize the impact of operational challenges and deliver tangible improvements to their organizations.

Digital Twins and AI Were Prominent Features among the Stands


Visitors to the show were made aware that manufacturers can improve their production lines and operations with investments in Manufacturing Execution Systems (MESs), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) tools, and Supply Chain Management (SCM) software. Edge devices allied with Internet of Things (IoT) platforms can also be part of managing day-to-day operations with quality control as a critical use case.

When it comes to optimizing operations and facilities, Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes to the fore. Vendors were showcasing how AI-enabled robots can pick the correct components for assembling parts and products; improving productivity by eliminating human error and operating on a 24/7 basis. AI and analytics were much discussed with vendors emphasizing that the technology shouldn’t be considered a threat and they were beginning to show how ChatGPT might be used in the near future, such as for supporting problem solving in assembly areas.

Matterport and Autodesk were showcasing their ability to help customers create a digital twin of a piece of equipment, production line, or the entire facility. Solutions can be accessed and manipulated via a mobile device or Virtual Reality (VR) goggles. The vision is for teams to collaborate on product design or production line issues regardless of location.

The direction of travel is for vendors to position their solutions to support autonomous operations and enable real-time feedback loops for designers, engineers, manufacturing teams to ensure quality and production levels. Hyperscalers, in particular, are looking to support OT teams with an ecosystem of best-in-class providers to accelerate deployments.

As Much as Industry 4.0 Is about Technology, It's about People, Too


To successfully build their footprints, manufacturing technology and solutions providers must understand the needs and motivations of different stakeholder groups at manufacturing firms:

  • The Focus of the Boardroom: Increasing revenue and margins,0 as well as improving or protecting the company’s reputation.
  • IT Focus: Network uptime and connectivity, the deployment of software applications, and ensuring network security.
  • Engineers: How are the products going to work?
  • OT: How are we going to make the product? How can the production line deliver incremental gains?

Vendor engagements should not initially focus on technology delivery. The focus should be on “What does success look like?” The engagement needs to focus on use cases reducing downtime or improving quality, rather than AI and digital twins.

In addition, vendors need to understand how innovations are introduced in facilities. One approach is bottom up, with teams developing ideas, starting small, and then scaling fast after review cycles—the crawl, walk, run approach. Alternatively, teams might be working out how to deliver a vision sent down from the boardroom.

Regardless of the use case or ways that technologies are introduced, projects are doomed to failure if the use cases outstrip the facility’s network bandwidth or if IT teams are prevented from accessing data residing in the production equipment.

The Industry 4.0 jigsaw puzzle is coming together with suppliers coalescing around delivering use cases. However, none of this is possible without a secure underlying IT infrastructure. Operational plans must be based on the realities that the IT teams can deliver. Vendors need to understand the dynamics at each facility, and sometimes they may need to broker alliances to help customers build their jigsaw puzzle.


Companies Mentioned