Hannover Fair 2004: Business optimism, innovation in the air

Hannover, Germany—This year’s Hannover Industrial Fair, April 19-24, added the process automation show Interkama to its format of eight “fairs within a fair,” attracting 180,000 visitors to products and technologies from 5,040 exhibitors.

By Control Engineering Staff May 18, 2004

Hannover, Germany— This year’s Hannover Industrial Fair , April 19-24, added the process automation show Interkama to its format of eight “fairs within a fair,” attracting 180,000 visitors to products and technologies from 5,040 exhibitors. [See more in the April 28 section of Control Engineering ’s Online News]

Besides presenting a wide sweep of products and information seminars, Hannover Fair is a venue for gauging new technologies and business trends. As part of its coverage of this key event, Control Engineering met with managers and officials from several major exhibiting companies to assess their views. Business optimism and continual innovation were common threads in the discussions.

Hybrid automation
Helmut Gierse, president of Siemens Automation & Drives (A&D) Group, believes that a technology megatrend is underway, wherein discrete and process industries are merging into one larger “hybrid industry.” This blending includes the control systems associated with both factory and process automation. This movement offers a way for technology suppliers like Siemens to give customers a competitive edge, explains Gierse.

He cites Siemens’ Totally Integrated Automation as an example of an approach that simplifies user tasks by incorporating complex thinking to make the solution simple. “To solve a complex automation problem simply is accomplishing a high-tech solution,” says Gierse. The idea is to use the same PLC, DCS, and MES, the same drive system and same platform with specific add-ons—for discrete and process automation—to maximize productivity. “We’re working hard on that,” he states.

Gierse also notes the evolution of the digital factory, an approach that can drastically cut manufacturing ramp-up time by extensive use of simulation methods. “Digital factory is a leading-edge method that allows quick switching between simulation and reality,” he adds.

Siemens’ industry-specific exhibits ranged from sensor technologies, industrial PCs, and PC-based automation to HMI products, power systems, switchgear, and Sinamic drive systems being standardized across the A&D Group. Machine safety was a further exhibit theme.

Helmut Gierse, president of Siemens A&D Group: “The key to competitive advantage is innovation.”

Siemens Power Transmission and Distribution (PTD) group was also active at the fair. In a press conference, Dr. Udo Niehage, president of Siemens PTD, remarked about the group’s growth to reach second place in market share behind ABB. “Our goal is to hold on to our current…position; to strengthen it; and to take over as market leader in medium-term,” he said. One of six business units within the PTD group is High-Voltage technology, supplying products, such as switchgear and direct-current (HVDC) transmission systems, which operate above 52 kV for efficiency. China is currently the largest single market for HVDC transmission technology, according to Niehage, and Siemens has three systems already installed.

Several paths to market
Rockwell Automation approaches the marketing of its technologies in three ways, said Urs T. Marti, Rockwell’s market development director for the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) region, to Control Engineering . These approaches are: 1) Essential Component Campaign for OEMs—with PLCs being a prime example of “essential component,” 2) Integrated Architecture, and 3) Service and Solutions.

Integrated Architecture represents 40% of Rockwell Automaton’s products sold (control systems, HMIs, motion control, etc.), with 60% going into automotive, food, beverage/brewing, and life science industries, which are the company’s core competencies, explains Marti. These projects are pursued on global, regional, and local levels—sometimes using system integration services and partners.

Service and Solutions focuses on reducing development time and cost over the entire product cycle from design to manufacturing to preventive maintenance, says Marti. Areas of concentration include drive systems, motion, process control, and safety. Another industry focus at Rockwell is plant-floor security. With “openness” in networking and communications on the rise, information transactions are accelerating at production facilities. There is a commensurate need to make the flow of data secure.

One factor making “shop-floor to business” integration easy at Rockwell Automation, says Marti, is its ControlLogix platform that can cover an entire facility and needs no separate interfaces between networks. It also promotes efficiency by allowing reuse of products, including legacy products.

Dieter Schaudel, Endress+Hauser CTO and CIO: “Whoever is able to measure correctly can automate controls.”

Up to date on numerous technologies
Keeping up with the state-of-the-art in instrumentation and sensors is a key objective at Endress+Hauser (E+H), a second-generation, family-owned company specializing in industrial process measurement and control. Of some 150 physical and chemical sensor effects in use, E+H applies 43 of them and must keep up to date in their diverse technologies, states Dipl.-Ing. Dieter Schaudel, E+H’s chief technology officer, CIO, and executive board member.

The commitment to develop new, leading-edge products carries a challenge, Schaudel explains. “It requires a total understanding of the architecture of the instrumentation, including its control algorithms, wiring, communication networks, and instrument traceability,” he says. Measurement forms the basics of controls.

E+H prides itself on having a culture of invention as a manufacturer, with 157 patent applications filed in 2003—a 20% increase over 2002. While not all inventions become patents, Schaudel mentions statistics about the number of patent application filed per staff member at different companies in 2003: Siemens (1 per 106); Bosch (1 per 72); and E+H (1 per 38). Further on patents, Schaudel discussed the need to standardize differences in the patent process between the U.S. and the European Union. He is quite a vocal proponent on the subject and thinks that “the existing process needs a principal change in patent rights.”

Myriad sensors, instruments, and systems for the measurement of pressure, flow, level, and temperature, and for liquid analysis were on exhibit in E+H’s consistently busy stand. Flowmeters were prominent, with advanced features like dosing and high-temperature operation and direct viscosity measurement.

Technologies beyond drives also were on display at ABB’s busy booth at Hannover Fair.

Continuous product development
Roleof Timmer, ABB ’s marketing director for drives, who is based in Helsinki, Finland, commented on the drives-related business of ABB, which is “looking up” in Europe, “booming” in China, and “hopeful” in North America. The latest technology makes new electric drives very competitive, he explains, so much so that many suppliers can deliver a drive product able to handle 95% of applications. As a result, companies need to look for differentiation in how they develop their drives. At ABB, drives technology receives “continuous effort in product development,” says Timmer. “More than 80% of ABB’s drives revenue comes from products less than two years old.”

ABB’s technology-centric drives office in Helsinki has 300 developers, focusing their continuous product development effort on quality and creating a wide portfolio of solutions, explains Timmer. Average product development time is two years, but actual production time is just a few hours per unit. Recent design directions include reducing drive sizes while increasing power, and making drives easy to customize, including possibilities to customize on-site. Another design concentration is a standard drive for customers focused on time-to-market rather than customization, stated Timmer.

ABB’s exhibits included products and systems to support the management of power transmission and distribution. One featured product was Industrial System 800xA Extended Automation, a recently launched system built on ABB IndustrialIT. solution that enables creation of one set of consistent data for use and reuse across the plant.

Industrial networking is key
Working from its core competency in industrial networking, Phoenix Contact recently added an automation architecture to its offerings, called AutomationWorx. Dipl.-Ing. Martin Müller, of Phoenix Contact’s Automation Systems business unit, says this open and scalable platform encompasses a product portfolio that works together along “six sides” of a complete automation system, namely: software, networking solutions, I/O devices, drives, HMI, and controls.

Hannover Fair marked the official release of Small Machine Control for AutomationWorx, which is a diskless, fanless PC-based control incorporating Microsoft Windows CE/XP, three fieldbus interfaces, USB, and Ethernet, among other features. This addition to the “Worx” combines control and HMI functions in one unit, reportedly at one-third the cost of a competing product. It targets machine tools, however, material handling, automotive, and OEM applications—or any industry looking for PC-based control and scalability—will find it useful, explains Müller.

Phoenix Contact looks ahead to embrace Ethernet with highly modular function switches and hubs. These products will enable customers to use the same technology from low-end to high-end applications, as swell as create a “multi-practice” (hybrid) application for process, discrete, packaging, IT, and other users.

Next year, Hannover Fair will move to a more streamlined five-day format, April 11-15, 2005.

For more information on attending or exhibiting, visit https://www.hfusa.com .

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Frank J. Bartos, executive editor