Factory Automation Keeps German Companies Competitive

  • February 20, 2006
  • News
HANNOVER MESSE 2006, 24 April to 28 AprilUtilizing know-how and the potential of automation technology Many companies have been attracted by low wage and production costs to leave their traditional base in Germany and transfer production to low-wage economies. However, other companies decided to stay in Germany, focusing instead on the introduction of automation technology to improve productivity. Against this background, it is understandable that "Factory Automation" and "Digital Factory" are among the leading international trade shows within HANNOVER MESSE 2006.Automation technology offers important opportunities for Germany to improve its position as a manufacturing base and thus strengthen German industry's competitiveness on the international marketplace. This is the view of the technical directors of the renowned Fraunhofer Institute IPA, Professor Dr. Engelbert Westkämper and Professor Dr. Rolf Schraft. They believe it is important to emphasize the fact that Germany has some of the world's most highly qualified engineers with vital expertise in the development of automation systems, including major suppliers and developers of automation technology. Germany unquestionably plays a leading role in this area of production technology.Until recently, automation was largely confined to the automobile industry and the suppliers of automotive components. However, interest in the SME sector is increasing and there is a lot of potential in this segment for suppliers of automated systems and production technology. In order to exploit this potential it is important to recognize that smaller companies, in particular, are looking for customized solutions. This reflects the trend in manufacturing towards smaller production runs - including one-off production lots.Addressing the growing demand for technology that can facilitate the manufacture of small batches is an important factor, but time is an issue of equal importance. This can mean the increasing pressure to reduce the time span between receiving an order and final delivery, but it also involves the response time with respect to market trends and changes. Small batch production is no longer a challenge on the production line alone - it is increasingly affecting product development and logistics. In this context, end-to-end processes - from CAD to production and processing through to logistics and service - play a crucial role. Improving efficiency through networked integrated processesDue to the increasing complexity of this network of manufacturing processes it is essential that all logistical links are planned down to the finest detail. This particularly applies when changes and modifications prove necessary and in order to maintain good communication with suppliers. These challenges are surmountable and potential hitches are greatly outweighed by the opportunities offered by this factory automation technology and the networking of all processes and systems within the modern digital factory. Of course, the digital factory is not necessarily a fully-automated manufacturing facility, as the IPA example demonstrates. In 'team@work', robots support production workers in the realization of manual tasks. Small batch production will still involve manual work as small production runs of individual components or various models would not justify the introduction of automated systems. This would also be the case if the automation of specific tasks required a disproportionately high investment of technology. The introduction of IPA would mean that production workers can be relieved of those tasks that are easily accommodated within an automated production system in order to sink unit costs. The Digital Factory therefore does not mean complete automation, but represents the logical, end-to-end integration of all administrative and technical functions. In one case it might be responsible for assigning production orders for components to a machining centre, while in another case the logistics system will supply production workers with components and controls the processing or assembly of the components via displays or voice messages. For companies operating in Germany - and the same applies to other EU countries - this is not the time to hesistate about whether to invest in automation technology and the digitalization and networking of production processes. A visit to HANNOVER MESSE and its flagship events "Factory Automation" and "Digital Factory" helps to allay any fears. These leading shows, backed up by special presentations such as 'Robotics World' and the 'Robotics Academy', offer a variety of ways to learn about the opportunities offered by cutting-edge technology. In fact, the innovative concept behind the special displays means that visitors will find out far more than they would at a conventional trade show. This includes specific client-oriented advice and consulting - a service that has hitherto not been provided in this form at trade shows. The organizers have set themselves the goal of helping trade visitors gain a genuine insight and understanding of networked production systems, rather than focussing simply on individual compenents and product information. To this end, the special presentation 'Automation live' will demonstrate to visitors how the automobile industry and suppliers of automotive parts apply automation technology. This live, hands-on demonstration shows production engineering in action.About HANNOVER MESSEThe world’s leading exhibition of industrial technology takes place from 24 to 28 April in Hannover. The program for 2006 consists of the following flagship trade shows: INTERKAMA+, Factory Automation, Industrial Building Automation, Energy, Pipeline Technology, Subcontracting, Digital Factory, Industrial Facility Management & Services, MicroTechnology and Research & Technology. The featured Partner Country at HANNOVER MESSE 2006 is India, one of the world’s fastest-growing markets. Learn More

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