President Obama Immersed in Manufacturing Innovation at Hannover Fair 2016

  • June 21, 2016
  • Feature

By Bill Lydon, Editor,

President Barack Obama anted up the excitement in the halls of the 2016 Hannover Fair, where the United States was partner country for the first time. “It is great to be with you at the world’s leading showcase for industrial technologies that power our global economy,” Obama, the first United States president to open the trade fair, remarked in the opening ceremony, “I am pleased that the United States is the partner country for the very first time and it is an honor to be the very first United States president to ever attend the Hannover Messe.”  This year, President Obama was one of over 190,000 visitors to attend Hanover Messe, with attendance from the USA and China soaring to record heights.  The Hannover Fair features the latest industrial technologies and innovations with a 2016 emphasis on the digitization of manufacturing, and on applying Industry 4.0, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and Internet of Things (IoT) concepts and technologies.

Olympics of Automation

As a longtime friend of mine compared, “The Hannover Fair is the Olympics of automation.” It is an apt comparison, since Fair attendees interact with the best and brightest in the automation world, learning about the latest technologies, interacting with advanced demonstrations, and discussing applications with many of the top experts from major industrial automation suppliers.  Hannover Fair provides attendees a one-stop shop to find ways to improve manufacturing automation, compare products, and choose solutions.   The vast Hannover Exposition Grounds boasts 466,100 square meters (over 5 million square feet) of covered indoor space, 58,000 square meters of open-air space, 26 halls and pavilions and includes grassy park-like areas and "chill-out" zones.

People getting off train and entering Hannover fair grounds.

Full Contact Sport

Joining President Obama as the two most heavily guarded Fair attendees, was German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  I have long admired the Germans, host country and founder of the event first held almost 70 years ago. The level passion and commitment that Chancellor Merkel and the German government, along with educators, and the country’s manufacturers, have for engineering and manufacturing is a big reason why the Hannover Fair is an international must-attend automation event, attracting all ages and levels of people, expecting to learn about innovative techniques, methods, and products to advance manufacturing.  As the highest-level attendees, President Obama and Chancellor Merkel did the traditional Monday tour of Hannover Fair vendor booths, learning about some of 2016’s innovative industrial automation technologies from some of the biggest names in the industry.  


Visiting the ABB display, Chancellor Merkel and President Obama learned about a new smart sensor, which attaches to the frame of low voltage induction motors, without wiring, to capture information about the motor’s health. The sensor then communicates this file, via a smart phone and over the Internet, to a secure cloud server.  With electric motors consuming half of the energy used by industry, the ABB representative shared how this new device can reduce 10% of typical energy consumption.   Applicable for both new and existing motors, the sensor device sells for under $50.   


At the Harting booth, Chancellor Merkel and President Obama learned about Harting’s Hermes award-winning MICA (Modular Industry Computing Architecture) miniature industrial computer.  Phillip Harting shared the role the MICA was playing in the Etos  hybrid autonomous car, from Swiss think tank Rinspeed.  As a family business, Harting also noted that the yellow tennis shoes, worn at the show by Harting employees, were the innovation of his own mother.   

The Harting family greeting the two heads of state: Margrit Harting, Maresa Harting-Hertz, Dietmar Harting, Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, Philip Harting (from left to right).

Hermes award presented by Prof. Dr. Johanna Wanka, Federal Minster of Education and Research to Philip Harting, CEO, Board Connectivity & Networks, Harting Technology Group.  On  the right is Dr. Karsten Walther, HARTING IT Software Development GmbH & Co. KG

ifm electronic gmbh

Chancellor Merkel and President Obama stopped by the ifm electronic gmbh booth to witness the new 3D camera systems for quick identification of 3D scenes and automatic object recognition.   The Chancellor and President dove into the world of virtual reality with a 3D camera developed by the ifm subsidiary pmdtechnologies ag. When asked by President Obama for possible applications that could be realized with this, Dr. Bernd Buxbaum, CEO and Chairman of pmdtechnologies, shared the goals of man-machine-interfaces, and the ability to scan objects or environments with a smartphone in order to enable 3D collaboration or to share 3D objects. Sharing a virtual handshake with his German political counterpart, President Obama marveled, “It’s a brave new world!”

President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel toured the Hannover Messe trade fair, where they both tried on virtual reality goggles.  

Phoenix Contact

At the Phoenix Contact booth, President Obama and Chancellor Merkel met with Phoenix Contact CEO, Frank Stuehrenberg and President of Phoenix Contact USA, Jack Nehlig.The four discussed the idea behind CCSplus, the fast-charging systems for electric vehicles, and the potential likelihood of charging times shrinking to just 3 - 5 minutes for 100 km.

Jack Nehlig, President, Phoenix Contact USA explained electric car charging connect standards to Angela Merkel and Barack Obama.


Rittal Chief Executive Officer and Owner Dr. Friedhelm Loh got his turn to explain, to Merkel and Obama, how Rittal products and solutions were empowering manufacturers to implement Industry 4.0 concepts and applications.  Focused on the theme, “Integrated Industry – Discover Solutions”  Rittal is the world’s largest enclosure manufacturer, providing thermal management of electrical, electronic and IT equipment.

“We were honored to host the President and have the opportunity to showcase our newest technology to him,” said Gregg Holst, President of Rittal North America. “Technology innovation certainly is important to America’s ability to remain at the forefront of global manufacturing capabilities. We were excited to share our story with him about how Rittal products make a real contribution to American manufacturing’s competitive advantage.”  


President Obama and Chancellor Merkel then made their way over to the Siemens booth, where President and CEO Joe Kaeser, and Managing Board Member Klaus Helmrich, described what digitalization solutions for the entire value chain look like.  Among many examples, the cutting-edge design of Callaway golf clubs was of particular interest, as Siemens PLM software was used to create a club designed to help millions of golfers drive the ball farther, a most critical innovation.  


During their visit to the Weidmuller booth, Chancellor Merkel and President Obama learned about the Industry 4.0 Cockpit demonstration.   Industry 4.0 Cockpit is a sample application which demonstrates how the central control of a production facility could look in the future. The Industry 4.0 solutions, on display at Weidmuller’s booth, illustrated applications for industrial analytics, cloud services, energy management, digitalization and networking, as well as data consistency.

  Members of Weidmuller’s management team, Christian Glaesel and Dr. Peter  Köhler (from left), hosted the visit of Chancellor Merkel and President Obama (from right).

United States Advanced Manufacturing

On the whole, the 2016 Hannover Fair served to emphasize the US’s, and President Obama’s renewed focus on STEM and technological innovation. On Sunday of the Fair, April 24,  U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, delivered remarks at the Federation of Germany Industry’s Economic Forum, an opportunity for public and private sector leaders in both the U.S. and Germany to discuss the event’s theme, “The Future of Advanced Manufacturing.”  In her remarks, she commended how the German government has been implementing its “Innovation for Germany” strategy, to accelerate the transfer of scientific research into marketable products and processes that support innovation. In the United States, President Obama has used this German example to launch the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation ( ), modeled after Germany's Fraunhofer Institutes. The Network’s goal is to transition innovative technologies into scalable, high-performing domestic manufacturing capabilities and train an advanced manufacturing workforce.


The Fraunhofer Society, for the advancement of applied research, is a German research organization with 67 institutes spread throughout Germany, each focusing on different fields of applied science. It employs around 24,000 people, mainly scientists and engineers, with an annual research budget of about €2.1 billion (Approximately $2.4 billion).  While some basic funding for the Fraunhofer Society is provided by the government, more than 70% of the funding is earned through contract work, either for government-sponsored projects or from industry.  The organization has seven centers in the United States, under the name “Fraunhofer USA”, and three in Asia. In October 2010, Fraunhofer announced that it would open its first research center in South America.  Fraunhofer UK Research Ltd was established along with the Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics, in Glasgow, Scotland, in March 2012. 


SelectUSA facilitated the largest exhibitor United Stated delegation in the history of the Hannover Fair with more than 400 companies, research institutions, and economic development organizations.

SelectUSA is a U.S. government-wide program housed in the International Trade Administration at the United States Department of Commerce. Since its inception, SelectUSA has facilitated more than US$19 billion in investment, creating and/or retaining thousands of U.S. jobs. The SelectUSA mission is to facilitate job-creating business investment into the United States and raise awareness of the critical role that foreign direct investment (FDI) plays in the U.S. economy. SelectUSA helps companies of all sizes find the information they need to make decisions; connect to the right people at the local level; and navigate the federal regulatory system. SelectUSA also assists U.S. economic development organizations to compete globally for investment by providing information, a platform for international marketing, and high-level advocacy. 

Select USA Published Statistics

  • 641,100 Number of U.S. workers employed by U.S. affiliates of German-owned firms in 2013.
  • $6.4 billion Value of research and development (R&D) spending by U.S. affiliates of German owned firms in 2013.
  • $44.4 billion Total contribution to U.S. goods exports by German-owned firms operating in the United States in 2013.
  • TOP 6 INDUSTRY SECTORS by # of an old German FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) projects in the USA
  1. Auto Components
  2. Industrial Machinery
  3. Chemicals
  4. Software & IT Services
  5. Electronic Components
  6. Plastics

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