From robots playing pingpong to virtual reality demonstrations, from the future of mobility to the future of food, the vast world of modern manufacturing was on full display at Hannover Messe 2019 in Germany this week.
I’ve been to the world’s largest industrial exhibition before, but I still left in awe of the rapid pace of innovation in our industry and the life-changing technologies that we will all witness in the coming years.
Now in its 72nd year, Hannover Messe is unlike anything we have in the United States. The annual fair is housed in more than two dozen exhibition halls that are two, three and four times the size of a football field.
This translates to miles and miles of displays of modern manufacturing production processes, including virtual reality, robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, among other amazing innovations that are part of Manufacturing 4.0, also known as the internet of things. Companies from around the world participated this year, and 200,000 visitors were expected to see the 6,500 exhibits.
Everything we witnessed is completely public, with little concern about the theft of intellectual property by China or other countries that do not share our adherence to the rule of law. So just imagine what manufacturers are developing back home in labs and facilities right now. The impressive technologies we saw at Hannover would likely seem outdated compared to what’s in development.
This year in Hannover, NAM Vice President of International Economic Affairs Linda Dempsey and I joined the delegation of the NAM’s Manufacturing Leadership Council. (Read more about Hannover Messe on the MLC’s thought leadership blog.)
The delegation of more than 20 MLC members attended the opening ceremonies with us, where German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Stefan Löfven, the prime minister of Sweden, the fair’s partner country for 2019, emphasized the power of open markets to improve the lives of people around the world.
While innovative technology is what draws attendees to the exhibition floor, what is also on display is manufacturers’ need for more people to join our industry. Technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, augmented reality and more are changing the type of jobs people do in manufacturing (in most cases making those jobs safer, easier and less repetitive). But that doesn’t change the need for the human element. Programmers, coders, technicians, operators, welders, designers, marketers—you name it, we need it in modern manufacturing.
Today, there are nearly 500,000 open jobs in manufacturing in the U.S., and manufacturers will need to fill about 4.6 million over the next decade. To keep up with the rapid pace of innovation, we need to recruit more people for the high-paying jobs of modern manufacturing.
And anyone who doubts whether there’s an exciting future in manufacturing only needs to get a small glimpse of what we saw in Hannover.