Having produced 15.2 billion euros (US$16.6 billion) of machinery in 2016, Germany is the world’s largest exporter of machine tools, exporting 7.6 billion euros (US$8.31 billion) globally, according to the German Machine Tool Builders’ Association (VDW). Dr Heinz-Jurgen Prokop, VDW chairman, predicts a production output growth of three percent this year due to high-volume, automobile-driven business worldwide.
While China continues to drive growth in Asia, Dr-Ing Wilfried Schaefer, executive director of VDW, shared that machine tool consumption in East Asia is expected to increase by a quarter. The association is organising Emo Hannover, the world’s biggest international metalworking exhibition. Taking place in September this year, the exhibition is expected to attract around 143,000 visitors from more than 110 countries.
Dr-Ing Schaefer talks to APMEN on important trends steering the global machine tool industry, such as the mutual sharing of knowledge between academia and companies, and the seemingly unstoppable advance of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Q: Is there anything you would like to talk about with regards to machine tools in the Asia region?
Dr-Ing Wilfried Schaefer (WS): I would say the overall consumption of machine tools globally in 2016 went down a little. It went down to US$74 billion in consumption, a drop of 2.6 percent. For 2017, we expect an upturn of 3.1 percent, which is mainly driven by Europe because we have seen an increasing amount of orders in the last year.
Between the time of order for the materials, export and delivery, there is a delay of six to 12 months to produce machines. Another market we are expecting a turnaround is in Asia. In the US, their bottom line has remained stable.
In Asia however, the expected increase in 3.4 percent, mainly driven by China. After the two years of reduction, we are starting to see an increase of investments in the country now. We expect an increase of 25 percent in East Asia, and we see an increase of export in the whole region.
In Singapore, we see ups and downs. In 2013, it decreased by 14 percent, and 2014, it dropped another 38 percent, and there was an enormous slowdown of investment. In 2015 however, there was an increase of 86 percent. The increase was contributed by investment in new products being organised, re-investment into old machines and also bilateral trade. In terms of exports including parts and services, in 2015, it was about US$39.9 billion. There was a downturn in 2016, where exports only reached US$30 billion.
The main machines include those for laser cutting, ultrasonic machine, machining centres, as well as polishing and finishing machines. There have not been many exports from Singapore to Germany, but it has been picking up in the past years. In 2014, there was a total of US$14.2 million of imports from Singapore into Germany.
Q: Why should Emo be a focus for Asian companies to visit for improvement in its manufacturing lines?
(WS): First of all, EMO Hannover is the world’s biggest show for the metalworking industry. It has over 180,000 sq m of net exhibition space, spanning over 17 halls. In Emo’s previous 2013 edition, there were over 2,100 exhibitors. We also have exhibitors from over 42 countries, and major manufacturing companies from different countries were there.
There will be a whole range of equipment for visitors to see along the entire value chain for metal products, with some huge machines with heights reaching close to the ceiling. All the current machinery and technology for it will be available at Emo Hannover for visitors and exhibitors.
Q: The mutual sharing of knowledge between academia and companies is important in the continued innovation for metalworking. Will there be any such conferences in EMO?
(WS): Concerning this, as an association for metalworking, we have a very close relationship to the German Academic Society for Production Engineering (WGP). We have meetings twice a year to discuss and exchange views. It has about 36 members and the members include university institutions and research institutions for production in Germany. It does not only include machine tools but also production organisation, tooling, machining, robotics and automation, and also digitisation and controllers.
The WGP will give the conference, where they will focus on the new developments of their research activities. This will be different from the usual topics like machining, as there would be talks on new technology such as titanium machining, and new strategies for precision production and grinding. The major topic for this year’s EMO is Industry 4.0 and IoT. This is why we have the motto of “Connecting systems for intelligent production”. We will have a special booth of about 1,000 sq m where companies as well as universities showcase their latest solutions and research activities in terms of IoT. Some of the universities will also have their own booth and a speaker’s corner where they present their findings. I’d like to finalise by saying they are also involved in the topic of additive manufacturing, and there will be talks on that too.
Q: Any other highlights for the exhibition?
(WS): We have a special booth by our partner Machining Innovations Network, which is a cluster in the north of Germany. This includes machine tooling manufacturers, customers from the aerospace industry as well as university institutions. They are doing research on all kinds of production aspects in the field of aerospace production, which includes titanium and composite parts for the body of aeroplanes.
During the exhibition, they will display the production line for producing components in the field of aerospace industry. Some other major exhibitors will also share their unique insights on customer segments; they will also show applications for large scale aerospace production. There are machines with dimensions as large as 20 metres, which will display the production of wing columns of aeroplanes are built.
Q: What are your thoughts on “Industry 4.0” and “IoT” in terms of contribution to the metalworking sector?
(WS): Industry 4.0 is a sub-section of IoT for production. This applies not only for metalworking, but also textile machinery and plastic-producing machinery and overall production. Digitisation is also not IoT because if you look at the machines in plants, they are each controlled by a computer. Over the past 20 years, each machine has been running digitally—it has digital drives and digital measurement systems and so forth.
There is a large amount of data from the machines, and the question is how do we get the data from the machines and still have secure communication? The data is sensitive as it contains a lot of information from the machines, before being put up on the cloud. With this big data, it can then be analysed and you may find structures that will give you possibilities for new services for your customers.
For example, component producers have analysed how long roller bearings can last, before they have to be serviced. Now with predictive maintenance, tools do not have to be thrown out prematurely and can last as long as they should. You may analyse the data from bearings built to last 1,500 hours, and after analysing the data you may see that after 1,500 hours the bearing is still working fine, so this means you do not have to throw it out.
This increases the customer’s productivity. When the data shows a change in the structure of the information, then predictive changes can be made. Predictive maintenance gives you concrete possibilities to really use the potential of each part of the machine. This also applies for condition monitoring where you control the process of the machine, and the same applies for tooling as well.
These are different functions and another aspect to from the machine producer’s side; these are services that can be offered to their customers that provides more value for them. Now, when you see a machine is breaking down, you can see from the data what is exactly wrong with the machine so you will be able to fix it. A lot of these topics will also be presented on during EMO Hannover.
Q: Any other thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
(WS): If any visitors or exhibitors are interested in getting the latest information for their future investments, Emo Hannover would be right place to be for them. Here, they will get to see all the companies involved in different types of technologies relating to metalworking. This is along the whole value chain, so companies involved in CAD and other software producers for production, machining manufacturers for production, tooling manufacturers, metrology and quality control systems providers will all be in attendance. It is everything a metalworking company needs to know in one exhibition.
We also have the Enterprise Europe Network, an online platform for organising meetings between visitors and exhibitors. It connects companies who are looking for specific certain products and equipment to the exhibitors who can provide them. The platform is efficient and time-saving at connecting these people, especially as the exhibition halls span across a large area.
APMEN Feature, May/June 2017