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Smart manufacturing, intelligent processing, autonomous robotic, and innovative human-machine interaction—the impact of digital transformation and innovative systems of intelligence has brought a new spirit to Hannover Messe (HMI), Germany’s most important international industry event. Formerly frequented mainly by discrete manufacturers, the tradeshow has now found its way onto the priority lists of major industries, including pharmaceuticals, food and beverages, and chemicals, and this year attracted more than 190,000 visitors. Supported by 40 customers and partners showcasing breakthrough digital transformation examples and real-world IoT use cases, Microsoft had a massive presence in the Digital Factory hall.

Microsoft at HMI 2016

Connect the Existing with the Future

One of the key lessons coming out of HMI was that aging machines need not necessarily be left behind in the digital era, thanks to solutions such as “Smart Automation.” Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences and Microsoft partner Daenet have given machines new “brains” just by installing Raspberry Pi (a credit card–sized computer that costs less than $40), adding some software, and connecting them to the cloud through the Microsoft Azure IoT hub gateway. Linked this way, assets can talk to each other as well as to the humans involved, coordinate with each other, and create webs of connectivity, from small to vast, on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. Such innovations, together with a whole range of new, intrinsically safe devices such as C1D1-approved devices from AEGEX, enable chemical and pharmaceutical accounts to start making smart decisions affecting quality control in Manufacturing and Supply Chain, predictive maintenance, and operational excellence—without completely replacing validated systems.

Control Manufacturing Quality with Real-Time Failure Prediction

Jabil, one of the world’s leading design and manufacturing solution providers, demonstrated how to leverage Microsoft Azure and Machine Learning to enable powerful predictive and prescriptive analytics. Their iFactory Manufacturing solution, shown at HMI, provides end-to-end shop-floor quality assurance control with real-time failure prediction, enabling corrections before process and quality errors occur. Analyzing millions of data points from machines running dozens of steps throughout the manufacturing process, Azure Machine Learning helps predict failures earlier. “Since deploying the Microsoft predictive analytics solutions, we have seen at least an 80 percent accuracy rate in the prediction of machine processes that will slow down or fail, contributing to a scrap and rework savings of 17 percent,” said Clint Belinsky, Vice President of Global Quality, Jabil.

Liebherr at Microsoft booth HMI

Manage Controlled Environments with Predictive Maintenance

Gaining transparency and simplifying the management of controlled environments was the focus of Liebherr Group’s presence at HMI. This leading equipment producer, which manufactures 2.4 million refrigerators a year, exhibited a prototype connectivity module that brings intelligence, remote monitoring, and predictive maintenance to pharmaceutical refrigerators and freezers with Windows IoT and Azure Stream Analytics. Controlled cooling systems are critical for sensitive contents like medical supplies, and their use by hospitals and medical companies is often governed by legal agreements. Liebherr plans to launch its SmartDeviceBox2.0 in April 2017.

This prototype solution from Liebherr for commodity goods points to new approaches to automated control of environmental conditions in research and development. Obvious examples of the possibilities are in biopharmaceutical production and green biotechnology such as visionary projects like Growing Underground. This British startup, supported by Microsoft, is forging a bold experiment in subterranean farming 100 feet below London in an old, abandoned air raid tunnel, raising sustainable produce that reaches tables as soon as four hours after harvest.

Provide Insights to Transport Conditions

Get not only the status of the vehicle, but also from any single parcel – ZF Services logistics showed at HMI the solution “deTAGtive” from Openmatics, which collects real-time data using tags attached to a customer’s cargo and Bluetooth Smart technology managed by Microsoft Azure IoT hub. With the data stored in the Azure cloud, Azure Stream Analytics provides access to real-time insights about the location of goods in transit as well as transportation conditions such as temperature, light intensity and shocks. This improves freight flow processes and enables responds to abnormalities such as irregular cargo temperatures that could cause damage.

Microsoft at HMI 2016

Benefit from Data Threads Beyond Compliance

Impending regulations across markets will require pharmaceutical, medical device, and consumer packaged-goods manufacturers to trace products down to the individual salable unit across the supply chain. With the new holistic serialization solution it exhibited at HMI, Rockwell Automation not only helps manufacturers comply with these regulations, but also produces a number of business benefits beyond compliance, such as avoiding millions in inaccurate chargeback or rebate payments and generating millions in revenue by eliminating gray market product diversions.

Rockwell’s holistic serialization solution is fully integrated across all four enterprise and control system levels of the ISA-95 data model. It leverages the Microsoft Azure cloud-computing platform and services, and seamlessly connects and shares data between the plant floor, the enterprise, supply-chain partners, and the retail point of sale—and potentially the customer too. “Once the common data thread is understood, the benefits beyond compliance are nearly limitless,” said Joe Whyte, global serialization lead for Rockwell Automation.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, underpinned the impact of digital transformation upon all industries in his keynote speech at Hannover Messe. As reported by Business Insider, he said, “The idea of changing how we look at the world by collecting new kinds of data from machines, with machines that can interpret and learn, is fundamental to how this new paradigm can perhaps have an impact in all industries in all walks of life.”