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Industrial Automation Asia was one of the publications invited to attend Festo’s annual International Press Conference from July 4-5, 2017.

It is said Paris is the ‘city of revolutions’, an appropriate location for the 16th International Festo Press Conference, held from July 4-5, 2017 in the French capital, in line with Festo France’s 60 anniversary. In the ‘city of revolutions,’ the company discussed the importance of the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) to the organisation’s strategic direction. With 300,000 customers worldwide in factory and process automation, it is in a good position to innovate and push the industry in a positive direction.

Innovation was a central theme of the two-day event, as the company showcased new and existing products including the Festo Motion Terminal, as well as its energy-efficient technologies and human-machine collaboration such as robots inspired by the living world.

The Festo Motion Terminal, only released in 2017, and discussed previously at Hannover Messe, was a focus point at the 16th International Festo Press Conference. The company remarked that this component is the world’s first pneumatic automation platform to be controlled by apps and acts to demonstrate how digitalisation is making its way into pneumatics. In regards to training in new technologies, the company uses ‘CP Factory’, a cyber-physical learning and research platform from Festo Didactic.

During the first day of the event Dr Ansgar Kriwet, member of the management board sales, Festo, discussed the organisation’s approach to the changing landscape brought about because of industry 4.0 and digitalisation. “I believe digitalisation is going to change almost everything. The jobs of today and tomorrow will be very different,” he asserted during one of the day’s opening presentations. “We need to decide if we want this to be a step by step journey or do we see the potential to make a huge leap forward,” remarked Dr Kriwet. He explained further that Festo had been thinking about this for several years and that the organisation needed a “hybrid strategy.” “We need to have both elements, the element of revolution but also the element of evolution,” he asserted.

“Why do we need a hybrid strategy? We need such a strategy because the market consists of two elements. Firstly, we need to think how can we systematically improve the way we are doing business. An evolutionary change. On the other hand, the market is getting more individualised, and such an approach is only possible through a revolutionary change. This is why we need a hybrid strategy. This approach is made possible with digitalisation technology or Industry 4.0.”

After the presentations, the journalists were able to attend live demonstrations of the latest developments from the company.

Partnering Festo

As day 2 began, the journalists moved to the SAP offices, a partner of Festo. A highlight of the day was a demonstration of real industry 4.0 solutions, which included the Open Integrated Factory in SAP’s Experience Business Centre demonstrating the integration of manufacturing and IT. In this demonstration work pieces in Festo Didactic’s CP Factory ‘tell’ the machine how they should be processed.

“The parts know what they are and can communicate with the facility through RFID technology. After approaching the correct station, they tell it which part and variant they are, and request to be processed with the appropriate method,” remarked Frederic Puche, head of SAP’s Experience Business Centre.

This made practical the ‘revolutionary’ step mentioned earlier as part of Festo’s hybrid strategy, that is the power to individualise and personalise. There is an increasing demand today for products that match customer expectations precisely. This cannot come at the expense of cost however, so costs must be kept low whilst personalisation and flexibility is facilitated. The fields of systems engineering, production IT, and business systems will need to come together to a higher degree than ever before to make this possible.

In Conclusion

On conclusion of the 2-day conference Festo’s strategy was made clear, and its approach to industry 4.0 was discussed and demonstrated through its partnership with SAP. The ability to produce small, highly customised lots as cheaply as large lots, once a dream of the production industry, was demonstrated to be a distinct possibility, made possible with the application of Industry 4.0.

The 2-day event ended with a demonstration of the company’s BionicCobot, a collaborative robot inspired by the natural movement of the human arm. This project hopes to show what hazard-free, direct human-robot collaboration could look like in the future. The BionicCobot can be finely regulated with the help of the Festo Motion Terminal. The Cobot can be fitted with different gripping systems, depending on the task to be carried out.

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