AMTIL was in Germany in September for EMO 2017, the largest machine tool and manufacturing technology exhibition in the world.

AMTIL regularly sends a delegation to the major overseas exhibitions, and EMO is a show that has to be seen to be believed. Held every two years, the six-day event occupies 17 enormous halls on a sprawling exhibition complex on the outskirts of the city of Hannover. Under the motto of ‘Connecting Systems for Intelligent Production’, this year’s event brought together more than 2,200 exhibitors from 44 different nations showcasing the latest machines, solutions and services for industrial production.

Among those exhibitors was AMTIL, which had a booth within the International Associations area of the show, alongside manufacturing assocations from countries all over the world. As well as enabling us to provide information and advice about manufacturing in Australia to anyone who came by the stand, it offered the opportunity to network and interact with those other associations, sharing insights about the state of the industry and exploring opportunities to collaborate.

Moreover, having a fixed presence on the exhibition floor meant we were able to support any Australians who were visiting the show, offering a port of call where they could drop by for a chat and a coffee – our team was pleased to bump into a fair few familiar faces from back home during the week of the show. Australian companies were also making their presence felt in the exhibition, with the ANCA Group, ProfiStop and Sutton Tools all running eyecatching stands.

EMO took place amid an increasingly optimistic global economic climate, with the IMF having recently announced growth projections of 3.5% for global GDP. According to forecasts by UK-based Oxford Economics – the forecasting partner of the German Machine Tool Manufacturers’ Association (VDW), which produces EMO – industrial production and investment on the part of the machine tool industry’s main client industries is expected to grow this year by 3.4% to 5.6%. The two organisations expect Asia to take the lead in investment growth at a rate of 6.5%, followed by Europe and the Americas. Machine tool consumption is expected to grow at a rate of 3.2%.

AMTIL is also a member of the Steering Committee for the Global Machine Tool Report & Forecast produced by Oxford Economics, and EMO was an opportunity for the Committee to get together to discuss the report and look into ways in which it can be improved to better serve the needs of the associations’ members. The Committee’s meeting was one of several that AMTIL representatives attended during the course of EMO, along with the International General Managers’ Meeting run by CECIMO (the European Association of the Machine Tool Industries), and the international meeting for CELIMO, the European federation for associations representing importers and distributors of machine tools, tooling and related technology. Being part of these meetings is another way in which AMTIL is developing valuable relationships with its international counterparts and representing the Australian industry overseas.

It wasn’t much of a surprise to see that Industry 4.0 and the digitalisation of manufacturing was one of the big talking points of this year’s EMO. It seemed like every other stand featured exhibits that somehow drew on the potential of Industry 4.0, and it came up in meetings and conversations repeatedly throughout the week.

Most notably, the VDW used its flagship event as a platform for the launch of a new initiative by the German machine tool industry to facilititate networked production, in collaboration with companies such as DMG MORI, Heller and Trumpf. According to VDW Chairman Dr Heinz-Jürgen Prokop, the aim was “to develop a standard for linking a huge range of disparate machinery control systems to a shared interface (a connector), and create the requisite software”. The planned standard will enable data to be read from different machines with differing controllers, and transported into infrastructural systems or the cloud in a standardised format for analysis and use in optimising production. For machinery manufacturers, this would be a significant easing of their workload.

It’s an exciting project with huge potential, but it’s also just one of many initiatives or new products that were being unveiled to the world at the show. For AMTIL, the opportunity to see these developments unfolding up close and to understand what’s going on at the cutting edge of manufacturing worldwide is what makes attending events such as EMO so invaluable.

I’d like to congratulate VDW on their success in organising such a spectacular event, yet again.