Stefanie Naujoks
Stefanie Naujoks (Research Director, Manufacturing Insights Europe)

Hannover Messe 2021 was a fascinating experience for me because this year the world-leading industry trade show, the global hotspot of Industry 4.0 and industrial technology, took place (virtually) in Munich, so I could take part from the comfort of my home office. There was still the typical constant flow of information, thanks to the live streams and roundtable discussions, but this time my feet weren’t hurting at the end of the day!

Top 8 Trends from Hannover Messe 2021

  1. There is a shift from digitally transforming enterprise operations to collaborating more and exchanging data in digital ecosystems.

A key take-away from numerous roundtable discussions was that it will be vital for manufacturing organisations to engage with their ecosystem of customers, suppliers and partners much more than they did in the past. To borrow a nice phrase I heard in a panel discussion with SAP, Kuka, Microsoft and Siemens, there will be a shift from “egosystems to ecosystems”.

One of the conclusions from this session (and from others) was that data availability and usage across the entire ecosystem will be key to drive digitalisation and automation.

  1. Ensuring data sovereignty and trusted infrastructures and platforms will fuel business models and collaboration in ecosystems.

Given there is a need for trusted data sharing environments while ensuring data sovereignty, Gaia-X was all over the place at Hannover. But, while this really looks like a promising European initiative — because it aims to support data sharing in ecosystems in a trusted and secure environment — there is a still a lot of work to be done. Catena-X — the automotive initiative based on Gaia-X — is interesting, aimed at enabling secure and trusted data exchange in the automotive sector. It will be interesting to see how this initiative develops.

  1. Global value and production networks also require data standards on a global scale.

In global value networks, data sovereignty and data governance need to be ensured across all stakeholders in all countries and regions. An interesting example at Hannover was presented by China’s Haier Group, a manufacturer of large household appliances, which has adopted the data sovereignty standards of the International Data Spaces Association (IDSA) and integrated the IDS standards architecture into its COSMOplat platform.

  1. The reignition of equipment-as-a-service business models.

There hasn’t been too much noise recently around equipment-as-a-service business models, but it looks like this is now changing. While the notion of turning capex into opex is nothing new, it seems there is new demand from customers driven by the need to reduce the capital investments in their books.

What’s needed to make equipment as a service work — beyond technologies that enable reliable and secure data access and transmission — was highlighted in a session by machine builder Trumpf. To reduce the risks in those business models, dedicated contracts are needed among all relevant stakeholders such as customers and OEM and finance/insurance partners because equipment as a service is not only an alternative way of procurement but also a lot about setting up SLAs, guarantees, and risk management and optimisation services.

  1. Ensuring supply chain resilience is about utilising analytics, AI, intelligent workflows and automation.

Given the lessons learned from COVID-19 and the impact on global supply chains, as well as the recent incident in the Suez Canal and the shortage of microchips, ensuring supply chain resilience is a top priority for manufacturers. An interesting panel session with IBM, ServiceNow and Toyota Material Handling concluded that supply chain resilience is about utilising data and AI (to enable decision making based on insights), intelligent workflows (to optimise workflows depending on situations and incidents) and automation (to automate decision making and thereby reduce dependency on manual tasks).

  1. Manufacturers are now beyond moving to the cloud and now need to set up hybrid-cloud concepts and multicloud management.

Manufacturing companies will continue to store and process data at the edge and in the cloud. Digital transformation therefore will increasingly require hybrid cloud concepts as a lot of data will stay on the shop floor or in enterprise IT.

The key challenge is to ensure that both processes work: the traditional way of storing data and new ways of managing data in the cloud. In this context, Bernd Gross, CTO of Software AG, said in a joint session with Google Cloud and Siemens that when moving to the cloud, companies should ensure they avoid vendor lock-in and be able to move workloads from one cloud environment to another.

  1. Better utilisation of data is the key to success, but requires silo busting and data-centric architectures.

I joined a lot of sessions at Hannover on how to manage data across the enterprise and across ecosystems, and two stand out:

  • The first was with Cedrik Neike, from Siemens Industries, who used the phrase “silo busting” — overcoming data silos and really ensuring that you get access to all relevant data.
  • The second was with Matthias Roese, from HPE, who highlighted the importance of data-centric architectures in closed-loop manufacturing.

The importance of data and the availability of data was also emphasised in another session by HPE, and which I mention here because it’s worth repeating that the hardest part of predictive maintenance is getting the data. Only when there is enough data can you start predicting. And, to ensure you have enough data, you need to have the right IT infrastructures and data-centric architectures.

  1. Technology is a major enabler of digital platforms in the future ecosystem economy — but in the end it’s all about the people.

A lot was presented at Hannover about how technologies such as cloud, AI and IoT enable digital platforms to thrive in future ecosystems. An interesting panel session about how data platforms enable the ecosystem economy was hosted by HCL, with panellists from Electrolux, ABB and Welbilt. What emerged from this, and what nicely sums up Hannover Messe 2021, is that enabling the ecosystem economy is very much about data, data platforms and data governance but also — to a very large extent — about a change in culture and people’s mindset.

Final Thoughts on This Digital Edition of Hannover Messe 2021

Given my research focus on digital platforms and ecosystem strategies in the manufacturing industry, it was of course interesting to see that there is a clear shift from digitally transforming enterprise operations to a greater focus on much closer collaboration with customers, suppliers and partners. But what will be key are trusted data sharing infrastructures that ensure data sovereignty in industry ecosystems.

Despite the interesting format this year, I’m definitely looking forward to meeting my clients and colleagues next year in person again.

For a more detailed view on my personal top trends from Hannover Messe 2021, please also see our IDC Market Perspective: Highlights from Hannover Messe 2021 around Digital Platforms and Ecosystems in Manufacturing (subscription-clients only).

Our IDC European Manufacturing Executive Digital Summit 2021, to be held on November 18, will provide a great opportunity for manufacturing executives to discuss this and other key issues related to how to best respond to changing market conditions and customer requirements and how to establish transparent and responsive operations leveraging digital technologies.

To learn more about our upcoming research, please contact Stefanie Naujoks, or head over to and drop your details in the form on the top right.

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