Ligna 2015, the world’s leading trade fair for woodworking machinery, plants and tools has come to a successful conclusion in Hanover. 1,567 exhibitors presented pioneering solutions and technologies plus innovative production plants to 96,000 specialist visitors. The focus of this year’s Ligna was ‘integrated manufacturing for more efficiency in production’, a topic that has been much discussed under the slogan ‘Industry 4.0’, and here the trade fair provided valuable impetus for individualised mass production in the future. This was further evidenced by the organisers’ sold-out Guided Tours on this very topic.
Beckhoff also recorded a most successful event. Numerous conversations with customers and prospective customers in the field of woodworking machinery, plus many with end customers, again demonstrated the universal applications possible with open and non-proprietary PC-based control technology in all areas of the wood processing industry. Stefan Sieber, Business Manager for the wood processing industry at Beckhoff commented: “High-end furniture manufacturers are increasingly becoming interested in how they can themselves use automation to make their production processes more flexible, rather than leaving this solely to their suppliers in the mechanical engineering sector, because it is individualised production that is the key to their success.” The groups of visitors on ‘networked manufacturing’ guided tours who made a halt at the Beckhoff booth also included numerous representatives of furniture manufacturers.
Automation as a means of increasing competitiveness is nothing new – flexible cost-effective manufacturing with lot size 1 is already a reality for many manufacturers. But it is possible only if the production facility is networked. There is, however, a new competitive advantage to be gained by networking all players involved along the entire value chain – from suppliers through manufacturers and logistics to retail. The conditions for the continuous data flow that is characteristic of Industry 4.0 are by PC-based control technology from Beckhoff, which uses Microsoft operating systems, offers a wide diversity of interfaces and supports all the usual standards for horizontal and vertical communication – from the field level right up to the Cloud. This enables furniture manufacturers to offer their end users genuine added value: highly customised production, fast delivery, seamless order tracking and high quality at competitive prices. Stefan Sieber summarises the situation so: “Growing competitive pressure combined with increasing demands from retail and consumers are forcing manufacturers in the furniture industry to rethink. If they want to survive in this environment they need to differentiate themselves by offering services that give their end customers added value that is worth paying for, and plant engineers need to provide the right equipment to make this possible.”