1. What are the challenges facing the crane industry in view of the issues of Industry 4.0 and digitalisation?
Of course, Industry 4.0 is an important topic in the crane industry and will gain in importance in the future. Our companies must still however overcome numerous challenges to implement it successfully. High investment costs are often at the heart of this, together with benefits that cannot be or have not been clearly defined. Security concerns in relation to IT are also playing an important part for many decision-makers at the moment, as is the absence of binding standards. The crane industry must and will face up to these challenges, of course. The main theme for CeMAT 2016 is therefore "Smart Supply Chain Solutions".
2. What are the most important trends in the industry in your view?
Customised solutions will play an even bigger role in the future than they have done to date. In relation both to the engineering and the complexity of the systems. Of course, the work involved in producing the documentation will increase, too. And the more complex the system, the more important the services provided by the manufacturer to ensure fault-free production processes with 24/7 operation.
3. Which of these trends is your company, J.D. Neuhaus, focusing on specifically at the moment?
We are of course focusing on the topic of Industry 4.0. Since our core business is using compressed air as the drive medium, the challenge for us consists in developing electro-pneumatic control systems that make our products compatible with digitalisation. But under the usually harsh conditions in which our lifting equipment and crane systems are used, this issue tends to be less of a priority. I recall in this context, however, that we developed an application as long ago as the mid-90s in which several of our hoists communicated with one another. In other words, long before the term Industry 4.0 was coined. I’m sure that other crane and hoist manufacturers have similar examples that they could relate. This shows that conveyor technology has played a pioneering role in many areas for a long time.