19. March 2019

On trend: digital transformation and circular economy

Fakuma Internationale Fachmesse für Kunststoffverarbeitung logo uai

Fakuma 2020 focuses on advancing networking

Fakuma – International Trade Fair for Plastics Processing, recognized as an industry and technology barometer – demonstrates in fast motion how quickly the plastics industry is evolving. The trade event, which focuses on injection molding, continuously presents the solutions offered by manufacturers and suppliers as well as system integrators to meet current and future challenges. Building on the great success of the 2018 event (1933 exhibitors from 40 nations came to Lake Constance for the first time), trade fair company P.E. Schall GmbH & Co. KG is already planning for the 2020 session – with a further increase in internationality and once again on all available floor space. “We’ve been occupying all of the hall space for years, but unfortunately more than 85,000 m² is not possible at the modern Friedrichshafen Exhibition Center,” explains Dipl.-Kffr. Bettina Schall, managing partner of the promoter.

Sustained high demand” for injection molding machines

The fact that the manufacturers of plastics machinery have recorded further growth for the eighth year in succession impressively underlines the technological know-how of the manufacturers and suppliers. Although injection molders calmly reported a certain calming of order intake at their business press conferences, in view of the current longer delivery times due to bottlenecks in supplier parts, staff shortages and a lack of production capacity, the current market calm is not inconvenient for many companies. Dr. Christoph Steger, CSO of the Engel Group, A-Schwertberg, and member of the Fakuma Exhibitor Advisory Board, spoke in this context of a certain sideways movement, albeit at a high level never before reached. Accordingly, the “somewhat cooled” demand did not spoil the good mood of any company during Fakuma 2018. Especially since the plastics industry is still humming along despite some Brexit and stock market prophecies of doom, and this despite the fact that the automotive industry is currently putting the brakes on a lot of projects due to the diesel dent.

Fakuma is the most important trade fair for practitioners

Around 47,650 trade visitors from 126 countries traveled to Lake Constance in 2018. Although the record visitor numbers of the anniversary event were just missed, organizers and exhibitors were very satisfied because the quality of the visitors was right. Many exhibitors praise Fakuma as a “real working trade fair” and as the trade exhibition for seasoned practitioners that is consistently oriented to the plastics processing process chain. “Nowhere else is it possible to discuss ideas, projects and visions with customers more concretely than at Lake Constance, which is why the industry get-together also clearly has the status of an order fair for us exhibitors,” as one injection molder put it in a nutshell. Moreover, digitization and networking as well as further process integration and system solutions for machines and peripherals require a continuous dialog between machine builders and plastics processors. Consequently, globalization, digitalization and the circular economy were the dominant themes at Fakuma.

Networking among plastics processors continues

The task of an Industry 4.0 strategy was once to interact products and services in the area of production technology with lT in a meaningful way in order to save resources, become more transparent and flexible, and work more efficiently. The fact that manufacturers of plastics processing machines have now made significant advances in this area and now offer far-reaching digitization and networking of their machines was evident throughout Fakuma. Thanks to intelligent assistance systems and far-reaching vertical integration – from ERP to the depths of the machines – self-optimizing solutions are no longer a vision. They have already become a reality for certain tasks and could already be marveled at at Fakuma 2018, or the other way around: networking has arrived at plastics processors! But there is still a long way to go before we have comprehensive networking,” says one insider, “and where the journey is really heading with Industry 4.0, IoT and digital transformation will probably only become clear again at Fakuma 2020.”

Circular Economy has arrived in mechanical engineering

Bettina Schall also sees the fact that the currently rather poor image of plastics among the general public, caused by the discussion about the pollution of the world’s oceans due to plastic waste, is leading to a sensitization of the industry as an opportunity. Thorsten Ratzmann, CEO of the Pöppelmann company, was even more explicit in his statement: “Plastic as a material that can be processed in many ways has now fallen into disrepute and the plastics industry has a real reputation problem”. For many – it seems at first glance – plastic is “evil” and must be reduced! This may be a tempting objective, but – and Fakuma 2018 already clearly showed this – the opposite is more likely to be the reality. For a more sustainable future, plastic must and will always be used. The term “circular economy” has long since gained a foothold in the plastics industry. It has long been a question of “how” rather than “if. The fact that the circular economy has also arrived in K-Maschinenbau was more visible than ever at Lake Constance. Especially since only through dialogues can the achievement of higher recycling rates or the efficiency improvement of waste management be mastered globally. For processors to increasingly use recyclates in the manufacture of plastic products, they need safe material grades in sufficient quantities. But these are only obtained if sufficient recyclable plastic waste is collected. At Fakuma in Friedrichshafen, it came through that the plastics industry itself will have to do much more in the future: “If we want to have closed cycles one day, we have to join forces with all the partners in the value chain, and that includes the end users. We have to work together with determination on all the decisive steps of the cycle, such as the manufacture of the products, the use phase and disposal,” was what was heard from a recycling expert in Friedrichshafen. There is really nothing to add to this, because the MEGAtopic remains on the agenda in any case!

The 27th Fakuma will take place in Friedrichshafen from October 13 to 17, 2020!