Automation for the people

by The CC-Link Team on 10 March 2014

By John Browett

SPS IPC Drives is a staple of the European trade show calendar. It’s the only show in Europe where you can see nearly every leading automation brand in one place and be served wine by an industrial robot arm.

SPS IPC Drives

No wine with this robot, unfortunately

Despite the amount of robots on show, most people aren’t ‘fluent in over six million forms of communication’, like C3-PO in George Lucas’ Star Wars. As a result, it’s not always easy to draw out the most important themes of an international event in retrospect – especially if you didn’t attend.

But never fear; we’ve done the hard work for you, bringing automation to the people. Once you’ve read this blog post, you will be just as clued up on the future of automation as the 60,027 people who visited the 1622 stands at SPS IPC Drives 2013.

This time around SPS Drives was about the nuances and subtleties of the market – unlike, for instance, last year’s Hannover Messe; where nearly everything that was said was on the subject of Industry 4.0.

However, the entire event didn’t pass by without a mention of 2013’s biggest industry trend. For instance, Roland Bent, the managing director of Phoenix Contact, one of a growing list of companies with CC-Link compatible products, dedicated his opening presentation to the subject.

“In future we will need production plants that demonstrate a high degree of flexibility,” explained Bent. “We have to move on from just flexible production, which can only make allowances for ideas masterminded today, to an adaptable plant, which can react to unforeseen events. That means that networking technology will develop even further in the automation industry.”

Omron was another company with CC-Link compatible products that demonstrated some brilliant technology at the event. The company was showing its facial recognition equipment, which will ultimately lead to HMIs (Human Machine Interfaces) able to respond to human feelings and behaviour. At present it’s very much about safety and recognising how close an individual can be to a machine before the device has to slow down or turn off.

Despite some of the fascinating theory on show, it’s very much my view that SPS Drives is the fair at which business gets done and contracts get signed. This was supported by a conversation I had with a representative of the VDMA in Hannover last year, who pointed out that SPS is becoming more and more influential.

For those of you not in the know, the VDMA is the German Machine Building and Plant Engineering Association, so the organisation unquestionably has its finger on the pulse of the machine building sector.

I think the idea that the show is becoming an even more significant part of the international engineering landscape is supported by some of the recent and forthcoming innovations SPS is putting it place. For instance, a new hall devoted to vision technology will rival Stuttgart’s Vision exhibition, while an entirely new show will be launched in India in 2015 to create a genuine global reach for the brand.

The CLPA’s stand at SPS had just over 600 visitors across three days, which I believe reinforces the argument that there is a great deal of interest in CC-Link across Europe. This hypothesis is certainly supported by Roland Bent’s belief that the future of industry will stand on a foundation of networking technologies.

Among our 600 visitors were many editors from the leading European trade magazines. Given the demands on their time from over 1,600 exhibitors, I think that the significant media interest in our technology reinforces its importance in Europe.

But the big news from SPS Drives was the launch of our Gateway to Asia (G2A) scheme, which will succeed our successful Gateway to China (G2C) programme. Gateway to Asia represents a significant step forward for the CLPA, as does the addition of a number of new partners supporting the programme. We now have 26 partners on the G2A programme, over a dozen more than when we started out with G2C.

The main difference between the two schemes is their respective geographical coverage, with G2A allowing our partners to reach into territories such as Korea, Taiwan, Japan and India, as well as the rest of Asia. I’ll be blogging more about G2A later this month and I will also introduce you to some of our new partners as well as an exciting new board member.

But before I do, let me raise a glass to SPS IPC Drives 2013; from wine served by robot arms to Industry 4.0 and facial recognition, the event was impossible to miss. Next year will be SPS’s 25th anniversary and I expect it to be even bigger and better than ever before. I’m sure I will see you there.

John Browett is the European general manager of the CLPA. If you want to discuss Gateway to Asia, you can contact him on

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: