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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

Hexagon’s Smart Decisions Culminate In Building Smart Factory

 
June 15th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

Las Vegas in June . . . Good idea or bad idea? I’ll try and stay neutral on this one, but this town is not exactly my favorite, regardless of time of year. However, it’s always worth the trip when a company like Hexagon invites me for its annual international conference, HxGN LIVE 2017.


What is today Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence (MI) grew up and out of what was known as Hexagon Metrology because it has grown far beyond just measurement to encompass virtually all aspects of product development from design and manufacturing (with the acquisition of Vero Software) to simulation (with the acquisition of MSC Software) to inspection and statistical analysis (with the acquisition of Q-DAS). This is all literally tied together with the so-called Hexagon Digital Thread. The newest part of this digital thread is Smart Quality, an online quality lifecycle management software platform that uses the quality data stream across the various phases of manufacturing, providing knowledge through comprehensive statistical analysis, visualization, and workflow management that enable real-time process improvements. I found Smart Quality to be one of the most interesting and significant aspects of HxGN LIVE 2017 (with more to come about it specifically in the near future).

Hexagon’s President and CEO, Ola Rollen at HxGN LIVE 2017

Hexagon is an interesting company and its growth and value have been enormous over the past few years, especially after hearing the company’s President and CEO, Ola Rollen, admit that 10 years ago virtually no one knew who or what Hexagon was. Since 2000, Hexagon has acquired around 100 companies, such as Intergraph, Brown & Sharpe, and more recently, MSC Software. According to Rollen, 50 percent of Hexagon’s growth can be attributed to acquisitions and 50 percent to organic growth, but that the latter will become a bigger contributor going forward.

The Smart Factory of the Future

Ever since Henry Ford pioneered the assembly line for mass production of cars, we’ve had a fixed idea of what a factory looks like. Parts move down the line, making steady, monotonous progress towards completion. Until now. Smart manufacturing techniques are challenging the status quo and hexagon is at the forefront of making this happen. A new production line is taking shape – or is it even a line — and data and feedback loops are the drivers which are also vital parts of Hexagon’s DNA.

Norbert Hanke, President, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence

After providing several examples of how smart factories will change manufacturing, from automotive design to advanced materials and real-time feedback loops for robotic automation, Hexagon revealed plans for investing approximately 90 million EUR (100 million USD) in a new 52,000-square-meter, state-of-the-art production facility in Hongdao, China. Some details were disclosed by Norbert Hanke, president of Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence (MI) division during his keynote, “Building the Factory of the Future“. “A smart factory is driven by data and powered by learning,” said Hanke.

Building the Smart Factory of the Future

The new site, which primarily will produce metrology systems for the MI division, will utilize Hexagon’s smart manufacturing technologies to produce and calibrate the systems, as well as house software development and customer support teams covering the wider Hexagon portfolio. The Hongdao facility also will include office and meeting space, recreational areas for employees and a Hexagon solution center. Construction will be managed using Hexagon’s own enterprise construction solution, HxGN SMART Build, and is slated to begin this year, with completion targeted for 2020.

“The factories of the future must be flexible, modular working environments with data-driven ecosystems that embed agility and quality into every phase of the production process,” said Hexagon’s Ola Rollén. “Our new facility not only will deliver high-class products and services for our customers in China and the surrounding region, but also pioneer new technologies to support smart manufacturing.”

Hexagon Sale Rumor

Amidst all the activities of the conference and attention paid to its recent acquisitions, a rumor surfaced on Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal about the possibility of Hexagon itself being an acquisition target.

The rumor has it that Hexagon is seeking buyers about a potential sale as the company’s market value skyrocketed to $17.3 billion on Wednesday.

Supposedly, the company has been working with advisers at Goldman Sachs and HSBC to gauge interest from larger industrial companies, such as ABB, Schneider Electric, Siemens, and GE.

When asked about the possibility of a sale at a luncheon, Rollen, with his usual calm demeanor, neither confirmed or denied the rumor.

So, there you have it, something to keep in our sights.

As an aside, Brian Shepherd, a 20-year PTC executive, has left PTC and is joining Hexagon MI, where, in his words, “Pursuing true quality lifecycle management for manufacturers.” We wish Brian well in his new role.

HxGN LIVE 2018

HxGN LIVE 2018 will run June 12-15, 2018 in Las Vegas.

This promises to be a very interesting year for Hexagon, with many unfolding events that we will follow very closely. The company has made a lot of smart decisions over the years and we are confident that they will continue into the future, whatever that future may be.

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