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Fair of the future

Fair of the future

The trend is your friend. This oldest adage in investing has been once again proven true recently, this time by McKinsey advisors. A company capturing tailwinds created by a long-term trend is four to eight times more likely to rise to the top of the economic-profit performance charts than one that is facing headwinds. The researchers caution, however, that it is easy to lose sight of long-term trends amid short-term gyrations, especially at times when the nature and direction of those trends become less clear.

One such pivotal moment is happening now. The technological revolution, driven by an integration of what’s real with what’s virtual, is unfolding right before our eyes. Machines and devices equipped with the right sensors are starting to communicate with one another and make decisions without human involvement, which makes the process far quicker and more accurate.

Autonomous cars driving along our roads among traditional vehicles are no longer a thing of the distant future, but rather something we are going to see in a few years’ time. If Tesla stays true to its word, its test autopilot should be succeeded by a real one as soon as next year. Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Google and Jaguar intend to follow suit in three years, with Peugeot/Citroen, Volvo, BMW and Ford joining their ranks a year later and Volkswagen in 2025.

According to IHS Markit, autonomous cars will be a major force transforming the rules of the game in passenger transport, with electric cars only helping the process. Autonomous vehicles will usher in a new element to passenger transport – Mobility as a Service (MaaS). MaaS will offer a new form of readily available, convenient and time efficient transport that will make people more inclined to travel. Over the last five years new business models, connecting owners of private vehicles with potential passengers, have enjoyed sudden and rapid grow. They have transformed private cars into money-making assets for their owners and offer customers new ways of travelling. The most substantial changes in this area of transport are owed to smartphone and tablet applications. In 2016, Uber, the pioneer in this industry, was estimated to be worth USD 68bn, more than any of the three largest US automakers. Uber’s Chinese counterpart, Didi, facilitated around 20 million rides a day in 2016. MaaS will be particularly popular in developing countries whose inhabitants cannot afford their own cars, but can afford to travel. They will go for autonomous vehicles as these will offer the freedom to travel on par with that presented by an own car. In such environments, autonomous electric vehicles representing a solid MaaS base will give mass transit − bus, tram and, in non-urban areas, also train services − a real run for their money.

Revolutionary changes are also taking place in the industry, which − through digitalisation − is transforming rapidly. As in the case of web apps which connect classic cars with cameras, radars and other sensors making it possible for a car to drive autonomously, interpret road signs and react to other traffic participants, the industry also sees a myriad of apps that connect manufacturing plant elements into autonomous production lines having the capability to decide what and when to produce according to consumers’ individual needs signalled by appropriate sensors.

The Internet of Things, because that is what we are talking about, has made its way into the industry. Soon there will be an opportunity to see how this works in practice at the Hannover fair held between April 24th and April 28th. Hannover Messe 2017 is among the largest industrial exhibitions in the world, with over 6,500 exhibitors presenting their technologies to more than 200,000 visitors and millions of internet users.

The lead theme of this year’s edition is ‘Integrated Industry – Creating Value’. The fair was divided into exhibition platforms covering such trends as Industrie 4.0 (Industry 4.0), Integrated Energy, Smart Materials & Coatings, Predictive Maintenance (of devices and systems), Cobots (robots cooperating with humans), and Energy Efficiency.

It is worth taking a closer look at ‘ready to use’ technologies presented at the fair to see the opportunities and threats of industrial integration, which has been made possible thanks to digital technologies. Germans noticed its potential already a few years ago, as manifested by the Industrie 4.0 programme. This strategic initiative aims to make Germany a leading market and supplier of advanced solutions for the industry.

Poland, which is a partner country of the fair, also sees the potential of an innovative industry, integrating digital technologies with tangible reality. The sheer abundance of already available solutions for the industry and services makes Polish companies well placed to carve out their own developmental niche. Not all of them will succeed though. As shown by McKinsey, success will come to those who will be able to recognise long-term trends in the barrage of information and opportunities and then leverage them to accelerate their growth.

In my opinion, ORLEN, a partner of the Polish exhibition at the fair, did its homework in this respect. This is evidenced by our strategic growth directions, namely petrochemicals and chemicals, which provide raw materials and components for the materials of the future, as well as development of modern energy sectors, innovations which create value for individual customers, and growth of services related to electromobility. Many challenges still lie ahead, particularly in the area of digitalisation, but we remain optimistic as the new trends we are counting on are really starting to gain traction.

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