Conference tackles digitising UK manufacturing

Experts are gathering in Coventry for the Digitising Manufacturing conference at which European experts will discuss the way forward.

The UK risks falling behind its European peer group in the fourth industrial revolution and needs to use digital technologies in manufacturing to compete in a rapidly changing global industry, say experts at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC).

The MTC is working with industry and other research organisations to set up a digital engineering & manufacturing leadership group to join the forces of the manufacturing, academic and technology communities.
This group will be the subject of one of the talks at the “Digitising Manufacturing” conference, hosted at the Lloyds Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre near Coventry on 15 November. The centre is urging companies involved in manufacturing to attend the conference to learn more about the topic, the speed of change in Europe and globally and to become more digitally aware.

At the conference, “smart manufacturing” experts from Germany, Sweden and the UK will explain their national policies for digitisation and how small and medium-sized companies can use digitisation to save money and compete better with bigger and foreign competitors.

Productivity across manufacturing sectors in Germany is expected to increase significantly leading to a contribution to GDP of about one per cent per year, plus a six per cent increase in manufacturing employment in the next 10 years, from companies implementing “Industry 4.0” processes, according to Boston Consulting Group. In the UK, a proportionate rise in jobs and output could be realised but only if firms invest in the right digital technology and training.

Tom Egan, managing director of operations at a large UK-based aerospace company, will explain the Digital Engineering & Manufacturing Leadership Group’s plans for a coordinated approach to this fast-moving digital agenda at the conference. Small and medium-sized companies can extract value from digital in their businesses, says the MTC, and Tom Egan and other speakers will demonstrate how. Pump system manufacturer Hayward Tyler will present on the application of digital to a traditional engineering business. The 200-year old company has just won the Smart Factory and Leadership award at the TMMX Awards, run by The Manufacturer and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Ernst Stöckl-Pukall, industrial policy expert at the German Ministry of Economics, will explain the digital transformation of manufacturing industry in Germany, seen as a leader in the digitisation of industry. Celia Warroll, director of Production 2030 in Sweden, will explain how Sweden has responded to Germany’s Industry 4.0 initiative and how it is digitising its manufacturing sector, showing its objectives and the mechanisms it uses to do so.

As well as telling SMEs how to develop a digital manufacturing strategy, speakers from BSI, OPC Foundation and automation trade group GAMBICA, will explain how standards can accelerate the digital process and why the UK must be involved in international standards development – in spite of Brexit.

“We need to understand all the aspects that will enable this revolution to happen, for industry to realise the benefits in an accelerated way: implementation is the main driver, but standards and skills are key enablers,” says Dr Huertas.

A big range of industrial companies are involved in producing and integrating the hardware needed for 4IR. Software and programming for new industrial protocols are also needed – providing good business opportunities for British companies. “ATS Applied Tech Systems views the Digitising Manufacturing event at the MTC as an important platform for elevating the awareness and discussions around digital manufacturing, 4IR and the Industrial internet of Things,” says Martin Kelman, senior MES consultant at ATS. “The conference is an excellent opportunity for end-users within manufacturing to meet and hear from leading figures from industry, institutes and academia about the future of information and operational technology within manufacturing.”

Global companies involved in applying digital strategies to big companies are keen to help smaller firms to understand the 4IR opportunities, and risk if they do not embrace what is happening.

“What we see in the UK, Ireland and across Europe is plenty of very strong manufacturing capability, and quite a lot of digital business capability, but they are not joining up,” says Tim Precious, general manager at Hewlett Packard Enterprises. “The value proposition for manufacturers – from global companies to the 10-man job shop – is to learn how to apply digital technology at the right point in their business to capture more value.

“This need not be a root-and-branch overhaul of capex with lots of intelligent machines; it is more about digital visibility of the enterprise, such as bottlenecks, risks, supplier issues, efficiency, KPIs – what all manufacturers do daily but digital technology will speed this up,” Mr Precious adds.

The MTC urges manufacturing companies serious about learning and applying digital manufacturing technology to attend on 15 November at the MTC.

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