Get yourself connected
Back in the 1990s the Stereo MCs sang ‘Get yourself connected’. Fast forward to 2017 and these lyrics are now common parlance in the advanced engineering sector as the move towards ‘connected manufacturing’ gains ground. Now, with a new zone dedicated to connected manufacturing, we talk to the Advanced Engineering Show’s mastermind, Easyfairs industrial divisional director Alison Willis, about the importance of getting connected.
There’s a new zone in town at this year’s Advanced Engineering Show which takes place at the NEC in Birmingham between 1-2 November. Designed to increase both the understanding of, and investment in Industry 4.0, the show’s new Connected Manufacturing zone forms part of the UK’s only trade exhibition and conference reaching out to the entire advanced engineering supply chain from automotive, aerospace, rail, marine, civil and motorsport to healthcare, oil and gas, and other process industries.
Of course, this year’s show still includes the ever-popular co-located zones of Aero Engineering, Composites Engineering, Automotive Engineering, Performance Metals Engineering – but what drove Easyfairs’ decision to dedicate an entire zone to Connected Manufacturing? Alison Willis, Easyfairs industrial divisional director, explains: “Industry 4.0 is one of the most exciting technological upheavals of recent years. An increasing number of our visitors are eager to understand and connect the technologies and information so vital for their global competitiveness.
“So, we know there’s a huge appetite for us to take the lead with this issue and help the UK be at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution. Having this new zone sitting right at the heart of the show – among some 700 exhibitors and thousands of visitors – will ensure we connect all those who need to be talking to, learning from and doing business with each other in the Industry 4.0 era.” Indeed, now more than ever, industrial production is a key driver for innovation, productivity, growth and job creation as the UK moves more towards a high value manufacturing economy encompassing robotics, automation, additive printing, and the Internet of Things.
That the Advanced Engineering show should have dedicated a new area to Connected Manufacturing seems only logical as the UK embarks on what has become known as the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0 where disruptive technologies connect information technology and operational technology.
Figures published by Hennik Research’s Annual Manufacturing Report (AMR) 2017 reinforce the show’s decision. Two-thirds of the report’s respondents stated they were aware of ‘Industry 4.0’. 23% were already undertaking a move to Industry 4.0, with 62% planning to do so. Two-thirds had made investments in automation in the past 12 months, and significant numbers professed an understanding of servitisation.
Human-machine inter-facing, used by 68% of respondents, was the most widespread application for factory connectivity. Whilst 64% connect to sensors and 68% connect to alarms so they can respond faster to out-of-nominal conditions. And 52% of respondents
reported connectivity to programmable logic controllers, with 32% reporting connectivity to motors and actuators and 28% to robotics.
Alison says her discussions with the show’s visitors and exhibitors echoes the report’s findings. “Connected Manufacturing is the future and it will catalyse the business and technology opportunities that exist between innovators, customers and suppliers. It will change the way manufacturers do business massively boosting productivity, increasing flexibility and product customisation, achieving localised manufacturing and shortened lead times. It has been identified as a critical driver of UK manufacturing growth and an area which companies must invest in if the UK is to develop its competitive edge.”
With just over four months to go until the Advanced Engineering Show opens, the Connected Manufacturing zone is already 70% full so clearly there is an appetite amongst UK manufacturers to be part of the new show zone. “So far, 600+ exhibitors have already signed up for the show. Of those, almost a quarter are new exhibitors,” says Alison. “There is some floor space left for exhibitors, but it’s reducing every day.”
In addition to leading suppliers showcasing the latest wave of developments and solutions, Connected Manufacturing conference will present the latest Industry 4.0 case studies, opportunities and technologies. These will be delivered by technology, IT, software and data experts, industry associations, consultancies, and companies already successfully gaining the competitive edge from connecting vital new technologies like: AR/VR; 3D printing; Big Data; Cloud Computing; Robotics and more.
Now in its ninth year, Advanced Engineering is the UK’s largest annual gathering of advanced engineering professionals. Each year the show has consistently delivered record breaking visitor numbers, connecting the entire UK’s advanced engineering supply chain with R&D, design, test, production and procurement from large and small companies, through to top tier industry players in a two-day free-to- attend exhibition and high level conference.
Last year saw over 700 supply chain partners and a 2-day attendance of more than 13,000 engineers, procurement managers and senior decision makers from OEMs and higher tier companies all looking to source, specify and invest in the most up-to-date products and explore the latest industry innovations.