Digital under the spotlight at regional event

Digital under the spotlight at regional event

Published: May 2nd, 2024

The vital importance of manufacturing businesses adopting digital technology was underlined at a major Midlands business event.

Nearly 230 people booked tickets for the Digital Technology: The Future of AME Supply Chains event in Wolverhampton.

Keynote speaker Brian Holliday, the managing director of Siemens Digital Industries, co-chair of the Made Smarter Commission, and board member of Make UK, told the audience that the UK’s manufacturing industry ranks eighth globally by the value of output after overtaking France last year.

He said: “UK manufacturing is extremely important to our economy. Digital tools and platforms are increasingly underpinning modern manufacturing, meaning real-world processes are tested and optimised using technology in a way that makes businesses more sustainable, productive and effective.

“In the future, manufacturers will benefit from immersive, real-time simulations in the industrial metaverse, but today can already use simulation software and augmented reality to improve products and industrial processes. Using in-plant technology like automation and data analytics, can increase and improve production whilst reducing costly downtime through data to predict machine failures.

“When we talk about incorporating Artificial Intelligence, Virtual and Augmented Reality, and cloud computing, manufacturers should be excited rather than scared.

“As an example, the Digital Twin of a product could help reduce material use by up to 50 per cent whilst reducing the energy needed to manufacture things by up to 40 per cent. But survey data from Made Smarter suggest that most manufacturers don’t have a digital technology strategy and are not sure where to start.

“That is where programmes like Made Smarter are vital. We want to make using new technology easy for every Small and Medium (SME) sized manufacturer in the UK and for Made Smarter to be the first place business owners and senior management teams think of when they need simple, clear advice on modern manufacturing.”

Brian was followed on stage by Dr Mark Swift, director of SME engagement at WMG, University of Warwick, who dispelled myths around digital manufacturing, and Will Kinghorn, the technology adoption specialist at Made Smarter UK, who discussed automation for SME manufacturers.

Mark Sage, executive director of the Augmented Reality for Enterprise Alliance, spoke about how Augmented Reality can help companies become more efficient and effective, and Rowan Crozier MBE, CEO of Birmingham-based metal stamping and tool specialist Brandauer, took the audience on its digital journey over the last decade.

The event, which was hosted by Rachel Eade MBE, also included presentations from Angus Brummit-Brown, senior project manager at Coventry Very Light Rail, and Neil Fulton, CEO at the Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation.

This was followed by a panel session involving Sarah Windrum, future mobility cluster lead at HORIBA MIRA; Chris Corkan, region director – Midlands at Make UK; Paul Edwards, head of economic development and delivery at the West Midlands Combined Authority; Dr Richard Fallon, CEO at The Technology Supply Chain; and Jit Gatcha, digital transformation dpecialist for the Black Country at Made Smarter West Midlands which focused on the West Midlands’ manufacturing future.

Throughout the day there was a packed Meet the Buyer section involving Hitachi Rail, the Midland Metro Alliance and Coventry Very Light Rail to find out about the supply chain opportunities available throughout the Midlands.

Coventry and Warwickshire Growth Hub leads the Made Smarter West Midlands scheme alongside the Growth Hubs in Worcestershire, the Marches, and Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire, on behalf of Business Growth West Midlands, the WMCA and the Department for Business and Trade.

Made Smarter West Midlands helps SMEs in the manufacturing and engineering sectors to access match-funded grants along with experts from WMG, at the University of Warwick, and the MTC to introduce digital technology.

Craig Humphrey, chief executive at Coventry and Warwickshire Growth Hub, added: “There are key skills challenges including digital skills for manufacturers and that is where Made Smarter West Midlands can make a difference.

“Research shows that 84 per cent of businesses involved with Made Smarter West Midlands who have adopted technology have increased their productivity and 60 per cent have been able to engage in digital supply chains.

“We want new technology to be used by SMEs, whether that’s a data system or a robot, and our experts at Made Smarter can help businesses have the confidence to take that first step.”

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