Editor’s comment for December 2018

Untitled design (36)
Untitled design (36)

I made my annual pilgrimage to Advanced Engineering 2018 at the beginning of November and amidst all the high-tech materials, latest manufacturing advances and cutting-edge engineering, I was struck by the proliferation of electric powered vehicles and other forms of transport on display.

Ed Hill

A far cry from sluggish old milk floats and rickety fork lift trucks, these new vehicles included a lightweight off-road trials bike, jet ski inspired water taxi and a classic British Leyland mini retrofitted with an electric power source with similar performance to the petrol-powered car and capable of 100-mile range.

So along with the aerospace sector’s increasing research into viable electric power sources and the wider use of electric forms of control for flight, it made me realise that the electric transport revolution is really just around the corner.

As well as being a radical change for consumers, these power sources are going to have a massive impact on the supply chain. The whole nature of materials, components and tools required to make them is going to change and it’s important that manufacturers are ready for this transformation when it comes.

It demonstrates to me how important it is that UK manufacturers, particularly OEMs, are not just aware of these trends but also leading them. Look at how JLR’s recent sales slump appears to be partly because of its over reliance and devotion to diesel.

Along with other disruptive technologies that are rapidly growing in momentum, such as additive manufacturing, Industry 4.0, artificial intelligence, robotics and other forms of automation, manufacturing has a lot of big changes on the horizon.

Unfortunately, with all the din and hullabaloo surrounding the fall out from Brexit it could be very easy for UK manufacturers to lose sight of the bigger picture, fail to invest in the right technologies and back the right winners in a global market.

The Government has stated that it wants to promote and support UK companies so our industry can become world leaders in electric vehicle research, development and production. I just hope they are true to their word.

Take the example of computers and internet – will we be able to create a Silicon Valley style innovation cluster here in the UK? Can we foster UK equivalents of Apple and Google for electric transport and, perhaps most importantly, can we bring volume production of that technology back to the UK’s shores so our own economy and workforce can really capitalise on this innovation? Let’s hope our own business leaders are setting the right example – someone like Sir James Dyson!

Ed Hill Deputy Editor

Company

PES Media

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