Knowledge is power

The Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA) will use its flagship event, MACH 2024, to launch a new initiative to help UK manufacturers become more competitive while improving efficiency and sustainability.

A series of Knowledge Hubs will feature at the event being held at the NEC, Birmingham from 15-19 April 2024, designed to encourage UK engineering-based manufacturers to adopt new technology and techniques to enable them to compete globally in a sustainable manner.

The UK’s economic growth is currently one of the slowest of the G7, characterised by low productivity, low wages and poor investment. In many cases, global competitors have not just caught up with the UK but have overtaken it in these areas.

Adoption of new technology and implementing latest techniques in manufacturing processes is one way to boost the UK’s economic output. The MTA’s Knowledge Hubs at MACH 2024 will focus on educating users in when and how to adopt new technologies such as automation and robotics, data and artificial intelligence for manufacturing, sustainable manufacturing towards Net Zero and the use of additive manufacturing techniques.

United front

The MTA is part of a united front by UK manufacturing organisations, along with the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) and MACH 2024 Headline Sponsor Lloyds Bank, to increase the uptake of technologies such as automation and robotics.

The need for this approach was brought sharply into focus following the release of new figures highlighting the UK’s lack of investment in technology and its poor adoption of robotics in industry. The figures show the UK currently languishing in 23rd place in terms of the global utilisation of industrial robots in manufacturing – lagging not just behind the economic superpowers, but also the likes of Spain and Finland.

Making the UK more automation and robotics focused is the aim of one of the Knowledge Hubs at MACH 2024. The hub, supported by the MTC, aims to educate companies on how the technology can be used to automate many processes to improve productivity.

Commenting on the initiative, James Selka DL, CEO of the MTA, which organises the MACH exhibition said: “Although industrial robot installations in the UK were up 3% last year, this was just a tenth of what is happening in Germany and also behind the likes of France, Spain and Italy.”

“Our Knowledge Hubs at MACH 2024 aim to reverse the decline and enable the UK to re-establish itself as a sovereign manufacturer. To do that we have to recognise the importance of investing in the latest technologies for improving manufacturing efficiency and optimising productivity. Our role is to help UK manufacturers focus on the new technology and provide impartial advice and wayfinding on when and how to adopt.”

“MACH is the UK’s only live, national event showcasing sustainable, innovative technologies used across the manufacturing spectrum and is the destination of choice for companies looking to adopt and invest in the digital revolution.”

Another of the MTA’s Knowledge Hubs will focus on the adoption of data and artificial intelligence (AI) in manufacturing – the latest technology designed to help manufacturing achieve agility through improved production processes while reducing costs and streamlining the supply chain.

Likewise, additive manufacturing (AM) is a technology with huge potential to revolutionise the way parts and products are designed and manufactured.

“The possibilities offered by AI, married to AM techniques, is a tantalising prospect for the industry,” added Mr Selka. “The ability of mass customisation to reshape production processes is revolutionising manufacturing as we know it. The notion of batch manufacture has been turned on its head with short-run production cycles and prototyping capable of being delivered at minimal cost and to high specification.”

Slow take-up

The MTA has been supported in its stance by the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC). The centre advocates the adoption of robotics and automation in UK manufacturing as a means to achieve higher productivity, efficiency and quality as well as aid sustainability.

Mike Wilson, chief automation officer, MTC said: “We cannot compete in global markets without addressing our very low adoption of robot solutions. Adopting automation at all levels of manufacturing in the UK is necessary for us to continue competing effectively as a global manufacturing powerhouse and countering the ongoing labour shortages.”

The MTC’s report, ‘Robotics and Automation: A New Perspective’ concludes the slow uptake of robotics among British manufacturers, and a reluctance to invest in automation has contributed to the country's limited improvements in productivity in recent years.

However, it states that automation, along with reshoring manufacturing operations, can lead to new opportunities for UK businesses.

The report says it’s not too late to turn the situation around, but the priority has to be an improvement in the rate of adoption. It calls for a renewed emphasis on the need to improve productivity through the use of automation, with manufacturers, research organisations, equipment suppliers and government working together to help businesses improve their performance through the intelligent use of automation.

The report also stresses the importance of independent advice to new users, particularly in the SME supply chain. Such advice will be available to those exhibiting and attending MACH’s co-located event, the Engineering Supply Chain Show.

Collaborative journey

The need for UK manufacturers to transition toward low-carbon, sustainable business models is a theme supported by MACH 2024 Headline Sponsor, Lloyds Bank.

In its ‘From Now to Net Zero’ report, the bank says many large corporates have ambitious Net Zero targets to meet by 2050 and as part of this it is important that larger businesses bring their SME supply chains with them on their ESG (environmental, social, and governance) journey.

Dave Atkinson, UK head of manufacturing at Lloyds Bank, said: “Making the transition to Net Zero represents a significant growth opportunity for the UK economy, particularly for the manufacturing sector. However, we must invest in technology and skills to support such an ambitious change.”

MACH 2024
www.machexhibition.com

 

 

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