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Emerging Tech in Advanced Manufacturing

19 July 2018

As part of The Great Exhibition of the North (GEOTN) there will be a series of Emerging Tech events to discuss how emerging and developing technologies are having an impact on numerous different industries.

We had the opportunity to attend the ‘Emerging Technology in Advanced Manufacturing’ event on Thursday 12 July at the Northern Design Centre in Gateshead. The event focused on the latest advanced technology and how this can help create smarter designs but use less energy and fewer resources within the manufacturing space.

We heard from several key speakers and industry leaders into the future of advanced manufacturing.

The event had a real focus on Virtual Reality (VR) and how this is becoming a more prominent method within manufacturing to create real-life scenarios to understand products and environments better. The North East is rich with both manufacturing and technology organisations and there has never been a better time to marry the two to continue to grow and develop.

Andi Liddel from Animmersion (a supplier of digital visualisation tools) discussed how he is working with companies within the manufacturing space to simplify their processes through animation. He also explained how it is a process of taking what companies already have and enhancing them further through technology to help them grow. Andi brought up some examples of how he has worked with organisations to develop digital replicas of their products and working environments to help streamline processes, reduce costs and reduce time by allowing them to test products before they are produced.

We also heard from Professor Rab Scott from The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) who brought up a key discussion point on the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR). It is estimated that the 4IR will take place in 5-10 years’ time and that advanced technology will be at the centre of it. He explained that by using VR you can ‘gain insights’ into a business and how it works in a more detailed manner. Through advanced technology, digital platforms can understand who you are and provide an immersive experience into developing your business. Rab also expressed that we are ‘creating hybrid worlds’ by using VR and as a result people can gain a true understanding of how new products will work within their industry.

We then heard from Komatsu who is a great example of an organisation who has implemented a WorksiteVR simulator into its training. Komatsu has over 38 manufacturing sites in the UK alone. Paul Blanchard from Komatsu explained that as a result, they have incorporated simulation software for their machine operations and have created a realistic virtual training environment for their employees. This allows their onsite workers to create realistic and true plans for their projects as they will gain an insight into what methods will be the most effective. They have also incorporated this technique to engage with younger audiences and attract them into the business. This has proved to be an efficient method to save time and resource, by attracting younger audiences also it will allow the business to grow in the future with trained and expert staff.

Richard Halstead from the EEF (The Manufacturers’ Organisation) also commented on this topic. He discussed how the 4IR is currently in the early stages and will develop over the next 5-10 years. It will be a contributing factor to the improvement of productivity within the manufacturing industry due to the insight that it will provide and will help with the essential development of the industry.

The event finished with a panel discussion. A key issue raised was around Return on Investment (ROI) and how/if this can be measured when bringing technology such as VR into a business. Although the ROI from VR cannot be explicitly measured just yet, it was expressed that this is an expensive but an invaluable process to help solve challenges within an organisation and will continue to help the industry to grow and develop.

To conclude, an overarching theme from the event was around the 4th Industrial Revolution and how important VR will be to it and how this will continue to develop over the next 5-10 years. Technology will be critical within the manufacturing space to save time, resources and overall to help improve processes. It will allow organisations to plan projects effectively and truly get to understand the equipment and environments they will be working in.

To find out more about The Great Exhibition of the North you can visit their website HERE.

Read more about their Emerging Tech series HERE.

The event had a real focus on Virtual Reality (VR) and how this is becoming a more prominent method within manufacturing to create real-life scenarios to understand products and environments better. The North East is rich with both manufacturing and technology organisations and there has never been a better time to marry the two to continue to grow and develop.

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