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    NAA Event Review: Are NAA members ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution? 20 September 2017, AMRC, Sheffield

    One of the key benefits of being an NAA member is the opportunity to attend a variety of events, and the recent visit to AMRC in Sheffield proved to be one of the most interesting yet…

    NAA members are typically very busy with their day-to-day businesses, which means that they can miss out on being aware of important developments that are happening in the wider industry.

    The recent visit to AMRC in Sheffield was an excellent opportunity to step out of the office for a day and learn about what the ‘Factory of the Future’ can offer, as well as finding out about the benefits of Industry 4.0.

    Chris Greaves (the subject of last month’s NAA ‘In the Driving Seat’ feature) gave a presentation about The University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). Chris explained that AMRC was established in 2001 on the old Sheffield airport site. It was identified that work carried out in universities was never actually getting out of the universities, so the AMRC – with Boeing as a funding partner – was set up with the aim of changing this. The AMRC now has 110 partners.

    The AMRC is a core part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, an alliance of seven leading manufacturing research centres backed by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

    Although the AMRC has a strong history with aerospace, McLaren has recently announced that it is setting up manufacturing at the site for its carbon fibre tubs.

    The AMRC Factory 2050 is the UK’s first state of the art factory, entirely dedicated to conducting collaborative research into reconfigurable digitally assisted assembly, component manufacturing and machining technologies, and is capable of rapidly switching production between different high-value components and one-off parts.

    NAA members were given a tour of the AMRC Factory 2050 to see first-hand some of the projects being carried out in a range of areas including robotics and automation.

    The AMRC is currently looking at setting up an operation in the North West.

    Industry 4.0: “Digitalisation changes everything”

    The event also included a presentation by Alan Norbury from Siemens about Industry 4.0. Alan described how the first Industrial Revolution took place in Britain in the 1800s, with the second one in the 1870s (giving the example of the manufacturing of the Ford Model T), the third in 1969 with IT, and the fourth in 2010 with digitalisation.

    Alan said that “digitalisation is transforming business models everywhere”. In terms of manufacturing, the ‘digital twin’ concept means that a new automotive factory can first be set up virtually to fine tune it operationally, to avoid mistakes being made at the physical stage.

    Once the factory is built, components on the production line can be connected via the cloud by the incorporation of RFID tags, “so the raw material can tell the machines what to do to it.”

    Digitalisation and the Internet of Things is generating a huge amount of data, and Siemens is playing a key role in harnessing such data.

    So how does an NAA member company start on the road to Industry 4.0? The first stage is that communication is needed from machines, then from the shop floor to offices, and then into the supply chain. With digitalisation, factories can be created that are flexible.

    Siemens has a facility in Congleton in Cheshire, and an NAA visit is planned for early in 2018, so watch out for more details in forthcoming newsletters.

    The NAA has recently launched a new ‘Automotive Business Opportunities’ service which provides support to member companies to embrace new areas that can provide competitive advantage, ranging from digitalisation to connected, autonomous and electric vehicles. Find out more at:

    European Regional Development Fund Northern Powerhouse
    Partners Department for Business Innovation and Skills Finance Birmingham