Technology Knowledge Hubs to address gaps in UK Manufacturing

The Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA) has unveiled a decisive initiative for the MACH 2024 trade show. Called Technology Knowledge Hubs, they aim to propel the UK manufacturing sector into a new era of competitiveness and sustainability.

This comes at a time when the UK’s economic growth lags G7 counterparts, plagued by low productivity and lacklustre investment. However, within this challenge lies a significant opportunity for growth and transformation.

The MTA’s flagship event, held at the NEC, Birmingham from April 15-19, 2024, is set to be a decisive change. It will feature a series of ‘Technology Knowledge Hubs’ designed to guide UK engineering-based manufacturers in adopting innovative technologies and techniques. This is vital for enabling UK manufacturers to compete both globally and in a sustainable manner.

The UK currently ranks a disappointing 23rd in global adoption of industrial robots, trailing behind countries like Spain and Finland. This stark reality underscores the urgent need for a shift in mindset and practice from both industry and the Government.

Technology Knowledge Hubs

The MTA is gearing the Technology Knowledge Hubs towards addressing this gap, focusing on automation and robotics, data, and AI in manufacturing. Moreover, this includes sustainable practices towards ‘net zero’, and the burgeoning field of additive manufacturing (AM).

James Selka, CEO of the MTA, highlights the pressing need for this initiative. While there has been a slight increase in industrial robot installations in the UK, it pales in comparison to the advancements seen in countries like Germany, France, Spain, and Italy.

MACH 2024 is ready to reverse this trend and re-establish the UK as a leading manufacturer. It aims to emphasising investment in the latest technologies to enhance manufacturing efficiency and productivity.

One of the standout Knowledge Hubs at MACH2024, supported by the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), focuses on automation and robotics. This hub aims to demonstrate how technology can automate processes to significantly boost productivity. Mike Wilson, MTC’s chief automation officer, stresses the necessity of adopting automation at all levels of manufacturing in the UK. Without this it is impossible to maintain global competitiveness and counter labour shortages.

The MTA, together with the MTC and Lloyds Bank, form a united front advocating for increased technology uptake. Lloyds Bank, through its ‘From Now to Net Zero’ report, underscores the importance of transitioning towards low-carbon, sustainable business models. Transitioning to ‘net zero’ is not just an environmental imperative but a significant growth opportunity.

Another Knowledge Hub focuses on the integration of Data and AI in Manufacturing. This latest technology aims to enhance agility in production processes, reduce costs, and streamline the supply chain. Furthermore, AM technology holds the potential to revolutionise design and manufacturing. It offers a tantalising prospect for the industry with its ability to reshape production processes through mass customisation.

Robotics and Automation: A New Perspective

The MTC’s report, ‘Robotics and Automation: A New Perspective’, highlights the slow uptake of robotics among British manufacturers as a contributing factor to limited productivity improvements. However, it also states that it is not too late to turn things around. It needs a concerted effort among manufacturers, research organisations, equipment suppliers, educators, and the government to improve performance through intelligent automation.

This comprehensive approach underscores a fundamental truth: the path to reinvigorating the UK’s manufacturing sector lies in embracing and investing in innovative technologies. The time to act is now. MACH 2024 could well be the catalyst for this much-needed transformation in UK manufacturing.

Finally, the MTA’s initiative also stresses the importance of independent advice, especially for SMEs in the supply chain. This is available at MACH’s co-located event, the Engineering Supply Chain Show.



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