SUBCON 2017: UK Manufacturing Must Ride A New Wave

The Future of UK Manufacturing
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Surfers call it the takeoff zone.  

The area just beyond where the waves break, where you’ll always see a line up of surfers patiently waiting for the next big wave to come rolling in. Unfortunately for UK manufacturing, we have sat paddling in the takeoff zone for too long now. While other countries have ridden the crest of the wave and embraced new technologies and manufacturing trends, many UK manufacturers have remained outside the breakers, watching the waves roll past and paddling too little too late. 

It’s a scenario that has seen our manufacturing efficiency rates drop in the last 15-20 years. Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show we are 24 percentage points behind Germany and 18 behind France in our output per hour rates.  

Companies including Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan and Toyota have continued to invest time and money in state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and business improvement software to achieve Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) rates of 70-90%. However, smaller UK plants have not and consequently are languishing behind with unmonitored machines achieving just 30% or lower of their optimal output. 

Fortunately, two almighty tidal waves are coming and UK manufacturers can still catch and ride the wave of change. One is Brexit and the other is maximising production on the shop-floor with Industry 4.0 solutions with a Performance Improvement Management (PIM) system. 

• UK Manufacturing and Brexit
Dean Flaherty, manufacturing engineering consultant at NT CADCAM, says the Brexit vote has changed everything. “When the UK leaves the EU, we will lose the ability to have many cheap, imported goods and we will need to start doing our own thing again. But to compete, we need to become more efficient. 

“Brexit has steered us towards a fundamental change in how we trade with the rest of the world, and if we do not improve the way we manufacture we are in big trouble,” he says. “I go into shop-floors now and they are doing things in exactly the same way as I was taught 20-years-ago on a small shop-floor in Birmingham. 

“During the recession, a lot of traditional manufacturing businesses didn’t have the money to pump into shop-floor improvements. If a company has only got 10 machines, often it can be difficult to justify the costs of investing in a Six Sigma or Lean Manufacturing expert. But, by not keeping up with the latest trends, the UK’s efficiency rates have fallen and with Brexit we cannot afford to keep treading water.”

• Maximising production with Industry 4.0
While Performance Improvement Management software is not a new concept, its application on the shop-floor has been a long time coming. Up until now, engineers either monitored efficiency output rates by paper or via expensive ERP driven solutions. Now, by combining Industry 4.0 technology with Big Data analytics, investing in a PIM solution is a cost-effective reality. By capturing production machines’ activity in real time, state-of-the-art algorithms can now learn, analyse and present the collected data to highlight what is causing the machines to be idle. 

“Simply by implementing this software on machines, we are seeing customers’ OEE rates improve by 10-20% straight off,” says Dean. “Then, when we start implanting root cause analysis, the room for improvement is massive and we are seeing improved OEE levels of 60-90 per cent. Supervisors and improvement engineers can monitor productivity and analyse the trouble spots, such as making sure there are enough raw materials available or that maintenance issues are dealt with faster.

“It’s the same workplace, same operation, same machine but because it is now being monitored in real time, it can be managed better.”

PIM solutions are currently being used in Israeli manufacturing. 10 global aerospace and tooling manufacturers have implemented the software and seen their OEE rates increase dramatically. By embracing new Industry 4.0 technologies such as PIM, the country now has more Nasdaq-listed companies than any other country, after the US and China, and PIM solutions has been signed up to the Microsoft Accelerator programme in Tel Aviv. 

Dean who will be showcasing our PIM software at SUBCON 2017 on 6-8 June, adds, “PIM solutions are so relevant to UK manufacturing right now. The UK is embarking on historic change with Brexit at a time when global manufacturing is also embracing change. Germany started adopting Industry 4.0 technologies in 2011 when it launched its High-Tech Strategy 2020 action plan and now they are 24 per cent more efficient than us. We have to move with the times, we have to embrace new technologies and only by changing the way we manufacture, will we be able to rule the waves again.”  

Come and say hello to Dean and the NT CADCAM team at SUBCON 2017, 6-8 June, Stand D52, Birmingham NEC. 

Further reading
How Industry 4.0 is affecting Manufacturing

Want to make your machines more efficient? Discover NT CADCAM’s PIM software solution from Visual Factories.
Ro Pimlott - author


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My role as Content Marketing Executive within NT CADCAM is to manage all digital content across our social media channels, email communications and the website.