ATI provides £975,000 in funds for smart factory technology
Latest announcements from the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and LISI Aerospace (BAI UK) detail that the two organisations have received £975,000 in funding from the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI).
“The investment shows that BAI UK are committed to advancing the fastener industry with a unique and impactful approach; the award of ATI funding adds credibility to that ethos,” commented Mark Capell, General Manager of BAI UK.
Unlocking productivity gains, new markets and reducing waste
Funding received from the ATI will be used to unlock productivity gains, new markets and reduce waste in the fastener industry by integrating industry 4.0 technologies.
Harnessed for high-precision aerospace fasteners, the pilot production line at BAI UK’s Rugby facility aims to pioneer the use of machine learning, data analytics, indirect fault detection, and other cutting-edge digital technologies to define the ‘smart factory’.
BAI UK is a part of LISI Aerospace, third largest supplier of aerospace fasteners in the world. The company is searching for proactive ways they can lead the industry through innovation while faced with international competition, tighter margins and an ageing workforce.
“The project goes far beyond the technology, it serves as an investment in the remarkable manufacturers in the UK, the fantastic workers we employ, and does so in a more environmentally sensitive way. The project will reduce wastage and operator interaction; ultimately aiming to provide an all-round better manufacturing process,” added Capell.
AMRC’s role in the project
“This project shows the value of Industry 4.0 to all levels of the UK supply chain and has the potential to break down barriers to technology adoption which can push UK manufacturing into a new era. Implementing these technologies is also a chance to reduce environmental impact by reducing waste and providing the data for LISI to understand where they are wasting energy and where they can get better life out of tooling and consumables in a more sustainable way,” concluded Gavin Hill, Project Manager at Factory 2050.
Both BAI UK and AMRC will work closely with machine builders and tooling providers during the 27 month programme to streamline the technology introduction process. The two will also investigate how these technologies can provide value to aerospace as well as the wider manufacturing world.
Gartner: Leaders Lack Skilled Smart Manufacturing Workers
With organisations rapidly adopting industry 4.0 capabilities to increase productivity, efficiency, transparency, and quality as well as reduce cost, manufacturers “are under pressure to bring their workforce into the 21st century,” says Gartner.
While more connected factory workers are leveraging digital tools and data management techniques to improve decision accuracy, increase knowledge and lessen variability, 57% of manufacturing leaders feel that their organisations lack the skilled workers needed to support their smart manufacturing digitalisation plans.
“Our survey revealed that manufacturers are currently going through a difficult phase in their digitisation journey toward smart manufacturing,” said Simon Jacobson, Vice President analyst, Gartner Supply Chain practice.
“They accept that changing from a break-fix mentality and culture to a data-driven workforce is a must. However, intuition, efficiency and engagement cannot be sacrificed. New workers might be tech-savvy but lack access to best practices and know-how — and tenured workers might have the knowledge, but not the digital skills. A truly connected factory worker in a smart manufacturing environment needs both.”
Surveying 439 respondents from North America, Western Europe and APAC, Gartner found that “organisational complexity, integration and process reengineering are the most prevalent challenges for executing smart manufacturing initiatives.” Combined they represent “the largest change management obstacle [for manufacturers],” adds Gartner.
“It’s interesting to see that leadership commitment is frequently cited as not being a challenge. Across all respondents, 83% agree that their leadership understands and accepts the need to invest in smart manufacturing. However, it does not reflect whether or not the majority of leaders understand the magnitude of change in front of them – regarding technology, as well as talent,” added Jacobson.
Technology and People
While the value and opportunities smart manufacturing can provide an organisation is being recognised, introducing technology alone isn’t enough. Gartner emphasises the importance of evolving factory workers alongside the technology, ensuring that they are on board in order for the change to be successful.
“The most immediate action is for organisations to realize that this is more than digitisation. It requires synchronising activities for capability building, capability enablement and empowering people. Taking a ‘how to improve a day in the life’ approach will increase engagement, continuous learning and ultimately foster a pull-based approach that will attract tenured workers. They are the best points of contact to identify the best starting points for automation and the required data and digital tools for better decision-making,” said Jacobson.
Long term, “it is important to establish a data-driven culture in manufacturing operations that is rooted in governance and training - without stifling employee creativity and ingenuity,” concluded Gartner.