COVID-19: VentilatorChallengeUK harnessing big manufacturers
In a recent statem...
As the UK continues to battle the impact of COVID-19, British manufacturers set goals to produce 1,500 a week and a total of 20,000.
In a recent statement made by the group’s chair - Dick Elsy - stated that harnessing the manufacturing muscle of big companies to increase the output of specialist firms had proved to be the right approach.
Those within the consortium include: Dyson, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, Ford, McLaren, GKN, Meggitt, Renishaw, Thales, Siemens and Ultra Electronics, who are providing factory floor space, logistics knowledge and engineering and production capabilities.
So far the consortium has supplied 250 ventilators to the NHS, with hundreds more to come. “It was our choice that the quickest route was to embrace those existing units,” said Elsy. “Others pursued the start-from-scratch approach and some of those projects have been turned off.”
Devices being built by the consortium include a variariation of Oxford specialist Penlon’s Prima anesthesia device, which has been modified to meet the government specifications. Meanwhile Dyson and Badcock are awaiting regulatory approval for new devices.
The Penlon machine was the first to gain regulatory approval, with efforts now focused on accelerate the opening of multiple production sites. Airbus’ facility in Broughton, North Wales alongside Ford’s Dagenham factory are assisting with the initial assembly, with McLaren making the trolleys for the devices.
The final assembly prior to testing at Penlon is being conducted by Surface Technology International in Hook Hampshire, before being delivered to the Ministry of Defence base in Donnington, Shropshire for distribution by military logistics.
In the short term, the government has also ordered up to 5,000 of Smiths’ ParaPac devices as well as 15,000 of the more heavy-duty Prima. Smith’s is also manufacturing at its Luton plant, with GKN coming on board, as well as Rolls-Royce.
“I understand that at the moment there are ventilators available but we’ve seen overnight another spike in the death rate so it’s pretty unpredictable at the moment,” commented Elsy. “We’re keeping our heads down, building to a schedule set by the Cabinet Office and if we build more than required, that’s a good thing.”
“Anything like this makes you reflect on the importance of having sovereign capability of making stuff. It will make us think quite differently about it and that should in time lead to more UK manufacturing,” concluded Elsy.
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Fluent.ai x BSH: Voice Automating the Assembly Line
Fluent.ai has deployed its voice recognition solutions in one of BSH’s German factories. BSH leads the market in producing connected appliances—its brands include Bosch, Siemens, Gaggenau, NEFF, and Thermador, and with this new partnership, the company intends to cut transition time in its assembly lines.
According to BSH, voice automation will yield 75-100% efficiency gains—but it’s the collaboration between the two companies that stands out. ‘After considering 11 companies for this partnership, we chose Fluent.ai because of their key competitive differentiators’, explained Ion Hauer, Venture Partner at BSH Startup Kitchen.
What Sets Fluent.ai Apart?
After seven years of research, the company developed a wide range of artificial intelligence (AI) software products to help original equipment manufacturers (OEM) expand their services. Three key aspects stood out to BSH, which operates across the world and in unique factory environments.
- Robust noise controls. The system can operate even in loud conditions.
- Low latency. The AI understands commands quickly and accurately.
- Multilingual support. BSH can expand the automation to any of its 50+ country operations.
How Voice Automation Works
Instead of pressing buttons, BSH factory workers will now be able to speak into a headset fitted with Fluent.ai’s voice recognition technology. After uttering a WakeWord, workers can use a command to start assembly line movement. As the technology is hands-free, workers benefit from less physical strain, which will both reduce employee fatigue and boost line production.
‘Implementing Fluent’s technology has already improved efficiencies within our factory, with initial implementation of the solution cutting down the transition time from four seconds to one and a half”, said Markus Maier, Project Lead at the BSH factory. ‘In the long run, the production time savings will be invaluable’.
Future Global Adoption
In the coming years, BSH and Fluent.ai will continue to push for artificial intelligence on factory lines, pursuing efficiency, ergonomics, and a healthy work environment. ‘We started with Fluent.ai on one factory assembly line, moved to three, and [are now] considering rolling the technology out worldwide’, said Maier.
Said Probal Lala, Fluent.ai’s CEO: ‘We are thrilled to be working with BSH, a company at the forefront of innovation. Seeing your solution out in the real world is incredibly rewarding, and we look forward to continuing and growing our collaboration’.