Factorytalk Opens First UK-based Smart Factory
recently announced its arrival in the United Kingdom, with the opening of its Warrington-based office. From their new office, located at Sci-Tech Daresbury, the company is looking to work with UK businesses who are considering introducing digital technology to improve their processes. The company’s ‘industry 4.0’ and ‘pharma 4.0’ manufacturing software is designed to increase factory productivity, reduce costs, cust waste, and significantly reduce the time it takes to develop new products.
Data is collected from operators and smart sensors across the manufacturing space, then artificial intelligence organises, error-proofs, and analyses it for quality issues in real-time, to support continuous improvements across business processes.
Neil Wetherall said: “Our decision to open a base at the Sci-Tech Daresbury campus reflects the wealth of opportunities it provides for both academic and industrial partnerships.” As an aside, Sci-Tech is also known for its international reputation as a centre for science, innovation, and enterprise, making it a no-brainer for an up-and-coming software provider.
“The campus is internationally-recognised for its broad talent pool and as a central hub for tech support programmes. It is a natural home for a software company like us looking to scale-up. Paired with a convenient location in the Liverpool City Region and strong transport links to the other key destinations, our new office will provide us with excellent and direct access to the UK market.”
To begin, Factorytalk will offer manufacturing digitalisation programmes for UK pharmaceutical manufacturers ─ most of which are also based in the North West. Strategically placed offices, you might say. As well as working with ‘big pharma’, Factorytalk is looking to work with smaller businesses who could also benefit from its software.
The company’s newly-hired UK MD, Neil Wetherall, said: “It’s great to be setting up Factorytalk in the UK. We already support companies here, and I look forward to building both the UK customer and our global services, with the UK office as a strategic hub to support local and international customers in Europe and America easier and more effectively.”
The firm is backed by the Liverpool City Region ‘Soft Start’ programme which helps companies investing in the UK and is continuing to receive support from the to help grow its UK operations, including exports.
The firm’s future plans include a potential investment in the in Liverpool through the Digital Manufacturing Accelerator and the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre. All-in-all, I recommend that you keep an eye on Factorytalk’s development in the United Kingdom; it could prove to be a game-changer for our manufacturing industry, and the driving force between a new wave of digitally-advanced Asian, or Southeast Asian, software providers migrating to the nation.
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.