UK Manufacturing boosted by £300mn Government funding
The news was confirmed by Business Secretary Alok Sharma at London Tech Week on Friday (11 September).
Through the Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge, the government is set to invest £147 million to support businesses introduce new technology that accelerates their manufacturing productivity, help reach new customers and create thousands of new highly skilled jobs.
The initial £50 million of the funding will be allocated to 14 state-of-the-art manufacturing projects, involving around 30 SMBs, 29 larger businesses and nine universities, with the remaining funds due over the next five years.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “Increasing productivity is vital for any business, and having the right new technologies in place can help manufacturers make better products to compete and thrive.
“By helping manufacturers to reduce costs, cut waste, and slash the time it takes to develop their products, this multi-million pound uplift will help fire up the cylinders of productivity as we build back better from the pandemic.”
One of the successful projects - the Digital Designer Robot - aims to offer machine-to-person ‘digital assistance’. When a business requires a bespoke product, it will be able to utilise a digital robot to help design it and upload the design quickly onto a supplier’s website to allow the product to be sampled, prototyped and manufactured by the supplier.
The virtual assistant would then also provide expert advice and guidance, by asking questions to businesses, responding to feedback and offering suggestions. This reduces the time it takes to manufacture products, while cutting costs and waste due to more precise design processes.
The Manufacturing Made Smarter programmes will also help support technology SMEs through growth accelerators - partnerships between the government and the private sector where experts will work with businesses to determine ways to overcome barriers to growth. It will also create a national network of innovation hubs which allows businesses to partner and share advice to accelerate growth.
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’.