Automate UK: growth through automation

Posted on 2 Mar 2016 by Jonny Williamson

With innovations in robot safety and remote monitoring, through to collaborative equipment and predictive maintenance; AABTLN's flagship conference - Automate UK, provides the opportunity to hear how the world of intelligent industrial automation is evolving faster than ever before.

Intelligent automation is pushing back the boundaries of robotics, and connected factories are allowing complete transparency of product life cycles from anywhere in the world.

AABTLN logo newsletterThe automation equipment available today is capable of carrying out multiple tasks to accommodate the greater variability and smaller batch sizes demanded by the modern consumer and supply chains.

Held at the Crowne Plaza at Birmingham’s NEC, , the Automation Advisory Board Thought Leadership Network’s (AABTLN) annual conference, Automate UK, offers an insight into what technology is available to manufacturers now.

Offering a broad range of discussions delivered by the most innovative individuals and businesses in the automation space, speakers include BMW Mini’s product steering lead, Thom Bradford; Aston Martin’s maintenance group leader, Paul Crimmins; Barclay’s head of manufacturing, transport & logistics, Mike Rigby, and Lambert Engineering’s innovation manager, Mike Lewis.

Along with searching Twitter for the hashtag #AutomateUK, The Manufacturer’s Editorial team will be providing you with rolling coverage from all of the sessions, so remember to refresh your browser and allow us to keep you up to date.

Engineering keynote: Automation innovation – a look at what’s possible

Innovation manager, Lambert Engineering - Mike Lewis:
Mike Lewis, innovation manager, Lambert Engineering.

Innovation manager, Lambert Engineering – Mike Lewis:

“Lambert’s vision is to be the world’s automatic choice for providing value through innovation. We are essentially a service-provider who supplies machines.”

“Customers come to us as they want a competitive edge, through which they will grow their business.”

“How do we deliver value through innovation? We assess where value lies and identify how it could be realised. We don’t focus purely on productivity and increasing it, we look at value – that is the important factor.”

“Throughout the world, there are countries with a clear technology strategy, encompassing Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things, and that has enabled them to moving ahead of us. We need a similar strategy across UK industry to better compete on the global stage.”

“Having a structured approach allows Lambert to focus on the factors which add value, and on innovation.”

“Connected enterprise is a big part of Lamber today, how can we better leverage data to more effectively manage our systems? How can we make that information local to the machine or further afield via mobile devices, and enable our staff to use technology to augment their role and efficiency?”

“The key takeaways are; focus on realising value not productivity, develop a strong, like-minded supply chain and be as open as possible with partners – they will help you deliver your ambitions.”

“The future is exciting and we all need to embrace it if we are not to be left behind. Risk can be managed through a stage-gated approach.”

Automotive keynote: Human & robot collaboration – the factory of the future, today

Tom Bradford, product steering lead, BMW Mini.
Tom Bradford, product steering lead, BMW Mini.

Product steering lead, BMW Mini – Tom Bradford

“We have quite a lot of robot-robot collaboration in our systems at the moment, we don’t have too much human-robot collaboration at the moment.”

“The hierarchy in our shop is very clear, the human is very much in charge. The robots do what we want them to do, when we want them to do it, and stop when we want them to.”

“There were more than 250,000 industrial robots supplied in 2015 [International Federation of Robots], globally – with an estimated 12% growth over the coming four or five years.”

“Collaboration takes different forms – mandatory, optional and concurrent. A couple of examples of our collaborating robots include welding & handling, part hand over, and load sharing.”

“Why are collaborating robots used at the Mini plant in Oxford and Swindon? Predominantly; cost, space and flexibility.”

“What’s the human impact of utilising collaborating robots? The overall workforce has remained relatively static, but we now have a greatly increased maintenance capacity, a long term up-skilling programme, an in-house training facility, and an on-site ability to recalibrate with absolute accuracy.”

“Will the trend towards collaborating continue? I believe it will only increase. The advantages include space, cost and flexibility. The challenge, however, is recovery from certain situations such as a mass power outage.”

“What are the next steps for robots at BMW and Mini? We’re looking at designing for automated manufacturing, focusing on the next generations of future products. ‘Intelligent’ picking systems are another area, to help reduce container costs, alongside improvements in vision systems for quality checking, etc.. There will, of course, be software developments, and we’re evaluating the potential benefits of completely mobile robots to further increase flexibility.”

Food & Drink keynote: Turning data into positive behaviour

Gil Woodward, manufacturing manager, Accolade Wines.
Gil Woodward, manufacturing manager, Accolade Wines.

Manufacturing manager, Accolade Wines – Gil Woodward

“”Business’ continued existence is dependent on the day-to-day mobilisation of every ounce of intelligence” – that quote absolutely personifies the culture embedded within Accolade.”

“Installing our new ‘Line 3’ was a head-count neutral project implemented almost 2 weeks early and has not only narrowed the previous iteration, but reduced the length from 56m to 26m.”

“How are we going to keep making it better? I’ve brought in automation from key suppliers, who we continually work with to drive improvements; and our key philosophies are firstly, if you want people to communicate, put them in easy reach of each other, and secondly, the work and the decision-making shouldn’t be separate.”

“How do we facilitate a level of responsibility at the front line of decision making, yet balance that with the trust that the person will make the right decision, and are confident they have the right information to do so?”

“If the work is measured by OEE, output and cost per part, these are just lagging indicators of the decision making. It doesn’t offer any insight into why those decisions were made and taken.”

“Automated systems in the tankhouse and on-line diagnostics are paired with systems that are low-tech. The low-tech systems are in place to evidence the ‘thinking’ – but how can we get the team better information to help inform the decision making?”

Future-proofing UK manufacturing: Current investment in trends & future opportunities in robotic automation

Mike Rigby, head of manufacturing, transport and logistics, Barclays.
Mike Rigby, head of manufacturing, transport and logistics, Barclays.

Head of manufacturing, transport & logistics, Barclays – Mike Rigby

“Why focus on automation? The beginning of last year, the national press really started to discuss the so-called productivity puzzle, and the number of robots in the UK, coupled with Osbourne’s championing of the diversified economy and the ‘march of the makers’.”

“Our approach to this report – Future-proofing UK manufacturing – took 640 middle managers from UK industry, along with 100 from German manufacturing.”

“The findings revealed that 58% had invested in some form of automation, compared to 66% of German peers – confirming what we experience day-to-day. The more concerning statistic is 25% of UK manufacturers have not considered or invested in automation, versus 21% in Germany.”

“Is there a sweet spot where people are investing? The larger firms (turnover of £10m+) have invested in automation, those with an exclusive manufacturing running consistently.”

“Sub-sectors which have a real focus on quality such as medical and pharma, and consistency like automation and aerospace are big drivers of automation; though print & packaging and construction products are also up there.”

“The biggest driver of why companies invest in automation is the skills gap, the greatest concern they have in building a competent and growing business. This is a key risk in every region of the country, and across every sector; not only in quantity, but also quality.”

“What are the barriers to investment? The number one reason is a challenge around allocation of investment funds within the business – the competitive element of getting the investment the company is going to make into automation. The way to address this is to effectively build a return-of-investment model to demonstrate the advantages.”

“We could encourage more investment through flexibility, education and increasing awareness of automation – opportunities and advantages.”

“Overall effect for UK manufacturing of a moderate increase (from 2.5% to 12%) in investment of automation over a 10-year period is for every £1 investment, £49 is returned.”

“With the same level of investment, automation would not only mitigate further manufacturing job losses, but would actually safeguard up to 73,500 jobs across the UK, as well as helping to up-skill the workforce.”

“Investing in automation would make UK manufacturing a more resilient, competitive sector on the world stage.”

The science of manufacturing: Making OEE work as a practical business performance metric for your plant

Arthur Stone, CEO, OEE Systems.
Arthur Stone, CEO, OEE Systems. 

“OEE has been around for decades, used as a business metric to measure the effectiveness of processes/equipment by many of the world’s leading manufacturing companies.”

“OEE helps to address the gap between what is produced at the end of the day or a shift versus your stated capability. If you have a line capable of producing 20,000 widgets, but only make 18,000, what’s the reason/s for that difference and how can you address it/them.”

“The three fundamentals to delivering better OEE performance is what can we do, real time, right now – quick gains; what are your improvement projects on a longer term basis; and lock-in – how can I ensure any gains are maintained and aren’t lost.”

“There are three or four parameters that usually under the control of a shift production operator – unplanned downtime; changeover time; line speed, and wastage (yield and scrap). Managing these helps teams to drive OEE.”

“The second piece is about project delivery, the impact of delivering them, and how they help improve OEE.”

“Once the project team has delivered a process performance improvement (PPI), the challenge is to then lock-in that gain. Condition-based process control (CPC) approach solves that problem by providing a watchful eye that the PPI doesn’t deviate from capability through automated data collection and analysis.”