Being force choked by Darth Vader in the name of manufacturing journalism

Posted on 25 Jul 2023 by James Devonshire

The Manufacturer's James Devonshire recalls how he was force choked by a man dressed as Darth Vader at Manufacturing and Engineering Week 2023. But how did the situation arise? And why was their even a Sith Lord impersonator at a manufacturing expo anyway?

At this year’s Manufacturing and Engineering Week (M&E Week) in June, Tom St John and I were roving the show floor looking for people to interview. We’d had a few knockbacks from people on stands, with explanations including, “Dave who usually does the interviews is on his lunch” and “We’re not really allowed to talk to people without Shirley’s approval” (names have been changed to protect identities, not because it was two months ago now and I’ve forgotten them).

Feeling rather deflated, we decided to head for Made Smarter Innovation Alley and that’s when I saw him: a guy dressed as Darth Vader (minus the signature helmet). He was on his phone, taking a break from being a Sith Lord for a moment. But that didn’t stop me bowling over and asking him to force choke me in the name of journalism. Best of all was the pretend Darth Vader was more than willing to oblige.

But why was imitation Darth even at a manufacturing expo? Glenn Shoosmith, co-founder and CEO of Prove Anything, and the person responsible for Lord Vader being at the NEC, explained.

“Prove Anything is a platform for creating proof and provenance. We create digital product passports (similar to digital twins) that connect digital versions of physical products so that their history, including servicing, can be owned and tracked,” Glenn told us.

Being a software solution, Prove Anything needed a way to catch people’s attention on the M&E Week show floor. And what better way to do that than have Darth Vader on your stand. But Lord Vader’s presence was more than just a gimmick. As Star Wars fans will know, the original Death Star met its ultimate demise as a result of a major design and manufacturing fault. The glaring oversight allowed Luke Skywalker to blow the enormous battle station up with a couple of well-placed missiles into an exposed thermal exhaust port.

“We decided to record people on the blockchain helping to make a new Death Star. If something were to go wrong in the future, we’ll be able to immutably prove who manufactured what part and if that part was at fault,” Glenn added.

So, while Prove Anything’s solution may not actually have prevented the Rebel Alliance from destroying the original Death Star, it would have at least enabled Darth to find out who was responsible and give them some extra training (*coughs* yeah right).

While this article is designed to be light-hearted, it does highlight the kinds of amazing technological advancements manufacturing organisations can potentially take advantage of to improve their operations. If only blockchain tech had been available a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

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