Looking back on Smart Factory Expo 2018

Europe’s largest digital manufacturing show celebrated the many opportunities for UK manufacturing to achieve a step-change in performance. Show director, James Smith reports on a buzzing two days in Liverpool.

Close to 5,5000 manufacturing executives can’t be wrong – Liverpool was the place to be for forward-looking manufacturers looking to harness the capabilities of, and brains behind, what is called the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’.

The UK, as Europe’s number one digital economy, is well placed to benefit from the fusion of IT and manufacturing. This is something that the government has acknowledged with both the Made Smarter review and the resulting North West Pilot (with a cool £20m in the kitty), which was officially launched at Digital Manufacturing Week.

Increased government support has gone hand-in-hand with heightened awareness among manufacturers for the digital opportunity knocking on their door – explaining the 36% growth in attendance to Digital Manufacturing Week, and the decision by all three main TV news channels BBC, SKY and ITV to cover the event.

Juergen Maier being filmed live on national TV from Smart Factory Expo 2018 - image courtesy of The Manufacturer.

Digital Manufacturing Week 2019 – of which Smart Factory Expo is a key part

Digital Manufacturing Week is a national festival of advanced manufacturing bringing together 6,000 manufacturing executives across dozens of events over four days in Liverpool.

Created by The Manufacturer, Digital Manufacturing Week is the perfect platform for forward-looking manufacturers to future-proof their business.

We’d be delighted if you can join us for the launch of Digital Manufacturing Week 2019 at an afternoon reception at the House of Lords, hosted by Lord Bilimoria, creator of the Cobra Beer brand.

18 February 2019 | 15:30 – 17:00, followed by drinks at the Red Lion, Westminster

Would you like to attend? Register your interest by emailing: events@hennikgroup.com

Bigger and better

The bigger crowds were entertained by a bigger event – with 148 exhibitors, 462 free-to-attend presentations and advice sessions run across seven stages, and a whole host of new features designed to provide a deeper, richer learning and networking experience for show visitors.

Want to network informally with subject matter experts? Pull up a deckchair in Speakers’ Corner.

Speakers’ Corner is an informal presentation-and-networking space that allows speakers and listeners to interact with one another. It featured manufacturers, entrepreneurs, Industry 4.0 advocates, and women and men who have reached the top of their profession, and now want to send the lift down for the next generation.

Smart Factory Expo 2018 - 'Manufacturing Innovation' solutions theatre, sponsored by Dassault Systémes - image courtesy of The Manufacturer. Speakers Corner was sponsored by SAP.

Speaker sessions, and streamed discussions from the Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit held next door, were shown in the solutions theatres on the Smart Factory Expo floor.

The ‘Manufacturing Innovation’ solutions theatre, sponsored by Dassault Systémes, proved especially popular with attendees, with discussions covering the important role customer feedback plays in product design, how to apply for R&D tax credits, what hyper-personalisation means for manufacturers, and much more.

Combining the two was a great success – next year, the Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit will be incorporated within the Smart Factory Expo action.

Want professional advice? Grab a free 15-minute advisory slot in the Consultants’ Clinics.

Looking for vertically focused insight into aerospace, automotive, defence or process manufacturing? Follow the relevant Visitor Trail to make the best use of your time.

Manufacturing Leaders' Summit streamed discussions at Smart Factory Expo 2018 - image courtesy of The Manufacturer. Opportunities for learning and collaboration were available throughout the Smart Factory Expo. The Institute for Manufacturing at the University of Cambridge hosted a series of workshops to help manufacturers access some of their latest thinking.

The crowds, the exhibitors and the event’s shiny new bells and whistles certainly struck a chord – with 87.5% of visitors saying that they would recommend the event to colleagues.

The Manufacturer’s editorial director, Nick Peters hosted a series of live video interviews in the ‘TM Studio’ on the
Smart Factory Expo floor. Shown below, Nick about to talk with Martin Chilcott, CEO of Manufacture 2030.

The story about Manufacture 2030’s campaign for greater resource efficiency, and the video of this interview, can be seen here.

What next?

Looking ahead to 2019, we’ll continue to expand the opportunities for purposeful conversations by (literally) knocking down the walls between Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit and the surrounding Smart Factory Expo.

By bringing the conversations onto the exhibition floor, and streaming presentations and discussions into a new video lounge, we will allow exhibition visitors to watch keynote presentations from the conference, live video interviews from The Manufacturer Studio, and the presentations from finalists in a number of competitions running during Digital Manufacturing Week.

This will be against the backdrop of continued growth of The Manufacturer Top 100 celebration of inspiring individuals in manufacturing – now in its sixth year, with an increasingly influential and active alumni network – and The Manufacturer Manufacturing Excellence (TMMX) Awards, which profiles the country’s most successful manufacturing operations and brings the curtain down on Digital Manufacturing Week in true style.

Virtual Reality practical demonstration at Smart Factory Expo 2018 - image courtesy of The Manufacturer.

Innovation Alley: making connections

Innovation Alley runs through the heart of Smart Factory Expo. It is low-cost exhibition space designed for small tech companies and start-ups to attract the eyes of larger companies with whom they could do business. Exhibiting in Innovation Alley gave three companies a fantastic opportunity to work together, as Marc Hauschild reports.

At Smart Factory Expo, the Innovation Alley was a great mix of companies offering new and interesting solutions, some of which proved to be remarkably complementary. At the end of the Alley there were three start-ups whose solutions could be seamlessly integrated to create ‘the connected worker’.

ProGlove is the first smart glove for manufacturing, allowing workers to scan hands-free. They re-engineered a handheld barcode scanner and placed it on top of a glove. By so doing, they managed to both connect the person wearing it to the company’s systems and saved four seconds on each scan.

These smart gloves can connect easily with any software system that uses barcodes, which is why Total Control Pro, ProGlove’s neighbours in the Innovation Alley, could switch from their old scanning system to this more ergonomic one in less than a minute.

Total Control Pro is a provider of cloud technology to manufacturing industries. It puts manufacturing teams in control of their manufacturing process – maximising productivity and profitability for their organisation. Through their solution, organisations can identify areas where a factory is leaking profits that most ERP system can’t see and can’t track.

Also in Innovation Alley, The Imagination Factory showcased a smart-glass product. The prototype on display at Smart Factory Expo has a holographic heads-up display that attaches to a regular pair of goggles. This system can tell workers on the factory floor what to scan using their ProGlove smart gloves, and send data to the Total Control Pro cloud solution.

Three companies creating the perfectly connected worker – a system much greater than the sum of its parts. All thanks to taking part in this year’s Innovation Alley, supported by Innovate UK


Innovation Alley will once again feature at Smart Factory Expo in Liverpool, 13-14 November 2019, Exhibition Centre Liverpool.

Would you like to exhibit? Register your interest early for Innovation Alley or a larger stand at Smart Factory Expo by emailing: sales-uk@hennikgroup.com