MACH 2016: a unique showcase of manufacturing technologies

MACH 2014 (Image - Copyright Paul Thomas Photography Ltd.).
MACH 2014 (Image - Copyright Paul Thomas Photography Ltd.).

The Manufacturer catches up with James Selka – CEO of the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA), organiser of the biennial MACH exhibition.

With more than 100 years of heritage, how will MACH 2016 build upon the success of previous MACH exhibitions?

(2016) James Selka - CEO, MTA
James Selka, CEO, MTA.

We are very proud of our heritage of delivering quality exhibitions and this MACH (www.machexhibition.com) will be no different. As exhibition organisers and as a trade association, we have built our reputation upon being the first in our field.

Our job is reflect what our members do and they are at the forefront of technological development.

3D printing, the fast introduction of metal-based additive manufacturing and the rapid advent of the interconnectivity of machines is going to cause a revolution in the coming years, and this technology is on display at MACH 2016 – as are the connective technologies which surround automation of all kinds.

MACH 2016 is the only show in the UK where you can see every technology operating live all under one roof.

The conclusion of MACH 2014 saw (then) business secretary Vince Cable announce £100m to help companies strengthen domestic supply chains in an effort to increase reshoring of UK manufacturing. How well has that money been put to use?

The £100m part of the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative. AMSCI has been a real success with around 370 – mostly SME – companies supported as part of 74 projects, and nearly 12,000 jobs expected to be either safeguarded or created by it.

Although the scheme has now closed to new entrants, the projects supported by it, many of which were long-term investments, are ongoing and it continues to deliver for manufacturing supply chains.

What are you most eager to see at MACH 2016?

To register, and join the thousands of people attending the UK’s premier manufacturing technologies event this April, follow this link.

I want MACH 206 to have the ‘wow’ factor; I want to see jaws drop when visitors walk through the door and see first-hand, the continued strengthening of this UK manufacturing renaissance.

As a gauge of business confidence within the UK’s industrial sector, what does the response to MACH 2016 say about the current sentiment of this nation’s manufacturers? 

MACH is an excellent barometer for measuring the health of UK’s advanced engineering. Investment generally, as reflected in the machine tool market in the UK, has held steady at a good level since MACH 2014.

We have a waiting list to exhibit at MACH 2016, which reflects the overall increased awareness of engineering excellence in the UK.

With Industry 4.0 described equally as being both a challenge and an opportunity, what’s your view of this latest industrial revolution?

MACH 2014 (Image - Copyright Paul Thomas Photography Ltd.).
MACH 2014 (Image – Copyright Paul Thomas Photography Ltd.)

For me, the continuing modernisation of the UK supply chain should be a part of long-term government policy. This is a revolution and a once in a generation opportunity for the UK to reindustrialise.

Industry 4.0 is happening rapidly and the interconnectivity of machines is accelerating fast.

The multiplier effect of manufacturing in the UK has been often commented on but little understood. This indicates the enormous opportunity for the UK to develop the supply chain, and the only way that can happen is to invest in better technology and more highly skilled people.

Though increasingly employed as a design tool and for rapid prototyping, additive layer manufacturing remains underutilised as a manufacturing method. How do you foresee the technology moving forward?

There are production applications for metal-based additive manufacturing currently being developed, perhaps most widely in medical technology. We expect this to grow over the coming decade.

This technology will have a disruptive effect, but also a massive complementary effect. A number of companies exhibiting at MACH 2016 have developed hybrid machines which combine metal-based additive layer technologies with high precision subtractive equipment. Such machines can be utilised to minimise material waste.

International visitors are attending the exhibition from across the world – with dedicated international delegations from China and Russia already having confirmed their attendance – taking advantage of the venue’s (NEC) prime location next to Birmingham International Airport, which operates regular flights from Europe, India, the US and Australia, among others.

We are living in a world where green thinking means good business and that is another reason I feel this technology will become all the more prevalent moving forward.

What role does MACH play in overcoming the existing prejudices which surround automation, such as it only applies to certain sectors, it requires too high of an investment, and it will cost jobs?

As the premier engineering event in the UK we take our responsibility very hard to dispel that type of thinking and present the facts properly.

The cost of increasing powerful technology is dropping fast and this applies to automation too. Companies need to gain more confidence in investing in all forms of productivity enhancement.

This in turn, will lead to a highly skilled workforce of world class engineers and the multiplier effect will create further jobs within the supply chain. That’s why it is key that we invest in the reshoring of UK manufacturing and the supply chain, if we are to fully realise the potential of automation.

What is needed to ensure that automation – and investing in automation – becomes a strategic priority for UK industry, and ensures its long-term success?

MACH 2014 (Image - Copyright Paul Thomas Photography Ltd.).
MACH 2014 (Image – Copyright Paul Thomas Photography Ltd.).

We are working hard to cooperate with other engineering-based stakeholders to encourage government to make manufacturing policy that ensures investment in UK manufacturing a long-term commitment.

To that regard, what roles does the Automation Advisory Board Thought Leadership Network play?

The AABTLN is a body containing top-class people from industry and finance. We work alongside them and hope that they will be an additional catalyst to investment in technology across industry.

Automate UK – growth through automation

The Automation Advisory Board Thought Leadership Network’s annual conference, Automate UK will provide the opportunity to hear from industry experts not only making the case for automation equipment, but showcasing what is available and what it’s capable of.

By learning from the most innovative manufacturers embracing automation – including BMW Mini; Jaguar Land Rover; Aston Martin; Accolade Wines; Lambert Engineering; Philips AVENT; Brother Industries, and GKN Aerospace, Automate UK offers a unique benchmarking and learning experience to all those who attend.

With the limited free places available expected to go quickly, you’ll need to be swift to secure your place before full price tickets will be the only option available.

Find out more information here.