The Manufacturer: Top 10 editorial contributions of 2019

Every year, The Manufacturer receives dozens of insightful and thought-provoking contributed articles. Here are the ones our audience of manufacturing decision-makers found the most useful in 2019.

Here, The Manufacturer lists our most read editorial contributions from the past 12 months– including exclusive interviews, practical advice, industry analysis and more. 

The cutting-edge factory will reportedly embody the true nature of ‘smart manufacturing’ thanks to the complex, automated interlinking of its work processes.
“In recent years, the UK has experienced a decline in productivity growth that has seen us lag behind our European peers” – Ben Carpenter Merritt

1. Getting policy makers to understand the potential of digital manufacturing

Few policy makers actually understand the potential of this new industrial revolution and the impact it will have on the economy and wider society.

Therefore, they don’t understand how policy can encourage wider adoption of these technologies by UK manufacturing.

So, can public policy be made to work more effectively for manufacturers? Yes, but only if manufacturers make their voices heard more loudly.

Ben Carpenter Merritt, manufacturing policy manager at Policy Connect, which coordinates the work of the All-Party Manufacturing Group (APMG) in the House of Commons, reports.

2. Digital Transformation: How to avoid the five common pitfalls

Global competition, shifting customer demands and a surge in digitalisation are just some of the trends changing the face of modern manufacturing.

To keep up with this change of pace, many manufacturers are now starting out on their own digital transformation journeys.

While there is no magic formula, there are some common stumbling blocks, which can be avoided. Andrew Minturn, of Bosch Rexroth, offers a roadmap.

3. Can SMEs move towards digital manufacturing without excessive cost and risk?

Digital Manufacturing on a Shoestring - image courtesy of Cambridge University, the Institute for Manufacturing.
‘Digital Manufacturing on a Shoestring’ – image courtesy of the IfM.

Is it possible for small manufacturers to capitalise on advances in technology without breaking the bank, while minimising the associated high risk and resource of heavy investment in large-scale solutions?

A team of researchers is working with SME manufacturers to explore and develop viable low-cost solutions, seeking a radical approach to address the seemingly unaffordable price of digitalisation for these companies.

Professor Duncan McFarlane, of the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), University of Cambridge, the discusses Digital Manufacturing on a Shoestring initiative and talks to project partners.

4. BMW MINI Plant Oxford: The UK’s best example of a Smart Factory

BMW’s MINI Plant Oxford Assembly won the highly prized ‘Smart Factory’ category against strong competition at The Manufacturer Manufacturing Excellence (MX) Awards 2018.

Steven Barr talked with general manager, Martin Koch and members of his team about their smart perspective on sustaining a celebrated British classic.

Top tips to boost manufacturing efficiency - Cimlogic
“The technology at the minute is centred around creating a ‘digital thread’ from the beginning until the end of production”

5. How technology is transforming food and beverage manufacturers

The food and beverage industry needs reliable and consistent automation to plug leaks that threaten the supply chain.

Whether this means predicting conveyor belt collisions, tweaking temperatures or personalising products, it requires smart technology to make production more productive, efficient and agile.

Keith Thornhill, Head of Food and Beverage at Siemens, discusses the future impact of technology on the industry.

6. How electronics giant RS Components thrives in the digital world

RS Components is the world’s largest distributor of electronic, electrical and industrial components.

Its president of EMEA, Mike England, explains how he turns theory into practice and inspires digital transformation on a truly global scale.

7. Can sustainability and improved profit go hand-in-hand?

Factories are responsible for approximately 36% of greenhouse gas emissions globally

Moving towards improved sustainability could seem daunting for manufacturers. What should be prioritised? Will it be a distraction? Will it use up precious resources? Is it even affordable?

Professor Steve Evans, director of research at the Centre for Industrial Sustainability, University of Cambridge, shares his insights on how resource efficiency can be good for profit margins and the environment.

8. Haretoise: The answer for when industrial and digital cultures collide

A haretoise represents both digital natives AND digital migrants - image courtesy of GE Digital.
A haretoise represents both digital natives AND digital migrants – image courtesy of GE Digital.

You can draw parallels between the pace of technological change and the fable of the tortoise and the hare –software is the fast-moving hare, and hardware is the slow and steady tortoise.

It’s not always clear which is going to cross the line first, so maybe we need to consider a hybrid –  a ‘haretoise’.

GE Digital’s Deborah Sherry considers the merits and challenges of each.

9. Weight for it! Here come the electric planes

After decades of fossil fuel-powered jets, advances in materials, battery chemistry, and electrical systems are opening up the possibility of cleaner, greener, cheaper commercial flight.

But electrification requires plane makers to innovate, invest, work hard, and win the weight race. A recent Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre event discussed the pressing issues.

10. The price of plastic: Taking control of raw material costs

Plastic is widely used in all sorts of products – whether that’s low-density formulations used for packaging or high-density plastic used for products like piping and plastic lumber.

The price of plastics is volatile – not only because it depends heavily on the price of oil, but also because it’s affected by other market conditions.

For manufacturers using plastics, this can be a bottom-line headache; but, as Callum Macpherson, head of commodities at Investec explains, ways to hedge against price fluctuation are emerging.