Global Manufacturing Festival

Posted on 8 Mar 2012

The Global Manufacturing Festival has a big ambition: to become the default, global hub for seekers of special materials-based knowledge and products – The Farnborough International Air Show of the advanced materials world.

Will Stirling finds out what’s behind the words.

A special case?

South Yorkshire’s industrial leaders adamantly believe that there is something special in their business community. But is there any substantial evidence to suggest that this is true?

A combination of circumstances have certainly created a special environment and attitude. The region has comparatively few big multinational engineering companies to provide large scale programmes and employment. Instead, the region’s manufacturers have had to survive on their wits, their appetite for work and, in many cases, their knowledge of working with steel and special materials.

It is this knowledge of materials which is the glue that connects a host of small and medium-sized businesses, larger companies, the city’s universities and institutions like the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing (AMRC).

Another contributing factor is that South Yorkshire industry is unambiguously international. The expertise here in steelwork, materials science and engineering lends itself strongly to international markets. This has taken local companies to Canada, India, Korea, the Middle East, Russia, South America and beyond, and brought experts in fields such as metallurgy into the fold of the Sheffield region.

Evidence of this is all around Sheffield. On Shepcote Lane, Finnish company Outokumpu casts and rolls high alloy stainless steel, destined for global markets. Local legend Sheffield Forgemasters is forging another record-breaking component for an offshore oil installation – perhaps for Korea or Russia – down on Brightside Lane, while Durham-Duplex on Petre Street works with its Thailand factory to supply high grade industrial blades to an increasingly discerning Asian packaging industry.

Right now, DavyMarkham is precision-machining a 100-tonne mine hoist for the Pique Andaychagua gold mine in Peru. At the AMRC with Boeing in Rotherham, University of Sheffield scientists work with tooling specialists Technicut on techniques to precision-mill titanium components destined for Rolls-Royce factories in the US, as well as for Boeing and Airbus. Next door, the Nuclear AMRC helps engineering firms nationwide gain accreditation to make nuclear-grade parts, so they are primed for when the UK’s civil nuclear bonanza finally gets the green light.

An event for its environment

Enter the Global Manufacturing Festival.

Now in its third year, the festival has a five-year plan to become a global centre of excellence for special materials engineering applications – a honeypot of materials expertise crossing all industry sectors, especially for aerospace, oil and gas and nuclear applications. “We want the festival to become the global go-to place for materials-based markets,” says Richard Wright, director of the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and co-founder of the festival. “An annual event which companies worldwide will attend to learn, to buy – and indeed sell – their products and services, where materials is the common thread.”

Business conferences can be guilty of attracting the same old faces. While welcoming British companies, the two-day festival in March aims to fulfill its global moniker by attracting foreign delegates to this regional showcase.

The show organisers say: “Several buyers and sellers from a range of countries are attending to allow delegates to network and develop business opportunities with companies in the Ukraine, China, France, Brazil, Columbia, Rwanda, India and the USA.”

Visit the Global Manufacturing Festival on March 21-22 to test whether the event lives up to its international billing.