Smart Factory Expo 2021 – Day 2 Round-up

Cyber security is increasingly key to the resilience of businesses across all sectors of the economy. As manufacturers become ever more connected in order to take advantage of the significant benefits of digitalisation, they also need to be aware of the importance of implementing effective cyber security mitigations to protect their networks from harm.

Aptly, day two of the Smart Factory Expo saw a cyber security spokesperson outline the cyber threat landscape facing manufacturers and crucially, the measures manufacturers can take to boost their cyber resilience.

Cyber security, and in particular, mitigating potential attack vectors, is just one challenge faced by manufacturers in the current climate. Other factors such as Brexit and COVID-19 have contributed to disruption within supply chains and logistics, restricted market access, and caused shortages of skilled labour.

Therefore, maintaining manufacturing resilience has never been as important as it is today. Over in the Digital Transformation Solutions Theatre, Paul Calver, CFO, The Data Analysis Bereau took a closer look at the lesson learnt from COVID and the top priorities for manufactures as they build back.

He also discussed how the digital toolbox can play a key role in improving manufacturing resilience and in particular, how AI and ML can be implemented at scale – inside and outside of the factory. For many organisations the concept of digital transformation can be a daunting one, and as such, Paul outlined the all-important first steps along this journey.

Digital Twins at Smart Factory Expo 2021

A concept often mentioned hand-in-hand with digitisation is of course the digital twin – a virtual counterpart of a physical object or process. However, its definition is often inconsistent. While most agree the purpose of a digital twin is to improve operational efficiency, provide real-time insights, and enable intelligent decision-making, very few have made significant strides in using a digital twin to address these opportunities.

As Petteri Vainikka, VP of Product Marketing, Cognite explained in his presentation on the anatomy of a digital twin, in order to realise this value, we must first take a step back and approach the digital twin as a composition of technology layers.

Only when the digital twin is thought of as a technology stack can we understand the core capabilities required to generate value for organisations. In this session, Petteri identified the criteria required for a digital twin to address high priority use cases for an organisation, while also having the industrial foundation for the twin to grow across data sources, data types, and use cases.

For a long time, sustainability was viewed as a nice-to-have, rather than being a business imperative. This is no longer the case however, and the green agenda has moved front and centre within the boardroom and is a key driver of business strategy. However, what role can data and AI play in driving greater sustainability? Data Scientist Steph Locke, of Nightingale HQ, shared her insights into how to unlock the power of AI and how existing and affordable tools have a part to play in driving sustainable manufacturing.

She offered some practical examples of how this is happening across the factory floor and the back office, highlighting use cases in predictive maintenance, and defect detection to generative design. Steph also underlined some basic sustainable IT practices including going paperless, moving to the cloud with a carbon-neutral provider and adopting green software products.

“Over the last few days we’ve had some great discussions with manufacturers and it’s been really interesting to see what others are doing in this space. We’ve met some of partners for the first time since COVID too so that’s been great!”

Digitalising Manufacturing is one of the UK’s leading international conferences that brings together manufacturing leaders and technology experts. For the first time ever, the conference was hosted both virtually and in-person, in partnership with The Manufacturer to coincide with Smart Factory Expo.

There are many opportunities for innovation and development when it comes to skills in the Digital World. Collaboration will be the key to reaching a consensus on a definition for ‘digital skills’, as well as to address the fragmentation of skills initiatives across the UK and further afield, along with the inconsistences in the qualification system.

Day three was kicked off by delving into these issues and opportunities, and what is being done to find a more holistic approach. We also took a look outwards, to international skills initiatives and emerging skills frameworks, how these compare to the UK and what we can learn from them.

The second half of the session looked at top down and bottom up methodologies for addressing the skills challenges, from predicting what future skills we’ll need by looking at industry and sector demand, to what individual companies can do to upskill their workforce in readiness for digitalisation. The session was wrapped up with an opportunity to reflect on the whole conference by sharing perspectives, drawing conclusions and ideas for ways to move forward.

Innovation Alley has been a regular and highly valued feature at Smart Factory Expo since its inception. This, combined with the Emerging Tech Pavilion, is a showcase of all the new and developing technologies that will change the landscape of manufacturing over the next 5-10 years.

Juice Immersive, an award-winning immersive practice, curating and producing purposeful immersive experiences, was a part of this year’s Innovation Alley.

“Innovation Alley has a vibe of it’s own and it’s really been a vibrant part of the exhibition over the past few days. Within 20 minutes of setting up yesterday we had already had some brilliant conversations which we believe are going to be really valuable for our business going forward. We’ve really enjoyed having the opportunity to showcase our Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality solutions for a range of sectors and brands.”