Smart Factory Expo 2022: What to expect from the leading future of manufacturing exhibition – Part 1

Posted on 17 Oct 2022 by James Devonshire

The Manufacturer’s James Devonshire asks some of the key exhibitors what they will be showcasing at Smart Factory Expo 2022.

Smart Factory Expo is back for the seventh year running and will take place at the Exhibition Centre Liverpool from 16-17 November.

Part of Digital Manufacturing Week, industry’s premier advanced manufacturing event, the Expo is free-to-attend for manufacturers and brings together all the technologies enabling the digital manufacturing revolution under one roof.

The result is a carefully-curated shop window for manufacturers at all stages of their digital journey.


*Tickets are for manufacturers only.

Smart Factory Expo features 170+ exhibitors across five Technology Zones and two Innovation Zones including:

  • Automation & Robotics
  • Digital Transformation
  • IoT & Connectivity
  • Industrial Data & AI
  • Smart Infrastructure
  • Innovation Alley
  • Innovation Village

Smart Factory Expo is the industry’s largest digital manufacturing exhibition and a showcase for the latest innovations in digital technology, processes and thinking.

A look inside a Smart Factory Expo Solution Theatre from the 2021 event.

A look inside a Smart Factory Expo Solution Theatre from the 2021 event.

Smart Factory Expo is much more than just an exhibition. It also features:

  • 138 Theatre presentations, free-to-attend, delivered by experts.
  • Exclusive University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing Masterclasses
  • Regional Site Visits (part of Digital Manufacturing Week)
  • Innovation Alley – a dedicated start-up corridor brimming with entrepreneurial energy
  • Innovation Village – take a journey from fossil fuels to renewables, seeing the technological advances for transforming industry for a sustainable world.
  • Best of British Showcase – a celebration of domestic manufacturing.
  • Make new connections over drinks in our vertically focused networking hours.
  • Dedicated STEAM afternoon – supporting the manufacturers of the future.
  • Women in manufacturing programme – addressing diversity in the sector

Special thanks to this year’s Smart Factory Expo headline sponsor: Deloitte, and all our Platinum Partners and exhibitors.

What can you expect at Smart Factory Expo 2022? (click each to expand)
High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVMC): Transforming industry for a sustainable world

Richard Watkins, Group Marketing Director at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) – which is one of seven world-leading research, development and innovation centres that make up the High Value Manufacturing Catapult – provides some insights into what we can expect from the centre’s Innovation Village at Smart Factory Expo.

What will be your focus at the show?

Smart Factory Expo 2022 will see all seven HVMC research and technology centres coming together in a 425m2 Innovation Village. The aim will be to provide manufacturers with an immersive experience covering a wide array of technologies, with the underlying themes of transformation and sustainability focused on throughout.

It will be an opportunity for manufacturers to get a better understanding of what the HVMC and its research centres do to help businesses progress along their industrial transformation journeys.

One of the key messages will be that businesses do not need to navigate these journeys alone and there is significant support available if they want to take advantage of it. This is particularly important for SME manufacturers who can really benefit from that extra help and guidance.

HVMC Centres: 

  • Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) – University of Sheffield
  • Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) – Redcar, Sedgefield and Darlington
  • Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) – near Coventry
  • National Composites Centre (NCC) – Bristol and Bath Science Park
  • National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) – Renfrewshire and Sheffield
  • Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre – University of Sheffield
  • Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) – University of Warwick

What are you looking to get out of the event?

Here at HVMC, we’re all really excited about this year’s exhibition. And not just because of the scale of it. It’s about the outreach, the messaging and the potential impact it can have and the good it can do. By raising awareness about not just what the catapult centres do, but also how they collaborate frequently on projects, manufacturers will be able to see how it can all fit together for them.

This will be the MTC’s third show, each High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVMC) Transforming industry for a sustainable world  LEFT: A large percentage of HVMC members and industrial partners will be exhibiting at Smart Factory Expo bigger and better than the one previously – and this year is certainly no exception. The expo is such an important event for us, particularly from a regional perspective.

When you consider that a large percentage of our members and industrial partners will be exhibiting in the wider event, HVMC is almost acting as the glue that joins everything together.

What will people learn if they come and see HVMC at SFE?

Upon entering the village – the start of the journey, so to speak – visitors will discover more about the workforce revolution, including the need to upskill and train both new and existing employees. A sustainable future starts with a sustainable workforce, so this is an important first step on the overall journey.

Next comes the core digital transformation elements, such as robotics, automation, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and more. There will be technology and knowledge experts from a range of HVMC member organisations, who will be on hand to showcase some of the products, services and technologies that fit in with the digital transformation theme.

The focus will then shift back to sustainability once more, with a specific emphasis on various industrial sectors that every HVMC research centre works with. Visitors can expect to see agritech, automotive, aerospace, construction, pharmaceuticals and more all represented.

At this point there will also be a spotlight on the crucial areas of power and energy, the aim of which will be to outline the fossil fuels to renewables journey. Visitors can expect to learn about a variety of alternative fuel sources, including solar, wind, hydrogen and nuclear, as well as electrification, battery technologies, charging solutions, small modular reactors and more.

By this point, visitors will be heavily immersed in sustainability, innovation and associated technologies, providing the perfect segway into the Made Smarter Innovation Alley, which adjoins the HVMC Innovation Village.

All in all, HVMC’s offering isn’t your typical exhibition stand. It’s a holistic, immersive experience from start to finish which will provide context and link attendees to the wider exhibition.

Be sure to explore HVMC’s Innovation Village – located adjacent to the Automation & Robotics Zone – at Smart Factory Expo.

The Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), University of Cambridge will also be putting on a series of masterclasses which are designed to challenge and extend your thinking in relation to some of the most pressing challenges and opportunities you and your organisation face.

Using research and frameworks developed at the University of Cambridge, you can gain practical insights and recommendations you can take back to your business after Digital Manufacturing Week.

NOTE: These interactive workshops are free to attend, but places are limited to 25 due to the format of the sessions. Early registrations will have priority booking access.

RS Industria: Start simple, grow smart

John Bound, Head of Marketing – RS Industria IoT SaaS services, explains why taking advantage of IIoT solutions doesn’t need to pose a strategic challenge for manufacturers.

What will be your focus at the show?

There’s often a perception that leveraging the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is simply beyond the means of many manufacturers – whether it’s due to budget, time and/or skills constraints.

That’s why one of our biggest goals at Smart Factory Expo, is to get across to manufacturers that they don’t need to invest large sums and significant amounts of time to start realising the benefits associated with Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions. The reality is many can start small with low-risk, high-return projects in a matter of weeks. This provides an excellent foundation upon which to build and begin to grow at a pace that suits the individual organisation. So start simple, grow smart.

We’ll also be looking to break down some of the communication barriers often seen in the IIoT market. Traditionally, it’s been very complex, technical and strategic. With The Manufacturer, RS Industria is looking to make IIoT something that’s more practical.

What are you looking to get out of the event?

It was our first time exhibiting at Smart Factory Expo last year and the whole experience was extremely valuable. We learnt that our approach – which involves two-way communication – is definitely beneficial, for both ourselves and the people we meet.

We don’t just see it as a selling platform, rather a piece of customer discovery. And because the show is produced by The Manufacturer, the whole event is one big participative process, including the build-up.

For us, it’s not just about the event. It’s about the weeks and months leading up to it and the weeks and months that follow. The Manufacturer’s significant market reach and industry access means you are in continuous touch with the people who matter, and that’s very powerful.

What will people learn if they come and see RS Industria at Smart Factory Expo?

This year we’ll have a bigger stand containing more insights and information. The other good news is we’ll be serving coffee again throughout the event. We’re also sponsoring the Digital Transformation Solutions Theatre, where people can come along and learn straight from manufacturing and technology experts.

There will be a host of video case studies and literature that will enable people to see how other organisations are taking advantage of IIoT and the tangible benefits they are realising as a result.

To give you an example, we worked with a food and beverage manufacturer, setting up alerts. It was soon discovered that the main bearing on a high-speed canning filler was vibrating abnormally. Upon further inspection, the cause was found to be a blocked lubrication feed. This simple alert, which led to more scrutiny, saved the manufacturer somewhere in the region of £100,000.

Finally, because we’re focused on solutions, we’ll have a number of specific industry use cases we can talk through with visitors. Again, we won’t be talking strategy, but rather practical examples that organisations can implement and start benefiting from quickly.

There will also be a number of our solution engineers on the stand. So if anyone has a particular problem, they can talk to our experienced automation engineers, understand what the next steps will be to address those issues and walk away with a practical action plan, including potential costs where possible.

Visit RS Industria – stand E12 in the Digital Transformation Zone – at Smart Factory Expo to find out more.

Omron: Helping innovate worldwide manufacturing with automation

Stuart Coulton, UK&I Marketing Manager at Omron, provides an overview of the industrial automation giant’s offerings.

What will be your focus at Smart Factory Expo?

We’ll be focusing on two important areas of manufacturing this year: product quality and labour shortages.

Product quality has long been an issue for manufacturers. Aside from the obvious financial and reputational impact associated with poor quality products, there is also the need for traceability. So tracking the product from the raw materials stage, to finished goods and then going out into the distribution chain.

In terms of labour shortages, Omron’s angle is focused on how automation can complement human workers. So instead of robots taking people’s jobs, looking at it in a more positive light and highlighting how automation can take over mundane, repetitive work, freeing up skilled individuals to concentrate on value-add tasks.

It’s all about creating the perfect balance of humans and robots to really drive positive outcomes for both workers and the organisation. Human creativity is extremely important, which is why the concept of a ‘lights out’ factory is a reality that few manufacturers will aim for.

What are you looking to get out of the event?

Smart Factory Expo is very different from other events we attend; different in a good way.

First of all, there is the level of engagement. Every single person you speak with is genuinely interested in learning more about you and what you do, as well as being a potential customer.

Second, the seniority level of the attendees is second to none. The synergy with Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit means that nearly everyone you meet is C-level or senior management, which really helps with engagement and ensuring the right conversations are had.

For Omron, one goal will be to explain why an automation strategy isn’t just about technology. HR has to play a really important part as well because the people strategy is probably more important than the technology strategy. If you don’t get your people on board, then the technology is never going to work over a long period of time.

What will people learn if they come and see Omron at the show?

Omron will have a demonstration that uses compact vision and high-speed acquisition of data matrix codes. The demo will also go a step further by then taking that data, converting it into something useful and sending it straight to a cloud-based server where it’s accessible by whoever needs to access it throughout the production ecosystem.

Omron wants to help manufacturing organisations take the first steps on their automation journey and realise the immediate benefits that doing so can afford. To emphasise the potential, Omron will also have a demonstration featuring a cobot picking and placing an item onto an AMR (autonomous mobile robot). The AMR will then take the item to an intermediary point before returning and letting the cobot unload it once more. While it sounds rather simple, the value lies in highlighting to manufacturers that automation journeys can begin with simple elements.

Visit Omron – stand E20 in the Automation & Robotics Zone – at Smart Factory Expo to find out more.

Lenovo: Pocket-to-cloud solutions

James Vaz, EMEA Business Development Manager for NVIDIA portfolio at Lenovo, explains the global consumer electronics company’s plans for SFE 2022.

What will be your focus at Smart Factory Expo?

Our focus is to promote Lenovo’s manufacturing and AI solutions and demonstrate to customers that Lenovo is the only true pocket-to-cloud solution provider.

What are you looking to get out of the event?

We are looking to engage with key stakeholders from within the manufacturing sector to understand where and how Lenovo’s smarter technology solutions can support them in reducing costs and downtime.

What will people learn if they come and see Lenovo at the show?

People should come to our stand (B44 in the Industrial Data & AI Zone) if they want to understand how Lenovo can help them save their business time and money through our smarter technology solutions from pocket-to-cloud.

We have a demonstration of a solution using VR with a virtual Aston Martin sports car where delegates can see how VR can save time and energy in design processes. We can also demonstrate digital twins, using AI to reduce production wastage and to enable a safer working environment in a factory, plus a large number of use cases of how we can help manufacturing businesses of all sizes.

Visit Lenovo – stand B44 in the Industrial Data & AI Zone – at Smart Factory Expo to find out more

Zebra: Addressing manufacturers’ biggest challenges through ‘ecosystems of automation’

James McCarthy, Manufacturing Lead UK&I at Zebra Technologies Europe, tells us more about how manufacturers can benefit from ecosystems of automation.

What will be your focus at Smart Factory Expo?

Our focus will be on listening to manufacturers and their challenges and opportunities, which is why events like Smart Factory Expo are so insightful. The manufacturing industry is facing some important challenges and changes following the global pandemic – supply chain disruption, the need for better parts compliance checking and quality assurance, traceability across the supply chain, the rapid growth of ecommerce with its need for speed, and labour issues that make hiring, training and retaining frontline workers harder.

From there it’s about how Zebra Technologies can collaborate with manufacturers to address those challenges and opportunities with our portfolio of hardware, software, services, solutions and partners. Automotive, pharmaceutical, food and beverage, electronics and semiconductor manufacturers are each impacted in different ways and our focus is on how we can help.

What are you looking to get out of the event?

We’d like the people who attend the event to leave knowing more about Zebra’s experience in the autonomous mobile robot (AMR), fixed industrial scanning and machine vision space, and how Zebra’s solutions and partners can help transform and automate their manufacturing operations and augment their frontline workers with data insights and tools.

We’ve a number of great live robot and machine vision demos at our booth – stand C05 in the Automation & Robotics Zone – and I’d invite any manufacturers to come along for a stand tour or meeting with our specialists.

What will people learn if they come and see Zebra?

Zebra is creating and growing an ecosystem of automation and working closely with partners to bring these solutions to customers on their automation journeys. New products and features, R&D investment and strategic acquisitions all play a role in building the best ecosystem possible for our customers.

We’re supporting manufacturers to move from ‘islands of automation’ meaning individual examples of automation in their operations, to ‘ecosystems of automation’ where increasing numbers and types of operations are automated but also joined-up, together with augmentation of workers using handheld tablets, computer devices and wearables to get the job done.

Visit Zebra – stand C10 in the Automation & Robotics Zone – at Smart Factory Expo to find out more.

To attend Smart Factory Expo from 16-17 November at this year’s Digital Manufacturing Week, head over to com/expo and book your ticket. Admission is free for manufacturers. Solution providers, schools, institutions and press representatives are advised to contact us to find out how they can get involved.


*Tickets are for manufacturers only.

For even more value and greater insights, consider either the Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit (from £75) or SME Growth Summit (from £45) – both include access to Smart Factory Expo (exhibition hall and solutions arena presentations) and the Made Smarter Innovation Alley, plus numerous networking opportunities – the value really is tremendous.

Check out the October issue of The Manufacturer magazine for the second part of our Smart Factory Expo preview.

Read more of our Digital Transformation articles here