Smart Manufacturing and Engineering Week 2024 preview

Posted on 20 May 2024 by James Devonshire

Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week 2024 takes place at the NEC, Birmingham on 5-6 June. The annual festival of advanced manufacturing and engineering celebrates the excellence and innovation that are driving industry’s ambitions and helping organisations overcome the plethora of challenges they currently face.

A cross its two halls, summits, six exhibitions and eight education theatres, Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week (SMEW) 2024 will see industry change makers come together to share insights and solutions, against a backdrop of dynamic and interactive digital and live events to inspire, inform and entertain.

Educational content and summits

Readers of The Manufacturer will no doubt be familiar with Smart Factory Expo, and it will come as no surprise that education and peer-to-peer learning once again play an important role in this year’s event. With this in mind, two core summits will run alongside the exhibition: Industrial Data and AI Summit and the Manufacturing Digitalisation Summit.

Now in its seventh year, the Industrial Data & AI Summit takes place on 5 June and focuses on the fuel that powers manufacturing digitalisation: data. The summit includes four keynote presentations, a panel discussion and two 60 minute roundtable discussion sessions. The summit allows senior leaders to hear from the sector’s most respected experts, including the Head of Digital and Data at BAE Systems and the Senior Director of Data and Analytics at Mars, as well as share their knowledge and experiences with their peers. The roundtable sessions offer a unique opportunity for in-depth discussions on topics ranging from Data Integration and Management to Developing a Data Driven Business to Generative AI.

Taking place on 5-6 June at the NEC is The Manufacturing Digitalisation Summit. This summit includes eight keynote presentations, two panel discussions and four 60-minute roundtable discussion sessions. The summit focuses on how digitalisation is changing how products are designed, produced, used and maintained as well as transforming the operations, processes and energy footprints of factories and supply chains. This summit is broken down into two distinct streams: the Enterprise stream, for those working within businesses with revenues in excess of £100m and the Growth stream, for those with revenues less than £100m.

In addition to these two core summits, which we’ll delve into more detail later, there is also a great amount of free-to-access education taking place during the event, with no less than 144 presentations happening across the eight education theatres. The theatres cover: Digital Transformation, IIoT & Connectivity, Industrial Data & AI, Innovation, Maintenance, Drives & Technology, Air-Tech Solutions and Fluid Power & Systems.

The Drives & Technology theatre will focus on Manufacturing Automation and Robotics and will appeal to operations, automation and control and manufacturing professionals who wish to come together and discuss the latest automation and robotics opportunities and to find actionable solutions.

Speaking about the focus, Grace Gilling, Manufacturing Portfolio Director of Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week 2024, said: “Manufacturers in the UK are experiencing a monumental shift in the way they operate. Automation and robotics are not just buzzwords; it’s a fundamental revolution that is reshaping how goods are produced, processed and delivered to the market.

“While the promises of increased efficiency, reduced costs and improved quality are enticing, the road to embracing these technologies is not without its hurdles.

This theatre is dedicated to exploring the rapidly evolving landscape of automation and robotics in the manufacturing industry, and more importantly, addressing the challenges that manufacturers face in this transformative era.”

Topics to be covered include Integration Complexity, Developing a Skilled Workforce, Cost and ROI Concerns and Regulatory and Safety Compliance. While there are far too many notable theatre speakers to name, a couple to look out for are Bentley Motors’ Jonathan Peedell and Plastics Europe’s Geoff Mackey.

Jonathan, who is Head of Maintenance at Bentley, will be presenting a case study on the pros and cons of developing and driving a maintenance strategy within an Industry 4.0 infrastructure in the Maintenance Theatre.

Geoff, who is UK Country Head at Plastics Europe, will be presenting on the essential connection between product design and circularity in manufacturing, emphasising that thoughtful material selection, comprehension and sustainable design decisions can advance a circular economy, decrease waste and improve business outcomes by shaping innovation and environmental accountability in the design phase and lifecycle analysis. Geoff will be presenting in the Design Theatre.

Notable tech companies

Last year’s event attracted some of the biggest, most innovative industrial and tech businesses in the world – Google, IBM, Siemens, ABB and Amazon RME – and the 2024 event will be no different. However, in addition to these giants, there will also be a great number of SMEs exhibiting their products and solutions, while manufacturing-focused start-ups will be showcasing their ‘bleeding edge’ solutions on Made Smarter Innovation Showcase, located at the very heart of Smart Factory Expo.

This is the UK’s leading showcase of all the new and developing technologies that will change the landscape of manufacturing over the next decade. Last year, we saw groundbreaking new solutions from the next wave of tech and consultancy businesses targeting the UK manufacturing sector.

Visitors were able to meet and engage with early-stage companies and their founders to uncover game-changing opportunities waiting for their business. This year promises to be even greater.

Co-located events

Taking place in the same hall as Smart Factory Expo is Maintec, the longest standing exhibition for the predictive maintenance, reliability and asset management industry, which attracts the most ground-breaking products and services in the sector, helping to extend product lifecycles by providing fast solutions and servicing.

Hall 4 hosts Design & Engineering Expo, which focuses on innovation so that design and engineering professionals from all tiers of the supply chain, who want to reduce costs, streamline and optimise future design and engineering strategy, can find what they need.

A major addition to Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week this year are the co-located exhibitions that are taking place in Hall 5. Pre-registration ensures access to all the exhibitions mentioned in this article and for 2024 this now includes Drives & Controls, Fluid Power & Systems and Air-Tech.

Drives & Controls brings together key suppliers of state-of-the-art equipment covering critical areas such as energy efficiency, machine safety, drives, motors, motion control, robotics and automation and much more.

GAMBICA’s Nikesh Mistry, Sector Head of Industrial Automation at the trade body, said: “GAMBICA is proud to be a strategic partner of Smart Manufacturing and Engineering Week as it is an opportunity to represent our sector and showcase the marvels of our industry. Drives & Controls allows manufacturers to display how automation can not only help to maximise efficiency, but simultaneously improve sustainability and streamline processes.”

Fluid Power & Systems focuses on hydraulic and pneumatic equipment for the industrial and mobile markets and is endorsed by the British Fluid Power Association, while Air Tech encompasses the compressed air, generator and vacuum markets. As you would expect, these exhibitions contain their own educational theatres and are strong additions to the events of the week.

People and skills

Among the key themes of Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week is people and skills and this is represented in a variety of ways.

First, The Enginuity Skills Awards organised by Enginuity – a charity that supports UK engineering and manufacturing employers by finding new ways to close skills gaps and open opportunities – will take place on 5 June at the NEC.

These awards recognise apprentices, pioneers of skills development and innovative engineers who are passionate about tackling some of society’s biggest challenges. Each year, leaders from the engineering and manufacturing industry across the UK gather at the Skills Awards to celebrate the finest talent and commend the organisations dedicated to advancing skills development to ensure a bright future for these vital sectors in the UK economy. Find out more on page 40.

More people focus will come in the form of The Manufacturer Top 100. Also held on 5 June, the Top 100 programme provides a platform and a showcase to celebrate the best of UK manufacturing and the inspiring people who make the industry tick.

The Manufacturer Top 100 scours the length and breadth of the nation to find the 100 most dynamic leaders and innovators in manufacturing, nominated by The Manufacturer’s audience, the industrial community and judged by a panel of industry leaders, academics and manufacturing associations.

Grace outlined: “The Manufacturer Top 100 celebrates the heroes of UK manufacturing and recognises their contribution to net zero, digital transformation, innovation and leadership. We also shine a spotlight on unsung heroes, sector activists and the young pioneers making an impact in the industry disproportionate to their years.”

On the fringe

Aside from the exhibitions themselves, there are a multitude of events taking place on the ‘fringe’ of the exhibitions, ranging from the serious to the fun and light-hearted!

The Manufacturer Directors’ Forums will be held during the week, a place where senior manufacturers come together to discuss some of industry’s most pressing topics. More than a decade in existence, members of the forum are hand-picked from across the industrial spectrum and share knowledge by attending targeted events and roundtable discussions.

Then there is the ‘Best of British’ showcase, a celebration of domestic manufacturing, featuring world-beating new designs, innovative modes of manufacture, products that redefine categories, and export successes that plant the British flag in overseas markets. Participants include the finalists in The Manufacturer MX and Top 100 awards.

The Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), University of Cambridge Masterclasses will also be taking place. These interactive workshops are free to attend but places are limited to 25 due to the format which uses research and frameworks developed at the University of Cambridge. Early registrations will have priority booking access.

On the fun side, The Guitar Legends competition — where visitors can show off their guitar skills and win a 3D printed guitar — will be returning for 2024. And keeping with the music theme, the June 5 party will provide an opportunity for visitors to let their hair down and show off their dance moves as The Shadow Monkeys perform once again.

Engineers Without Borders UK is back for the second year as the Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week official charity partner. Its mission is to ensure that globally responsible engineering is embedded within the thinking of both engineers and the businesses they work for.

And finally… with the manufacturing sector now the most targeted by cyber criminals, how could there not be a significant cyber security theme.

The Cyber Trail is a new feature of Smart Manufacturing and Engineering Week 2024, where visitors will discover how to defend themselves from these attacks by connecting with cyber specialists and by visiting a number of cyber-dedicated stands, run by a range of renowned businesses, known for their technical know-how. Visitors will come away equipped with valuable insights and strategies to implement to keep their data safe and secure.

With so much going on during Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week, it can be difficult for individuals to ensure they get the very most out of the experience. That’s why Nineteen Group, organisers of Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week, has created ‘Visitor Trails’ to help attendees tailor their experience to their own areas of interest. To build a personal trail, visitors must be registered in advance at:

We know that it can sometimes be difficult to allocate time away from the workplace to visit events and we appreciate every attendee and exhibitor’s dedication. That’s also why we’ve been working since last year’s event closed to ensure there is a huge amount to see and do to maximise the return on investment for visitors.

A word from some of our Premier Partners

We are delighted to host our Premier Partners for Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week 2024 who are helping to shape and support the UK’s leading manufacturing and engineering event. The Manufacturer’s James Devonshire caught up with a few of them to find out what we can expect in Birmingham. Be sure to come and meet these companies and individuals at the show.

Steve Sands, Technical Manager at Festo, said the company’s stand – which is located in the Drives & Controls zone – features a great example of emerging technology: “Our new CMMT multi-protocol servo drives are an outstanding example of cutting-edge ‘drives’ technology and our new universal valve terminal VTUX, features innovative connectivity and flexibility to highlight innovation in ‘controls’,” he said.

“We will use dynamic displays to show the technology to machine builders and open-up discussions on how they will benefit from these new releases.” Steve added that Festo wanted to attend Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week 2024 so they could engage face-to-face with machine builders and users of their emerging digitalisation technologies.

“Hardware-based products can often be seen and understood on the page and screen. However, paradoxically, when it comes to software, communications and artificial intelligence, it is more useful to see for yourself the application of the technology and to engage face-to-face with specialists who know how best to apply it,” he said.

Amir Sami, Director of Sales at Charter Controls, said they will be showcasing their “fantastic offering of Low Voltage Control and Automation Products, sourced directly from original manufacturers around the globe, many of whom manufacture for some of the biggest names in our industry.

“As manufacturers’ agents, Charter Controls source directly from the factory, reducing the number of links in the supply chain which in turn reduces costs without compromising on quality, and improving your bottom line.” The company will also be highlighting how its products can help businesses achieve their manufacturing goals.

Visitors to the Charter Controls stand can discover how the company’s products can help businesses optimise their purchasing experience by freeing up resources to focus on their business. There will be working models so people can see their products in action and have the opportunity to speak with their experts, to answer questions and discuss specific needs.

Amir added that visitors can uncover opportunities to boost value in their businesses with Charter Controls guidance. “We help refine your processes, cut expenses and improve efficiency to drive business growth.” The Charter Controls stand will be located in the Drives & Controls zone.

TESEO’s goal at Air-Tech is to get more people to experience first-hand its solutions for efficient fluid power distribution tailored to each customer’s various needs.

Valentina Bonazza, Marketing Manager at TESEO, said: “At Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week 2024, TESEO will bring our top products and latest solutions for the distribution of compressed air and technical fluids under pressure.

“In fact, at our stand, visitors will be able to see not only our modular 100% aluminium HBS and AP piping systems, perfect for the distribution of fluid energy – such as compressed air, vacuum, argon, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, mineral oil, synthetic oil and other fluids – but also a wide range of ergonomic products, including the ATS and MAT trolleys, the SAB internally pressurised arms for the distribution of compressed air and electricity from above, and our internally pressurised workbenches.

“A further focus will be on TESEO modular and aluminium distribution manifolds and our wide range of modular and 100% customised downpipes. By bringing fluid energy and electricity from above, they allow the operator to work safely and perform all operations faster.”

Tom Campbell, Marketing Manager at SMC, said: “With 65 years of experience globally, our focus is to differentiate SMC with our innovative products, supported by our sustainability goals, BCP and CO2 management – with the incentive of ensuring sustainable automation. We will be promoting energy efficiency, CO2 reduction, productivity, connectivity, hygiene and safety via our wide product offering, which supports a large variety of industries/sectors.”

SMC hopes to illustrate that it understands the challenges that its customers are facing, and has hand-developed bespoke solutions to support a sustainable future. SMC does not simply manufacture automation products, it provides a specialised service to meet each customer’s needs.

Tom encouraged visitors to, “get face-to-face with our team and hands on with our latest innovative products, without needing an appointment. Our experts are ready to discuss ways in which SMC can improve your CO2 reduction, save energy, remove downtime, introduce wireless connectivity, improve productivity and ultimately save costs – all while aiding safety and hygiene.” SMC’s stand will be located in the Drives & Controls zone.

For more information about Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week 2024 ahead of the event, visit: