The factory of the future is here – Smart Factory Expo 2021

Posted on 1 Oct 2021 by James Devonshire

Smart Factory Expo provides a showcase for the revolution in technology and thinking behind Industry 4.0, with nine content theatres and 10 visitor zones focused on different digital manufacturing sectors. The Manufacturer's James Devonshire gives a sneak peak of what some of the key partners will have in store.

Digital Manufacturing Week (DMW) is returning to its home in Liverpool this year from 8 – 12 November. The highlight of the annual manufacturing events calendar, DMW attracts thousands of manufacturers, industry leaders, and technology providers.

This year’s DMW will be particularly special as it will also play host to The Manufacturing Technology Centre’s (MTC) Digitalising Manufacturing Conference. The partnership will see these two huge dates in the manufacturing calendar combine to create one enormous value proposition for a voracious manufacturing audience.

This will simplify the manufacturing events landscape, allowing businesses of all sizes to gain valuable knowledge and insights from both The Manufacturer and MTC. As well as the Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit, SME Growth Summit, The Manufacturer Top 100, The Manufacturer MX Awards and an array of exhibits and fringe events, DMW will also host Smart Factory Expo.

The Smart Factory Expo show floor at Digital Manufacturing Week 2019
The Smart Factory Expo show floor at Digital Manufacturing Week 2019.

In its sixth year, Smart Factory Expo will be held from 10 – 11 November. It will bring together all the technologies enabling the digital manufacturing revolution – creating a carefully curated shop window for manufacturers at all stages of their digital journey.

It is a showcase for the technologies, processes and thinking behind Industry 4.0. Smart Factory Expo features nine content theatres and 10 visitor zones, focused on different digital manufacturing opportunities and featuring world-class presentations and exhibitors, alongside Innovation Alley – a dedicated start-up corridor brimming with entrepreneurial energy.

A full calendar of activities, including solution theatres with free-to-attend presentations, demonstrations and networking spaces, all located within the exhibition hall, means visitors are able to research and purchase the latest technologies transforming manufacturing, network with peers and gain invaluable insights from industry leaders, all in one place.

To find out a little more about what we can expect at this year’s Smart Factory Expo, The Manufacturer caught up with representatives from five organisations that will play key roles at the event.

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For the second year running, Deloitte will be the headline sponsor of Smart Factory Expo

Nick Davis, Industry 4.0 Leader at Deloitte, said: “We’re incredibly excited to be supporting the sector as headline sponsor of Smart Factory Expo for the second year running. This year’s theme, ‘Sustainable Industry 4.0 Unleashed’ really resonates with our purpose. Linking sustainability to Industry 4.0 is a conversation we’re having with many of our manufacturing clients and we’re starting to see our clients generate substantial financial and environmental benefits from sustainable manufacturing.

“This year we will be sharing our insights in the IIoT & Connectivity, Digital Lean, Industrial Data and AI and Leadership and Strategy solution centres. We’re also hosting four leadership roundtables on Sustainable Manufacturing as part of the Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit.

“After many months of remote working and Zoom calls we’re really excited to speak to our clients and meet manufacturing leaders face to face. We have been working with a global network of manufacturers and technology partners to support clients with their Industry 4.0 strategies and implementations, and see this event as a great platform for us to be able to share those stories and lessons with the manufacturing community.

“Last year we shared a lot of information and demos of our Smart Factory Fabric solution so this year we’re really pleased to be focusing more on the sustainability topic. This is something we can and need to collaborate on in order to drive meaningful environmental improvements across the sector. We believe Industry 4.0 adoption has a vital role to play here.

“Our aim is to help Smart Factory Expo delegates to understand the opportunities and risks that digital transformation presents, how to make strategic choices and execute transformation and change. Our Industry 4.0 team is really looking forward to meet with manufacturers who are either thinking about how to embed Industry 4.0 technologies, or who are already piloting some projects and want to scale.

Everyone’s at a different stage, and we’ve got some great ‘lessons learnt’ to share with delegates. “We’ve recently published a global report on Sustainable Manufacturing that highlights five areas of impact where sustainable practices can drive measurable improvements across the manufacturing value chain, with real-world examples.

We’d also encourage delegates to join our Industry 4.0 Ready podcast community where we speak with opinion leaders, business leaders, academics and researchers on key developments and their experiences across Industry 4.0 in manufacturing.”

Technology, supply chain and innovation

Over the course of the two days the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), the official knowledge partner for the event, will be holding interactive workshops, demonstrations and delivering keynote presentations, all with the purpose of helping delegates understand how IfM research can help overcome challenges related to sustainability, technology, supply chain strategy, innovation and much more.

Kate Willsher, Chief Operations Officer at IfM Engage, said: “This event gives us the opportunity to listen to delegates and understand their priorities and ambitions, and steer them towards IfM approaches and ideas that could support them. Our activities will challenge established thinking and norms and will provide delegates with a fresh perspective as well as practical guidance on how to move forward.”

There are many ways you can engage with IfM across the two days:

  • Attend an IfM workshop to discover approaches to automation, sustainability, strategy and innovation.
  • Visit the IfM stand to see live demonstrations of low-risk, low-cost digital solutions from the Digital Manufacturing on a Shoestring team.
  • Meet with IfM experts to explore how IfM approaches and tools could help you.
  • Listen to keynote presentations from IfM experts in the Leaders and SME Growth Summits.
  • Find out about some of our open courses and training programmes that help to develop individual and organisational capabilities.

Automation and Flexibility

At Smart Factory Expo, Omron will focus on collaborative robot technologies and applications that help manufacturers realise automated processes but leveraging the flexible and agile nature of collaborative technologies.

Daniel Rossek, UK Marketing Manager at Omron, said: “SFE has always provided an excellent platform to engage with senior-level decision-makers at some of the UK’s most prestigious manufacturing companies. With the focus on Smart technology and future factory considerations, we have always found the visitor base open to engaging on the latest developments in our technology and concepts.

“Consumer buying trends are leading to an ever-increasing requirement of mass personalisation or ‘greater choice’. Many organisations are coming to the realisation that they need to develop manufacturing capability that supports far greater agility and flexibility to cope with this increasing challenge. Collaborative technologies can be a significant enabling technology to support this process, providing a path to automating processes, but with a distinctly simplified route to reconfigure to cope with multiple task / product requirements.”

Showcasing some of the latest manufacturing technology at Smart Factory Expo 2019
Showcasing some of the latest manufacturing technology at Smart Factory Expo 2019.


Combining the digital with the mechanical

Combining excellence in mechanical engineering, innovation, and ingenuity, MetLase helps global manufacturers transform their operations using mechanical and digital manufacturing solutions.

Johnathan Andrews, Business Development Manager – Digital Products at MetLase, said: “Our focus will be to raise awareness of how mechanical fixturing and tooling techniques can be combined with digital technologies to create standardised, intelligent and consistent processes.

“Smart Factory Expo attendees should engage with MetLase to see how our knowledge, experience and capabilities will add value to their businesses wherever they are on their digital transformation journey.

“Whether it be integrated sensors within mechanical fixturing, digital and smart manufacturing aids to suit assembly processes or even at source manufacturing process monitoring.” When asked what MetLase are looking to get out of the event, Jonathan said: “To create new connections and engage with different companies and people to explore where they are on their digital transformation journey.”

Smart Factory Expo - 2019
The AMC in Liverpool will host the 2021 event

Augmented Reality (AR) in manufacturing

One exciting technology that manufacturers will be able to learn more about at Smart Factory Expo is Augmented Reality (AR). Not to be confused with Virtual Reality (VR), AR involves overlaying real-world experiences with digital elements to enhance them. This seamless mix of real-life and virtual creates an immersive experience that can be leveraged for all manner of manufacturing applications.

As Mark Sage, Executive Director at The Augmented Reality for Enterprise Alliance (AREA), said when we spoke to him recently: “AR can help manufacturing organisations of all sizes overcome a range of different and difficult problems”.

The AREA will be the primary partner at the Smart Factory Expo AR and VR zone. Attendees will be able to learn about specific manufacturing AR use cases and discover how firms are using AR in anger (and with fantastic results). There will also be a panel discussion including representatives from enterprises and service providers, which will highlight use cases and feature case studies outlining AR in manufacturing in action. Mark says that while AR is already being deployed in manufacturing environments, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated adoption.

One of the ways manufacturers are using AR is for remotely troubleshooting and resolving production line issues. With AR remote assistance technology, manufacturers can take advantage of expert support from individuals and teams based anywhere in the world. The expert can see what the manufacturer is seeing and the addition of digital overlays to provide a step-by-step guide, making the whole interaction that much more intuitive.

This technology allows the expert to guide and advise manufacturers, enabling the latter to resolve issues themselves. While quicker positive outcomes and less downtime are the two most obvious benefits, this technology also eliminates the need for the expert to travel, saving time, money and CO2 emissions.

Interested in innovation? This year’s Smart Factory Expo, including the Made Smarter Innovation Alley and Emerging Tech Pavilion, part of Digital Manufacturing Week 2021, takes place 10-11 November at the Exhibition Centre Liverpool and is free to attend for manufacturers.

Click here to find out more about the event.