‘There is only one trend in manufacturing: data’

Posted on 25 Oct 2017 by Jonny Williamson

Vassilis Valsmakis, Quality Director at Ball Corporation, speaks in an interview about how to successfully balance out supply chains, and the importance of safety requirements within the scope of automation processes.

Valsmakis is an expert in fostering collaboration across the value chain and leading global project teams.

Valsmakis is a multilingual, strategic, entrepreneurial Programme and Quality Director, with experience in leading programmes in excess of £100m value, reporting to C-Suite.

His experience spans Innovation, Process Excellence, Lean Six Sigma, Operations, Quality, Supplier Development, Purchasing, New Product Introduction, Balance Scorecard.

Building on a strong educational background (PhD/MBA), he is an expert in fostering collaboration across the value chain and leading global project teams.

The Manufacturer recently spoke with Valsmakis about how to become more proactive towards data and connectivity, the benefits of digital automation, and his expectations around The Manufacturer Leaders Conference in Liverpool – 15-16 November.

How would you describe the current state of UK manufacturing?

It is strong in its sectors. It addresses quite a lot of high valued sectors, which is important for long-term competitiveness. There is uncertainty in terms of Brexit implications, economically and skills wise.

In general, I see great success in aerospace, in automotive and pharmaceutical, and in all technological sectors. For me it is important that we witness a balance of the manufacturing supply chains. We are going past the era of moving everything out to China and to low cost countries.

And there is a balance of manufacturing based financing in the advanced economies. It is going to bring opportunities for further progress in the sector.

What are you excited about to speak at the Leaders Conference? 

I am excited to discuss the trends in the industry, the opportunities and the direction. I would like to connect with people and get some stimulation through the speakers and the interactions at dinner.

And I would like to get an understanding of the current state of the things that are happening in manufacturing, information, data connectivity, which enable the technologies.

How does your business approach innovation and what does it mean to you? 

The business has a structured approach of innovation and business model management, process innovation. Our business tries to be competitive, and to get an understanding of the differentiation of customers.

We want to ensure that we can be in market and to serve the customer, in order to address a wide era of agendas like for example sustainability. This is very much in the heart of the industry that we are in.

Image courtesy of Ball Corporation

We have a portfolio of innovation projects and platforms. But we try to balance them, we are not only looking after products, we are looking after processes as well. That is part of the way how we build our portfolio.

How automated is your business in which areas and why?

Our business is very automated when it comes to manufacturing processes because of the nature of the process.

We particularly look for opportunities for automation when it comes to processes with significant safety requirements.

Also, in terms of manufacturing production data, the inspection of camera systems, that will allow us to create feedback for making sure that the products are optimised.

The benefits of automation are better quality, better customer protection, lower costs, improved safety in areas where we must manage risks and mitigate risks in difficult labour-intensive processes.

What is your approach in general to exploring and adopting new technologies?

We collaborate with external partners, with suppliers, where we develop the strategies for innovation, we benchmark other investors.

Vassilis Valsmakis will be a keynote speaker at The Manufacturer Leaders Conference in Liverpool in November. 

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We are particularly strong in open innovation. But we also work with universities, or research institutes, we are a particular expertise in technologies we are interested in.

Data is important and it is becoming even more important. There is only one trend in manufacturing. It is to pull data efficiently and effectively.

And utilise them for decision making is paramount because of the operation speed of the production processes itself. For decision making you need the data.

What do you believe are the biggest challenges data driven manufacturing presents? 

I think it has been on the agenda for the last few years now and it is still on. It is about the safety questions around data, protocols for sharing data.

The commercial business context around it, will allow data to be used outside of the walls of the manufacturing facilities with its suppliers and customers.

Image courtesy of Ball Corporation.

The drive for higher speed, internal efficiency, and optimisation of the plant network, makes it crucial to become more proactive towards data and connectivity.

We need data to improve the up-time, and to take advantage of the technologies of the new generations that are becoming available.

They are more sophisticated and deliver better ways to produce a good quality process quality.

And the products require a more intelligent approach in terms of condition monitoring, maintenance and problem solving in general.

Only that way, we keep the equipment running, most of the time, remaining able to produce good products.