UK’s first digital factory demonstrator launched

Posted on 17 Sep 2014 by The Manufacturer

The UK’s first digital factory demonstrator has been launched at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry.

Designed to showcase how a fourth industrial revolution could shape the future of British manufacturing, the launch featured a virtual 3D factory alongside a physical production line capable demonstrating mass customisation of consumer goods.

The digital factory demonstrator, also known as the Industry 4.0 demonstrator, is the first of its kind in the UK and seeks to put Britain at the centre stage of global research and development in manufacturing.

Siemens, the Electronic Systems Community (ESCO), automation trade association GAMBICA and HP were among the organisations that contributed to the project.

The immersive, 3D virtual reality environment allows users to interact with a ‘living lab’ which has been modelled from an existing real-world machine.  The machine mimics a continuous production environment and allows universities, manufacturers and key stakeholders to innovate production processes using the latest technologies that help improve productivity, quality and energy efficiency.

Senior figures from across Government and the German Embassy also toured a demonstration of existing robotic capabilities found in UK manufacturing – to show the gap that exists between existing technology and future technologies capable of transforming UK manufacturing.

Siemens now wants to work with industry partners to build a full living laboratory at the MTC to link smart sensor technology to intelligent automation and supply chain systems.

Brian Holliday, managing director of Siemens’ Industrial activities in the UK and Ireland, said: “The UK must invest in digital and smart factories, not least because the concept of Industry 4.0 plays to our strengths and tackles many of the complex production and consumption challenges we face today.

“By investing in these technologies, UK factories stand to achieve up to 30% improvement in productivity, which could in turn aid accelerated economic rebalancing.

The launch was attended by Martin Donnelly, the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, who addressed a number of leading industry representatives.

He spoke of the need for Government to maintain a strong focus on industrial investment whilst commending the work of the Electronic Systems Community Council, which celebrated its first year anniversary as part of the launch.

Clive Hickman, CEO of the MTC added: “We are proud to be at the centre of the UK’s first digital factory demonstrator and it is absolutely vital that industry and Government partner together to build on the Foresight report which set out a road map for the future of manufacturing .

“In order for that to happen we must invest in technology and encourage its uptake throughout the supply chain. By doing this we can be at the forefront of the ‘great technology race’ – which in turn will result in greater inward investment for UK PLC.”