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Helping the UK to compete 

01 June 2015 09:12:00 Categories: Comment

Now the dust has settled following the general election it's time for the new Conservative government to put its money where its mouth is and focus some attention on the country's manufacturing industry. The hi-vis vest and hard-hat become the fashion accessories of choice throughout the campaign as the phrase 'rebalancing the economy' was uttered time and time again. All the prime ministerial candidates were keen to be seen visiting and supporting major UK manufacturers while hammering home the message that the industry is vital to the future prosperity of the country and they were the ones to be trusted with the economy. Well now it's time for the talking to stop and some action to be taken.

Prime Minister, David Cameron is certainly making the right noises regarding increasing opportunities for apprenticeships, and with unemployment falling to its lowest level for seven years, things are heading in the right direction. But the UK's manufacturing industry is still way behind that of our European neighbours when it comes to investment in automation technology. This is where the real opportunities exist that will enable UK manufacturers to compete on a more level playing field, but it requires investment and the will to change and that has to be led from the top. With the good news that the automation industry is set to grow this year we need make sure the UK has gets its share and doesn't fall any further behind.

One area where the UK still lags behind is in the use of robotic technology and this issue we investigate why the time is right for robots, new lightweight collaborative models and how robots are helping a variety of industries to improve their efficiency, accuracy and repeatability.

Packaging is another key sector where automation can make a real difference, whether picking and placing product, checking quality or coding finished goods. Energy continues to be a major cost for manufacturers, so anything they can do to better manage their energy consumption will improve their bottom line. In this issue we have two case studies where more efficient cooling is saving firms money while also future-proofing their energy needs, and we also investigate options for using renewable energy. Other features include manufacturing softwareand automated test systems, plus a new 'Ask the Expert' column from ABB.

And don't forget to make a note in your diary to attend this year's Machine Building Show that takes place at the NEC Birmingham on 30th September and 1st October. The show is once again co-located with Sensors & Instrumentation and the PPMA Show making it a very worthwhile visit. Find out more at www.machinebuildingshow.co.uk

Editor's comment - February issue online now 

19 February 2015 06:23:00

UK manufacturers have had a somewhate sobering start to 2015. Like someone experiencing a reality health check following the decadence of Christmas, the optimism surrounding UK manufacturing has quelled slightly as we have entered 2015, according to the annual EEF/Aldermore Executive Survey.

The survey revealed that global economic conditions have been a major contributor to the tempered optimism with 38% expecting things to take a turn for the worse in 2015 (compared to just fiver percent at the beginning of 2014). In line with ongoing economic and geo-political uncertainty, manufacturers see Europe and the Middle East as 'not spots' meaning this unrest represents a very real concern for the industry.

Despite the more pessimistic economic outlook, there is some good news with seven out of ten manufacturers confident that their staff numbers, sales, margins and productivity will be heading in the right direction this year.

Commenting on the survey Terry Scuoler of EEF said, "Manufacturers' confidence at the beginning of last year was very high - one year on and, while still positive, it has very evidently eased back. The realities of 2014 have taken the edge off future forecasts and what we are now seeing as we head into 2015 is a far more muted outlook."

Clearly automation is one area where UK manufacturers can get ahead. There has been a dramatic uptake of robotics in nations such as Germany and China, and although the UK's adoption of automation technologies is increasing, we still need to close the gap on these major players when it comes to embracing the benefits of robotics.

With this in mind out February issue will feature the Robotics and Motion Control supplement where we'll be taking a closer look at this sector that is so crucial to UK manufacturing. We'll be getting the low down from some of the key industry players such as Mitsubishi Electric, Shunk, B&R Industrial Automation and Staubli Robotics.

Joe Bush - Editor

You can now read the February digital issue online.

Automation - December January Digital Issue - Available now 

12 January 2015 05:53:00

It's been an interesting year for British manufacturing, and with automation technology playing an increasingly integral role within industry, the next twelve months certainly looks set to be just as eventful. While the UK still lags behind some of its European neighbours when it comes to the uptake of automation technologies and solutions, there have certainly been signs that the UK is catching up.

In this issue we get the lowdown from some of the key players in the industry and gauge their views on the year that was, the main talking points of 2014 and the outlook for the next year. Among the contributors for our market review feature (page 38-39) include ABB, Rockwell, Industrial Automation, Mitsubishi Electric and Siemens. 

On the subject of innovative automation technologies and solutions, we'll also be looking ahead to Southern Manufacturing, taking place at FIVE Farnborough in February. Now taking place over three days, the event is certainly a showcase for the great and the good from the world of British manufacturing and automation.

In addition, this issue also looks at the latest from the world of machine vision systems, manufacturing software, machine safety and coding, marking & labelling, with our industry focus this month on chemicals and pharmaceuticals, where European Automation explains how automated procedures have had to adapt since the enforcement of the CFR21/11 Code of Federal Regulations from the US FDA, and Dr Nick Hutchinson, market development manager (Pharma & Biotech) at Parker domnick hunter, explains how the switch to use single automation is increasing process consistency and robustness in a pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical manufacturing environment.

Joe Bush - Editor

To read the latest issue, click here.

Automation - October 2014 Digital Issue - Available Now 

17 October 2014 06:23:00

I have just returned from a vibrant and busy Machine Building Show at the NEC, in Birmingham. There was plenty going on at the exhibition (taking place at the same time as the Sensors & Instrumentation Show, Micro Nano Mems, Interplas and PPMA), with exhibitors showcasing a raft of new products and solutions along with a packed and informative seminar programme.

In this month’s issue our feature topics include drives & controls, machine building & frameworks, robotics & motion control and wireless technology. In addition, our industry focus this month looks at the automotive supply chain where we feature contributions from WEG, ATM Automation and Rockwell Automation, where the company’s Todd Montpas discusses how manufacturers can maintain flexible manufacturing and speedy refreshes in the fast-developing world of the automotive sector.

This month also includes our latest supplement with a look at the world of machine vision systems. Vision systems are becoming increasingly widely used in manufacturing and, with that in mind, we get the latest news and views from key industry players such as UKIVA, Multipix, IDS Imaging Development, Alrad Imaging, Omron Electronics, Stemmer Imaging, LMI Technologies, Balluff, Banner Engineering, plus a look ahead to the VISION 2014 event taking place in Stuttgart, Germany in November.

I mentioned last month that, along with a number of other industry editors, I would be taking part in the Major Series 10k to raise money for The British Lung Foundation. The event took place on the 4th October and was a very fun but muddy and wet experience. There is an online sponsorship page so anyone wishing to donate to this excellent charity can now do so - please visit www.justgiving.com/teams/muddyeds.

Joe Bush - Editor

Click here to view the digital issue for October 2014.

Joe Bush, Editor

 

Automation - September 2014 Digital Issue - Available Now 

11 September 2014 04:08:00 Categories: Comment

It is now only a matter of weeks until the Machine Building Show 2014 which takes place at the Birmingham NEC on 30th September to 1st October.

The event promises to be a busy affair as, taking place at the same time, will also be the Sensors & Instrumentation Show, PPMA, Interplas, TCT Live and Micro Nano Mems. You can still register by going to www.machinebuildingshow.co.uk.

We are fast approaching exhibition season and, as such, this month we’ll also be looking ahead to Northern Manufacturing & Electronics taking place at EventCity in Manchester on 1st-2nd October. In addition, we’ll be previewing the Photonex exhibition taking place on 15th-16th October at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.

In what is a bumper September issue we’ll also be covering the latest from the tracking & trace sector, packaging machinery, PLCs and energy efficiency. Our industry focus this month looks at the metal industry where Flir will explain how it’s thermal imaging technology is helping to reduce the cost of aluminium production in India; how a special range of products from Tsubakimoto have been specifically designed for the steel industry; while Revolvo takes a closer look at how one of its solutions managed to reduce down-time at a UK steel mill.

In other news, Automation magazine will soon be available as a free app where readers will be able to download the latest issue onto their smartphone or tablet - watch this space!

An additional parish notice is that myself and a number of other intrepid industry editors will be lacing up our running shoes to take part in the Major Series South 10k on 4th October. The event is a cross-country run incorporating a number of weird, wonderful and frankly crazy obstacles. We’ll all be getting very wet and muddy for a good cause (The British Lung Foundation) - sponsorship details in our next issue.

Joe Bush - Editor

Click here to view the digital issue for September 2014.

 

AUTOMATICA and the June issue. 

23 June 2014 04:19:00

Last month I hopped over the channel to attend June’s AUTOMATICA exhibition in Munich. With increasingly shorter product lifecycles, smaller batch sizes and many variants, there is no question that assembly automation is undergoing a change. The suppliers of systems and components are having to react to these changes, and the event provided some vital advice and guidance on how to do this as cost effectively and efficiently as possible.

The show, which welcomed 34,500 visitors from more than 100 countries, also provided a platform for automation and production process innovations as well as the world’s largest range of robotics, assembly lines and machine vision systems. Companies from all branches of industry were able to find pioneering solutions that will allow them to manufacture higher quality products more efficiently. 

Robotics played an integral role at the exhibition, which also saw the launch of the world's largest civil robotics promotion program, SPARC. Robotics and automation are reaching a new dimension with man-machine cooperation. Robots are handling work in the place of people that is monotonous, includes injury risk and requires no special job skills. This makes workplaces more productive, flexible and ergonomic. AUTOMATICA also showed the enormous potential for small and medium sized firms in numerous examples.

Marketable service robotics created a lot of interest. More than 60 companies, specialised in service robotics with B2B relation, exhibited the possibilities of intelligent service robots and components from the areas of medicine and nursing, inspection and maintenance as well as logistics. The Berlin-based company Argo Medical Technologies won the first Service Robotics Masters Start-up Award with its exoskeleton suit, which provides paraplegics with the possibility to walk again.

Trade fair visitors were also able to obtain information about the concrete effects of Industry 4.0 on production in live demonstrations and during talks given by experts. "The realization of Industry 4.0 will determine our future, because we can only succeed in establishing a networked, resource efficient and highly flexible form of doing business in this way," said Stefan Kapferer, permanent state secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

As for the June issue of Automation magazine, we take a look at machine vision systems, drives & controls, SCADA & data acquisition, coding, marking & labelling, plus our industry focus this month will centre on the automotive supply chain - the digital version is available as a free download now. 

A new look for Connecting Industry 

19 March 2014 05:36:00

As you may have noticed there’s a slightly new look to Automation magazine this month. As I mentioned in my previous column we have been in the process of redesigning the look and feel of all the magazines in the Connecting Industry portfolio, and it’s with great excitement that we are rolling-out the new-look style in the March issues.

Although we’ve been busy working on the new designs, the content of our March issue is just as insightful as always - containing all the usual engaging features, case studies and latest product news.

A key date for your diary over the next month or so is 8th-10th April, when the Drives & Controls show will be taking place at the NEC. The show is co-located with Plant & Asset Management and Air-Tech, together with the Fluid Power & Systems Exhibition, and the newly launched European Offshore & Energy Exhibition, as well as MACH, so the three days are set to be a busy and vibrant occasion.

We take a closer look at MACH in this issue as well as featuring a dedicated supplement on what you’ll be able to see and do at Drives & Controls.

Click here to view the digital issue for March 2014.

Fun at the fair - part two 

13 November 2013 15:20:00

Greetings from day two of the Rockwell Automation Fair. Perhaps predictably, due to this year's location (Houston, Texas), oil and gas is featuring heavily on the agenda. I attended an intuitive forum this morning that highlighted some of the applications that Rockwell have been involved with in this sector.

Firstly, Bob Cowan of National Oilwell Varco (NOV), discussed how Rockwell has helped the company face its core challenges of obsolete electrical components, new regulations and certification and SIL level to create a best in class solution in the oil and gas sector.

He went on to discuss how Rockwell completed a whole architecture change, a single mode FO solution and enhanced diagnostics to improve the company's capability and performance.

Later in the session Jeffery Linn of Shell presented a similar case study on a refinery in Whiting, Indiana. The sites key goals were the need to deliver greater energy efficiency, health, safety and security, reduce maintenance costs and improve reliability performance.

Following an energy reliability audit and the setting up of a field investigation team, the decision was taken to replace P12 and P30 turbines with electric motors and drives from Rockwell. This installation reduced costs, improved process control and eliminated the limitations of the company's control valves.

Payback on the project was just over a year and the company experienced a 33% increase in system availability over a three year average. The installation also reduced wear and tear on pumps and seals, and gave tighter control of pressure valves.

In a session on industrial IP advantage on the exhibition floor Rockwell's Paul Brooks discussed the internet of things (another key topic at this year's show), stating that many manufacturing end users have the opportunity, over the next ten years, to increase their profitability by a total of $3.88 trillion, with the internet of things

He also went on to highlight Rockwell's www.industrial-ip.org, which has been set up to help enhance industrial network connectivity. He said, "By setting up industrial IP advantage we can focus on all the networking devices used in manufacturing plants, and to start looking at the technologies that are going to be needed to ensure interoperability between those devices.

"Today the defining technology of digital communications on a global basis is IP - that's the one that's been designed to provide interoperability and coexistence through all the communications streams that are flowing through our enterprise networks. We believe that a commitment to internet protocol for manufacturing networks is going to allow our users to not just take advantage of all of the different data streams within a single network today, but more importantly to position themselves for the future."

He went on to state that the next decade will be the decade of the app, stressing how important it will be to make sure that the infrastructure that is being deployed in automation networks today is going to be ready for that app-centric future. He added, "Internet protocol is the only technology that is going to enable that future-proof network architecture, allowing convergence and allowing us to move to an app-centric experience for our users in the manufacturing space."

Another topic that is key at Automation Fair is of course energy, and later in the day I attended the Power and Energy Management Forum, where presentations looked at regulatory issues, fuel cell energy and Danny Hamilton from Tyson Foods discussed how the company rolled out a global energy reduction programme - looking at the entire process from the identification of the challenge through the development of the program and the execution of the plan via a pilot site.

Fun at the fair - part one 

12 November 2013 18:17:00

I've popped over the pond this week to check out Rockwell Automation's annual Automation Fair, which is being held for the first time, in Houston, Texas.

Rockwell Automation chairman and CEO, Keith Nosbusch, opened proceedings by discussing the future of industrial processes and the 'Connected Enterprise'. The adoption of standard IP-based Ethernet in both discrete and process automation is revolutionising industry and enabling truly 'connected' enterprises.

During his opening address Nosbusch commented, "In the last few years there has been an increase in consensus that we are entering the era of the internet of things. A world where billions of smart devices and machines are connected to the internet."

Nosbusch went on to highlight how the IOT will accelerate the Connected Enterprise, but to do this manufacturers must adopt modern technologies such as cloud, mobility, big data analytics and security.

He added, "In the future the connected enterprise will transfer big data into actionable information which in turn transfers into knowledge and then wisdom."

Later in the morning a panel discussion focused on the Connect Enterprise and control system security, highlighting the cyber security threats that exist for automation suppliers. In his talk, Michael Assante, advisor and director for the National Board of Information Security Examiners (NBISE), stated that the average time between a cyber breach being made and the discovery of that breach was 416 days! Plus, every company that had experienced a cyber breach had up to date security systems and protocols in place - meaning conventional security systems are not keeping up.

Frank Kulaszewicz went on to explain that Rockwell has created a design security process to help customers evolve their systems into more secure environments. Rockwell has also launched www.industrial-ip.com, an information forum to help educate customers in industrial security.

Later in the day, Hedwig Maes, Rockwell's EMEA president gave an update on the EMEA region, predicting growth in 2014 of 0.7%. He also went on to highlight the focus areas (Poland, Turkey, UAE, Saudi Arabia), plus the key growth industries (oil and gas, metals and mining, water/waste water, CPG, life sciences and auto and tyre).

Maes went on to say that Rockwell will achieve it's predicted 2014 growth by capitalising on current industry trends (which are dynamically quite different), expand core business and drive operational excellence.

In other news it was also announced that Rockwell has acquired Abu Dhabi-based company, vMonitor which will strengthen Rockwell's middle eastern presence and it's oil and gas offering - as vMonitor specialises in wireless field instruments, field control, gateways and data concentrators and SCADA.

More from Houston later this week.

Sensors & Instrumentation 2013 

02 October 2013 06:34:00

The recent Sensors & Instrumentation exhibition, co-located with Micro | Nano | Mems 2013 and The Machine Building Show 2013, built on the solid foundations of last year’s show, proving to be a busy and vibrant event which generated plenty of discussion, enquires and potential business for exhibitors.

It was also standing room only for many of the show’s engaging seminars that took place throughout the two days, and the interface with the other shows plus the integration of visitors throughout the halls proved the co-location of the event worked very well. Many of the show’s exhibitors have already booked their stand for 2014.

There will be further feedback from the event available on our website, but within our October issue we will be looking at machine building & frameworks, robotics & motion control, wireless technology, plus an industry focus on the automotive supply chain. We’re also featuring another of our regular supplements this month, with a look at the world of machine vision.

Joe Bush – Editor

A closer look at the vital role of machine safety 

24 June 2013 05:27:00 Categories: Comment

As part of the June issue of Automation magazine we have included our first industry supplement of the year as we take a closer look at the vital role of machine safety. As well as highlighting some of the latest products available on the market, Paul Laidler of TÜV SÜD Product Service explains the dangers in the sometimes casual attitudes some organisations have with regards to safety guards and protective devices.

Back to the main June issue, our industry focus this month turns the spotlight on the automotive supply chain, highlighting the use of global platforms and cloud-based B2B in this sector, some insightful case studies featuring some the industry’s most well known names such as Jaguar, Mercedes and Volkswagen, plus a look at how manufacturers can stay competitive with strategic business processes.

Our cover story this month ties in neatly with our drives & controls feature and our automotive focus as SEW Eurodrive discuss the installation of a bespoke new drive system on a production line at a first tier supplier of car seating and interiors to the 4x4 SUV market

 

 

 

Get some experience and come back 

31 January 2013 05:38:00 Categories: Comment

New research has found that many young people searching for a job may have a frustrating year ahead and limited prospects in 2013. The study of 2,000 people found that 70 per cent of young adults know someone who has been frustrated by the phrase: ‘get some experience and come back’ from potential employers. One in two young adults echoed the lack of options and also felt as frustrated when they left school. Nearly 80 per cent of adults say that young people are more likely to get their first job more easily if they can prove they have hands on experience, showing a vicious cycle that needs to be broken, according to the research’s sponsors.

The study, carried out by One Poll for Advanced Resource Managers (ARM), also found that 70 per cent of adults said that work experience should feature more heavily in the school curriculum getting practical experience.

Following this research, ARM has now launched its ‘Designing Tomorrow’ competition with the aim of helping young people to start building their CV at a young age. It’s designed to encourage young people from local schools across the UK to demonstrate their graphic design. The competition has been devised with the Design & Technology, ICT and Business Studies curricula in mind. Teachers can register their school at www.arm.co.uk/designingtomorrow where they can gain access to online materials. Schools will then have until the end of February to submit their entries, and the prize giving ceremony will be held at the Gaydon HQ of Aston Martin Lagonda in early April.

Sensing Technology goes into its third year 

17 August 2012 05:06:00 Categories: Comment

With one of the main features in this issue being sensors and sensing systems, it seems like the ideal opportunity to mention the upcoming Sensing Technology exhibition. There have been a few changes to our national sensors show this year and it will now incorporate the Sensors and Systems exhibition, see lead news story opposite. The show has grown considerably over the last three years and this coming together of Datateam and Trident means we can now run a larger and more focused national event than ever before.

The exhibition takes place on 25-26 September in Hall 3 of the NEC, Birmingham and will be co-located with Mediplas, Nano Live UK, TCT Live, MEMS Live and MM Live and the PPMA Show will also be taking place at the same time which will make this one of the largest industrial events of the year and certainly a worthwhile day out for show visitors.

Connecting Industry website launches 

13 June 2012 04:43:00 Categories: Comment

After holding two very successful official launch events, the new Connecting Industry website (www.connectingindustry.com) is now live. This new site is the culmination of many months of hard work by our inhouse website development team and we’re very happy with the result.

We had a number of key objectives for the new site including increased awareness of the Connecting Industry brand and to make it clear that it is the home of the UK’s largest and strongest portfolio of industrial magazines. We wanted an easy to navigate, userfriendly site full of rich multi-media and interactive content. A global site search tool that works across the supplier database and editorial. Built-in Web 2.0 functionality so that it integrates seamlessly with social networks. An incorporated interactive online calendar that pulls together the dates of exhibitions, seminars and training events. Use the site as a vehicle to push awareness of our digital issues.

Better administration tools to allow the editors to upload stories quickly and easily and therefore have news and features online faster, thereby keeping the site more up-to-date. Offer more advertising opportunities both in terms of space and interesting, engaging and targetted ways for clients to get their message across to name just a few.

I’m very pleased to say we have met all these objectives and more. The idea behind the site is to build a community between our products, our readers and our advertising partners, so that by using the new website as our digital hub we really are connecting industry.

Automatica even busier on day two 

23 May 2012 05:33:00

The fair is enjoying plenty of visitors on day two and the mood in the halls is very positive. There is plenty to see with some exhibitors really pulling out all the stops to offer more than a standard booth and more of a spectacle.

As you'd expect, the major manufacturers such as Kuka, Fanuc and ABB have very large stands with plenty of robots performing a variety of interesting tasks.

Fanuc has actually built what it calls a 'Yellow Park' and have a large number of robots and other machinery on display.

Kuka has a wall of robots all preforming a display in unison.

The highlight of the ABB stand is a two armed robot that's working alongside a human in a production environment.

All in all it's a great show and well worth trip over to Munich. More to follow soon with a full review in the June issue of Automation magazine.

Automatica is the place to see robots! 

22 May 2012 07:49:00

Had a busy day at the Automatica 2012 trade fair. Numbers seem to be good and all the exhibitors I've spoken to see happy with the show so far. This really is the place to come if you want to see the latest robotics technology.

There are of course plenty of large industrial robots, but a special feature this year is on service robots and these are presented in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

The automated composite production area is a popular attraction as is the automated battery manufacturing showcase.

All the big robots are impressive with the major manufacturers having large stands and original ways of attracting visitors on. But it's not all just about big robots, there are plenty of smaller machines on show completing delicate tasks. There are also automated handling and logistics solutions.

Photos to follow soon...

Automatica opens today! 

22 May 2012 03:39:00

I made a very early start this morning in order to catch a 6.20am flight to Munich and visit Automatica 2012. This year it has expanded into five halls and I'll be bringing a flavour of what's on show over the next two days via my blog. Hopefully this will include some pictures as well.

Highlights this year include a special feature on battery manufacturing, a composite production line, a focus on blue competence and service robots. I'm aiming to take a closer look at all these areas so please stay tuned.

If there is anything particular you are interested in and would like me to investigate while here please leave a comment or contact me via Twitter @neilmead or you can follow the Automation Twitter feed which is @CI_AutomationUK

Innovative and portable products 

15 May 2012 05:36:00 Categories: Comment

It's not very often you come across a truly innovative product these days, but I was recently treated to a demonstration of a small industrial robot that incorporates some very clever technology. It’s extremely portable, relatively cheap and very effective in operation. The fact that it can be programmed quickly and easily using a graphical user interface on a tablet device by someone with no experience means it could be the answer for a small business looking to take its first step towards introducing some automation.

I've been to a few events lately where the main topic of conversation has been about how we are going to get the message across to the many small manufacturers in this country that automation isn’t something to be afraid of and needn’t cost the earth, but can help businesses to expand and increase their efficiency, consistency capacity, quality and output.

The robotic product I mentioned will be on display at the Automatica exhibition which takes place in Munich this month. I will be paying a visit to this expanding automation focused event and expect to see many other similarly innovative products on show. Like many other exhibitions in Germany, Automatica continues to grow as does the market for automation products in the country and it really is the place to go if you want to see all the latest in automation technology. There’s a special focus on automated composite production and another on battery manufacturing and we’ll be publishing a review of the show in the next issue.

Convergence 

16 April 2012 09:25:00 Categories: Comment

This month's industry buzzword appears to be ‘convergence’. I’ve heard it uttered at various events and in quite a few recent conversations and it's also cropped in up in some press releases and articles. It describes well the closing gap between IT and industrial control networks and the coming together of a number of different consumer and industrial technologies within the manufacturing sector. These include communications and networks, PCs, vision systems and a range of other hardware. It’s fascinating to see technology originally developed for use with the Microsoft Xbox 360 video game console, for instance, being used in industrial machine vision applications.

An industrial variation of Ethernet, an IT networking standard for many years, is now becoming widely used for machine control networks. There are of course differences, but it’s a technology that most people can relate to and will have come into contact with. Everyday consumer devices are also now commonly found in the industrial environment. Smart phones and tablets are taking the place of ruggedised industrial units as they offer so much more functionality.

Standard Internet communication protocols are also becoming widely accepted and used for remote monitoring and control solutions. It seems that where industrial technology would once have eventually filtered down into the consumer electronics world things have changed around and they are now closer than ever which has to benefit both. 

'The renaissance of UK manufacturing' 

15 March 2012 12:16:00 Categories: Comment

I recently attended the Automated Britain conference organised by GAMBICA and Intellect. Using the strap line of 'the renaissance of UK manufacturing', it was a really good event which had a very positive feel about it. Keynote speakers included Mark Prisk MP, the Minister of State for Business and Enterprise and Juergen Maier, managing director of Siemens UK Industry. Case studies were presented by major automation companies such as ABB, Emerson, Honeywell, Rockwell and Siemens in tandem with the manufacturers that use their technology.

There were a lot of key personnel from the major automation vendors present and they all delivered a very similar message; that the UK is still a major manufacturing nation, but that the industry needs to invest in automation technology if it is to compete on level terms in the world market.

The upbeat mood was helped by the announcement that morning about Nissan investing £125 million in a new state of the art factory in Sunderland in order to build its new Invitation model, thus creating and safeguarding around 2,000 jobs. Mark Prisk said that he felt it is a real vote of confidence in the UK automotive sector and vindicates the decision the Government took to put manufacturing back at the heart of its economic strategy.

The fact that the impact of automation on jobs in the UK formed a big part of the conference was no surprise. From Mr Prisk’s mention of Nissan’s investment in the keynote speech, to BARA’s discussion about the impact of robotics on job creation, the tone was clear. Larger manufacturers are already benefitting from automation, but with the UK manufacturing industry made up of many SMEs, it's these companies that really need to take a longer term view and seriously consider investing in technology if they are to survive and thrive in an ever increasingly competitive market.

The new Connecting Industry website is now live! 

09 March 2012 03:13:00 Categories: Comment

As you may already be aware, the new Connecting Industry website is now live. This represents a major investment in time and resources by Datateam to bring the site up to date and consolidate its position as the leading source of information for engineers and manufacturing professionals.

We’ve worked extremely hard on improving the look and feel of the site in order to make it faster and easier to use. Each of the Connecting Industry magazines now have their own clearly defined sections on the site, so users can go directly their own particular area of interest.

A new feature is the site wide search, so even if you’re not exactly sure where to find the information you need you can quickly look for it here. This includes all articles, suppliers and even events. And that brings me on to another new feature, the Events Calendar. With more industry events being added all the time, this is the place to find the latest information about exhibitions, seminars, open days and other industry networking opportunities.

The new site also incorporates the latest Web 2.0 technology which adds rich multimedia content and links to all the major social networks. We’re really pleased with the end result and I’m sure Automation readers will find it a very useful tool.
As with any online resource it will continue to grow and develop and I’d welcome your feedback so please let me know what you think of it.

2012 steps in the right direction 

06 January 2012 08:00:00 Categories: Comment

News that the UK's high tech manufacturing sector is confident about its prospects in 2012 is certainly a good way to start the new year. Technology is an area where the UK excels. Many of the innovations found in the latest devices we use every day have their roots in the UK's technology sector.

So we have the ideas, but sadly when it comes to their manufacture all too often we see great products go to be made overseas.
It's a shame then that more UK manufacturers don't look at introducing some automation as way to increase their efficiency. The latest initiative aimed at helping companies to do just that is 'Automating Manufacturing'. Backed by most of the major manufacturing organisations including BARA, P PMA, U KIVA and Gambica, it offers to help UK manufacturers to investigate the potential of introducing automation. Almost 40 automation reviews have already taken place with many proceeding to intervention, the next stage of the review process. There's still more to be done, but this is certainly a step in the right direction towards increasing the competitiveness of UK manufacturing.

A time for reflection 

01 December 2011 08:33:00 Categories: Comment

As we come to the end of the year it's a good time to look back and reflect on what's happened in our industry over the last 12 months. The good news is that despite the continuing economic uncertainty, manufacturing in the UK hasn't faired too badly. Following the credit crunch and resulting recession that really took hold in 2009, the last two years have seen a quite a fast recovery back to pre-recession levels and growth for many in the industry.

Of course no one can predict the future and talk of another slow down and possible 'double dip recession' doesn't help confidence levels, but so far there doesn't seem to be too many indications that this is going to happen and certainly not that it will have anywhere near as dramatic effect as the last one. So we need to remain positive and make sure we don't talk ourselves into another downturn.

Away from economic matters and focusing on automation technology, the main topics that I expect to gain even more exposure next year are real-time monitoring and control and the expanded use of mobile devices and applications. These have of course been talked about before, but now the technology really seems to have caught up with the concept making what may have seemed like a unrealistic vision into a true reality.

Hopefully this developing advanced automation technology will help us meet the demands and challenges that undoubtedly lie ahead.

Manufacturing remains strong among economic uncertainty 

05 October 2011 07:51:00 Categories: Comment

I've just returned from the PPMA Show at the NEC which had a real air of positivity about it. The exhibition was quite busy on all three days and with Interplas and Sensing Technology on at the same time there was plenty to encourage visitors to attend. Most of the exhibitors I spoke to seemed happy with the attendance figures and more importantly the quality of the leads they were getting. It was also encouraging to hear from automation vendors and machine builders that their order books are full and they are struggling to meet demand. It seems that despite the economic uncertainty, manufacturing is doing well and demand remains strong.

This is borne out by the latest Industrial Trends survey figures from the CBI. It’s a pity then that all the mainstream media is interested in is reporting bad news about manufacturing. Of course no one wants to hear about cut backs and job loses as it affects real people and families, but it would be nice if the papers could offer more balanced reporting and speak to the successful manufacturers who are actually struggling to find enough engineers to fill vacancies. This might then help to get the message across that there are jobs out there in the manufacturing industry and that we need to encourage young people to take an interest in engineering and understand what a worthwhile, rewarding and often well paid career many of these positions can offer.

Return from the Summer Break 

09 September 2011 03:49:00 Categories: Comment

As we all return to work following the summer break the exhibition season is in full swing. By the time you read this The Energy Event and Recycling & Waste Management exhibition will have already taken place and the next big industry shows will be just around the corner.

Following its launch in 2010, the second running of Datateam's Sensing Technology exhibition is expected to be even more successful than last year when it opens for business on 27th September. As the UK’s only national show dedicated to sensors and sensing systems, there will be an extensive range of technologies on show, covering areas from inspection and measurement to condition monitoring, flow and level, calibration, and data acquisition. The exhibition will be further enhanced by an Innovation Theatre and two seminar suites where you can learn about the latest technology and applications.

The NEC will also be the venue for a number of other exhibitions running alongside Sensing Technology 2011, including Interplas, MM Live UK, MEMS Live U K, NANO Live UK, tct Live and the PPMA Show. So as you can see at the end of September the NEC, Birmingham will once again become the main focus of attention for the manufacturing industry. Can you afford not to be there?

 

Neil MeadNeil Mead

As the editor Automation, Neil brings his readers up-to-date editorial on the latest directives and legislation, the most recent energy efficiency methods, as well as the applications and innovations in the automotive market.