Getting up to speed with automation

More than 50 manufacturing companies visited the IfM last week. A mix of SMEs and multinationals, they were all there to learn how automation can help grow their businesses, improve their productivity and create better working environments for their staff.

At the half-day event, experts from the IfM explained how to get the best out of automation and, crucially, how to avoid making expensive mistakes. Delegates also had a tour of the IfM’s robot lab where researchers design and test new automation systems.


Alan Thorne, Technical Officer for the IfM’s Distributed Information and Automation Laboratory said: “Companies are coming to us all the time saying that they need to increase production or launch new products or that they are having problems with quality. They know that automation is the answer but are nervous about making the wrong decisions, particularly as the technology is moving so fast. Companies need to be confident that they are investing their money wisely. At the IfM we have developed a structured approach which starts by assessing where companies are now, then takes them through a decision-making process about which parts of their operation would really benefit from automation and what is the best way to go about it.”


The event was sponsored by the Lloyds Banking Group. Its UK Head of Manufacturing for SMEs, David Atkinson, said: “Manufacturing plays a vital part in the UK economy, accounting for half our exports. The impact of technology has accelerated over the last few years and SMEs in particular need to start planning their automation strategies now if they are to benefit from all the opportunities these advances can bring.”


A number of equipment suppliers were also on hand, talking about and demonstrating these new technologies. These included robots that can ‘see’ and ‘feel’ so that they can pick things out of bins, for example, or if they are sanding a product they can sense when to stop. Other robots have been developed specifically so they can work safely alongside their human colleagues. 


The morning ended with a discussion about the future of manufacturing and how new developments such as the internet of things, big data and industry 4.0 are transforming the manufacturing landscape.


For more information about the Distributed Information and Automation Laboratory, please visit here.

Date published

3 February 2016

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