IfM Knowledge Partner at UK’s biggest manufacturing event

The vibrancy and creativity of UK manufacturing was evident in abundance at the largest event in the national manufacturing calendar: Over 6,000 manufacturers gathered in Liverpool for Digital Manufacturing Week 2019 (12-15 November), organised by The Manufacturer.


Combining several events, Digital Manufacturing Week encompasses the impressive Smart Factory Expo with 150 exhibition stands, Innovation Alley with 50 start-ups, the Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit conference for over 300 senior decision makers, and a wealth of workshops, talks, fringe events and awards celebrations.


IfM was proud to be the ‘Knowledge Partner’, working with The Manufacturer to help develop and deliver content for the event. Our involvement included a keynote by Professor Tim Minshall, Head of the IfM, to open the Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit, as well as a series of seven workshops, the IfM Briefing as a fringe event, and roles on the judging panel for the TMMX Awards.


Joining the dots

In his opening speech at the Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit, Tim Minshall (Dr John C. Taylor Professor of Innovation and Head of the IfM) emphasised the pace and complexity of changes facing UK manufacturers, and considered how best to respond. He underlined how company decision-makers need to be ambidextrous, balancing the need for incremental, day-to-day improvements alongside a drive for more radical innovation and exploration.


Tim Minshall Manufacturing Leaders Summit 2019 

Through his theme - ‘Manufacturing our future: Joining the dots’ – Tim focused on why connections and collaborations are so valuable for collective knowledge and experience to deliver benefits across the manufacturing ecosystem and wider economy.


Tim explains:

“My talk focused on three things that many others have also observed: Firstly, we are in the middle of a period of substantial political, economic and technological change. Secondly, UK manufacturing has the potential to create and capture new sources of value within this changing context, but this changing context needs to be better understood. Finally, this value won’t be captured unless we – as a manufacturing community from SMEs to multinationals, from academia to policymakers, from funders to researchers – are better at connecting, aligning and communicating our individual efforts.”


He put the case for the development of a ‘living map’ of the UK manufacturing community, to help give better visibility of activities and how things are connected, in order to help identify and address gaps and target support for new opportunities. This, he argued, would allow the UK manufacturing community to compare itself more easily with international competitors and reinforce comparative advantages.


A thought-provoking summary of this talk is provided in Tim’s recent blog post


Other speakers in the Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit included Henrik Von Scheel, the originator of Industry 4.0, who discussed the fundamental transformations that manufacturing is experiencing due to digital technologies. He urged businesses to master the disciplines of ‘innovation’ and ‘transformation’ in order to tap into opportunities to outperform competitors. Brian Holliday, MD of Digital Industries at Siemens provided insights into how the ‘internet of everything’ is shaping UK businesses. John Kitchingman of Dassault Systemes discussed how sustainability is increasingly rising to the top of the agenda for manufacturers from start-ups to global giants.


Expo and workshops

Next door to the Leaders’ Summit, in the Smart Factory Expo there was a buzz around the IfM’s exhibition stand, with the Expo welcoming thousands of visitors over the two days.


The IfM also hosted seven interactive workshops, as one-hour taster sessions to give delegates an experience of IfM’s strategy tools and to stimulate discussion of the issues facing manufacturers.


These included a roadmapping workshop delivered by Imoh Ilevbare and Diana Khripko, an automation assessment workshop with Liz Salter, a workshop using creativity techniques for problem solving delivered by Diana Khripko, and a requirements gathering workshop run by Benjamin Schönfuß for the Digital Manufacturing on a Shoestring project (see box for descriptions of each workshop).



IfM workshops at the Smart Factory Expo 2019

Smart Factory Expo workshop 

Where would digital add value to your business?            

Rather than being pressured into adopting technologies to keep up with the digital transformation curve, manufacturers need to consider how they can use technologies to solve the challenges they are facing and add real value to their business. This workshop led by Dr Nicky Athanassopoulou explained IfM’s tools to help identify an organisation's core competencies, as a first step to identifying whether digitalisation can add value to these areas.


How can you become the partner of choice for the most innovative start-ups?

Professor Tim Minshall led this workshop on the challenges of ‘elephant and mouse’ partnerships, when very small new companies partner with large, established ones. Delegates explored why these partnerships are hard to manage, examples of doing this well, and possible ways to improve the success rate.


New ways of thinking to create disruptive ideas

Encouraging delegates to taking a fresh perspective on how challenges can be turned into opportunities, Dr Diana Khripko led this session on creativity techniques to spark ideas and create new solutions. Delegates tried approaching problems differently and generating ideas, applying research-based tools and techniques.


Low-cost digital solutions for manufacturing SMEs

A project with a difference: the IfM is leading a cross-university collaborative research project called ‘Digital Manufacturing on a Shoestring’. It asks how existing and readily available technologies could be implemented on a low-cost basis to support growth and productivity in SMEs. In this workshop, Benjamin Schöenfuß asked delegates to prioritise the digital solutions they are seeking in their SME manufacturing operations.


Discover the benefits of roadmapping for strategic planning

Roadmapping is a powerful strategic planning technique that is integral to creating and delivering strategic and technology plans. Dr Imoh Ilevbare and Dr Diana Khripko led a workshop to help delegates understand how strategic roadmapping could benefit their organisations. They showed the graphic and collaborative nature of roadmapping and how this facilitates strategic alignment and dialogue between functions from across an organisation.


Smart Factory Expo workshop Liz Salter 

To automate or not? That is the question

Automation can be the answer to a whole host of manufacturing and operations questions. But deciding what, how and when to automate is not straightforward, and getting it wrong can be expensive and highly visible. Liz Salter led this workshop explaining how the IfM’s Automation Assessment tool supports organisations through the decision-making process.


Technology acquisitions and partnerships

When companies decide that they need to acquire new technology in order to achieve their digitalisation ambition, how can they objectively assess potential partners and technology providers to decide which is the best route to pursue, among the many alternatives? Dr Imoh Ilevbare explained how the IfM’s Technology Acquisition Tool can help firms determine whether a potential partner or technology matches the needs of their organisation.



Helping to judge the TMMX Awards

The Manufacturer MX Awards 2019 were presented in a ceremony and gala dinner attended by 700 industry leaders at the end of Digital Manufacturing week, on 14th November. The judging panel included David Lott, CEO of IfM Education & Consultancy Services, who visited a series of factories around the UK as part of an extensive four-month judging period. Kate Willsher, COO of ECS, was a judge for the Young Manufacturer of the Year competition.


Judging TMMX awards


IfM Briefing: Strategic approaches to digitalisation

Co-located in Liverpool as a ‘fringe event’ in Digital Manufacturing Week, and supported by The Manufacturer, the IfM hosted its own IfM Briefing on Tuesday 12th November.

This short seminar-style Briefing was on the theme of ‘Strategic approaches to digitalisation’. It explored how manufacturing companies can identify and capitalise on the opportunities presented by new technologies, while remaining squarely focused on business strategy and on delivering customer value.


To find out more about the talks included in the Briefing, read our write-up.


Date published

3 December 2019

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