Manufacturing a Better World: IfM hosts vibrant 2018 Briefing Day

Leaders and senior executives from industry, government and academia gathered together for a lively and thought-provoking annual Briefing Day at the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) on 17th May.


The event provided an opportunity for delegates to hear about cutting-edge manufacturing research from leading academics at the IfM, as well as to engage with discussion workshops, practical activities, and demonstrations of new tools and technologies to address business challenges.


Watch the event video:


‘Manufacturing a Better World’

The opening address by Professor Tim Minshall, Head of the IfM, set out the conference theme of ‘Manufacturing a Better World’ and why this has been adopted as the IfM’s vision. He talked about ‘big M-manufacturing’ in its broadest sense, placing manufacturing at the heart of solving many future global challenges.


This was followed by fascinating talks by leading IfM academics around three cross-cutting areas of research at the IfM: digital, healthcare and skills.


Professor Duncan McFarlane provided an overview of the IfM’s approach to understanding digital developments in manufacturing, setting digital technologies into context and emphasising that new technologies only make sense if they are addressing a problem rather than becoming an end in themselves. This approach will be covered by Professor McFarlane in the workshop ‘Internet of Things for Industry’ on Thursday 7 June 2018.


Dr Jag Srai presented recent work in the area of digital supply chains, with an overview of the ground-breaking project REMEDIES, involving IfM’s collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and 20 other organisations to reimagine the pharmaceutical supply chain. 


An overview of research in additive manufacturing was provided by Professor Bill O’Neill, with example applications in healthcare including significant improvements to implants which have had life-changing effects for patients. Professor Tim Minshall then explored the significance of skills and people for the future of manufacturing, with particular consideration around how we might adopt a lifelong learning approach to equip the current and future workforce to address future (as yet probably unknown!) challenges and technologies.


Panellists discuss the future of manufacturing

A panel discussion enabled delegates to raise some penetrating questions around the theme of ‘Manufacturing a Better World’.



The panel featured representatives from government, business and academia: Clare Porter, Head of Manufacturing from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Jon-Paul Sherlock from AstraZeneca, and Professor Andy Neely and Professor Steve Evans.


Asked whether they would encourage children into manufacturing, the panellists all gave a confident and reassuring “Yes!” followed by some interesting thoughts on how outreach programmes into schools could be made more effective. There was a call for a more coherent approach to outreach work, and perhaps a need for more lively input from younger representatives of engineering, including highlighting the entrepreneurial opportunities.


Other questions prompted discussion around the role of artificial intelligence in R&D, intellectual property issues in the sectors of food and healthcare, and what the manufacturing landscape might look like in 10-20 years.


Getting hands-on

After networking over lunchtime, delegates had the opportunity to select a choice of workshops, with topics including skills, policy developments, medicines manufacturing, service strategy, and innovating for sustainable value.


There was also a chance to take part in an interactive tour of Digital Manufacturing at the IfM, showing how digital technologies are changing the way manufacturers do business. This included a demonstration of a virtual reality robot lab, virtual maps of supply chains, asset management solutions, and inkjet printing.


Taking new ideas home

Feedback was very positive from attendees, who reflected on a constructive day packed full of valuable ideas and new insights.


Tim Brown, a Chief Operating Officer, said “This was my first time attending the IfM Briefing Day and it was a refreshing and energising day. It’s great to attend an event that’s really positive about the future of manufacturing.”


Delegate Debi Adeyemi from the Institute of Directors commented: “I thought it was a very good day. I went to a practical brainstorming session called Innovating Value, which was very useful. I’ve found out more about good quality tools, which will get us thinking about going back to organisations and applying new ideas.”


Dolapo Fagbenro, Operations Graduate from Kerry Group said “It was a very inspiring day. There was lots of interesting discussion about digitalisation - including applications in supply chains and how technologies can help to bring customers closer to products. The day gave me some new ideas and insights that could be applied to the food industry and my organisation.”


Date published

18 May 2018

For further information please contact:

Sarah Wightman

T: +44 (0)1223 748268


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