The IfM showcases innovation at Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week 2024

The Institute for Manufacturing returned to Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week on 5 and 6 June with a varied programme of talks, masterclasses, and demos. The event saw more than 450 manufacturing and engineering companies and educational institutions exhibiting at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham.


Showcasing innovation and collaboration

As the UK’s biggest manufacturing event, Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week is a highlight in the IfM calendar. Its size and reach make it a valuable opportunity to forge and celebrate connections across the sector and to discuss the challenges and opportunities we face together. Representatives from the IfM  were involved across the show, delivering talks, panels, masterclasses and demonstrations.


Talks and masterclasses in the dedicated IfM Theatre on Day 1 covered the Cambridge Sustain 8 method, technology roadmapping, automation strategy, Cambridge Industrial Innovation Policy’s Innovation Report, and the Women in Manufacturing initiative.


Elsewhere, delegates were invited to try their luck in a game of hook-a-duck to win prizes, providing a fun introduction to Shoestring Digital Manufacturing solutions. Shoestring offers a step-by-step approach to digitalisation using off-the-shelf technology, such as Raspberry Pi computers, to create low-cost, low-risk digital solutions.



In the evening of Day 1, IfM Engage's COO, Kate Willsher, was named as one of 100 extraordinary individuals in The Manufacturer Top 100 awards. Each year, the awards are presented in celebration of the sector's heroes across the categories Digital Transformer, Innovator, Inspiring Leader, Net Zero Hero, Sector Activist, Unsung Hero, and Young Pioneer. Kate was recognised as a Sector Activist for her work to promote diversity in manufacturing, in particular through the Women in Manufacturing initiative.


On Day 2, Professor Duncan McFarlane and Dr Greg Hawkridge gave a keynote presentation where they shared insights from their comprehensive digitalisation work with Shoestring Digital Manufacturing. They highlighted how Shoestring solutions have provided improvements for over 80 companies across productivity, quality, sustainability and upskilling. Their talk was part of the Manufacturing Digitalisation Summit, one of many parallel live events taking place across the two days.


Day 2 also hosted the first IfM Digital Lab where a team of researchers brought some of the latest technical solutions from the IfM that manufacturers can benefit from and presented live demonstrations to visitors. Demonstrations included solutions for job tracking, AI for process monitoring, and equipment monitoring.


Rob Driver, Marketing Manager at IfM Engage, was pleased with the level of delegate engagement at the event. "The IfM Theatre presentations drew standing-room-only crowds, demonstrating a strong interest in the latest advancements in sustainability, automation, and other areas of IfM research and practice activities."



Women in Manufacturing

Following on from last year’s official launch of the Women in Manufacturing (WiM) UK initiative, the IfM hosted two sessions with special focus on women’s experiences in the manufacturing sector. On Day 1, Sarah Black-Smith from Siemens, Lucy Houghton from JCB, and Rachel Eggington from Q5D shared the stories of their professional lives with an engaged audience in the IfM Theatre.


"I have such fun working in manufacturing and especially when the teams I am part of are diverse and welcoming," said Rachel. "However, being invited to speak about being a woman in manufacturing provokes mixed feelings for me – I long for it to be a 'non-issue' and so normal that it doesnt need to be commented on, yet I know we are a long way from that dream. In the meantime, I am grateful that the IfM are championing the change with events like the 'Inspiring Stories' session at the Smart Manufacturing and Engineering Week. I never imagined Id have an inspiring story … so it is amazing to have the opportunity to encourage people from all walks of life to become as excited about manufacturing as I am!"


The following day, the IfM’s Dr Jennifer Castañeda Navarrete and Dr Guendalina Anzolin chaired a panel discussion which focused on the barriers that women face in the manufacturing sector. The panel comprised Sabrina Castilho Relvas from JLR, Clare Porter from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and Fiona McGarry from Enginuity.


"I really enjoyed being part of the Women in Manufacturing panel. It's clear to see all the various STEM initiatives are creating impact and we are attracting female talent to the sector. But we need to really focus on retention so that all hard work on attraction is not wasted. Progress is happening but there is still so much to be done and implemented," said Fiona.


The panel was also an opportunity to highlight the next WiM Annual Conference taking place on 19 September at the MTC in Coventry. 


Thank you to all who came to see us at Smart Manufacturing & Engineering Week!

Date published

18 June 2024

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