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WINN Round Table at The Hive - Advanced Manufacturing

ERDFLEADING figures from the advanced manufacturing sector gathered at The Hive in Worcester to discuss and share resources they are using to deliver growth.

Joining the Worcestershire-based businesses were three key players from the advanced manufacturing field. They were Lampros Litos of the Knowledge Transfer Network, Dr Paul Milne of WMG, the University of Warwick and Robert Loveday from GE Aviation.

Also in attendance were local business leaders Kevin Aisbitt, Worcestershire Business Central (WBC); Steve Winstanley, WBC; Ian Woodley, Stilo; Barbara Hankins; Paul Wenham, Geometric Manufacturing; Mike Gee, DMG Associates; Sharon Chance, Coomber Innovation; Tony O’Donnell, Rift Technology; Philip Gill, MCSL UK; Gwen Evans, WBC; Matthiass Myers, Heller.

The event was hosted by Dionne Oliver and Jess Antley of WINN – a Worcestershire County Council and WLEP initiative, working in conjunction with Worcestershire Business Central.


About the speakers…

LAMPROS LITOS is the Knowledge Transfer Manager for Manufacturing with Innovate UK – the network partner of the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN). His role is to assist business models to develop in a fast and sustainable way.

DR PAUL MILNE is the Project Manager at WMG – a highly-respected academic department of the University of Warwick. He has two decades of experience in development and research for both industry and government bodies. Within WMG he is proactive at delivering research, knowledge transfer, and education in the fields of manufacturing, technology and engineering.

ROBERT LOVEDAY is the UK Aerospace Growth Strategy Director at GE Aviation. The Cheltenham based company is one of the world’s most respected providers of aircraft engines, components and avionics systems. Beyond traditional services, GE is currently expanding its digital offering thanks to an inherent ability to capture large data streams from within the industry.


Delivering the first presentation of the morning, Lampros Litos wasted no time in offering some challenging questions for the guests at Worcestershire’s iconic Hive building.

“Is the fourth industrial revolution taking place?” He asked.

“If it is, it isn’t happening at the pace we would like.”

In order to speed up what may or may not be a fourth industrial revolution, Lampros explained how the government-supported Knowledge Transfer Network is trying to connect companies that can influence and innovate. Heavily focused – but not exclusively - on SMEs, his mission is to encourage companies to bring new technologies into their factories and workplaces across the UK.

“It is inevitable that technology will be adopted by any company. It is only a matter of time. We’re here to accelerate that,” he added.

“As long as there is productivity involved, we can help provide a distinctive response to current trends and allow companies to adapt to the fourth industrial revolution.

“There is proof that companies that innovate and understand the conditions of what might be a fourth industrial revolution will – through knowledge transfer – deliver improvements.”

 

{QUESTIONS FROM AROUND THE TABLE}

Paul Wenham: Can you have innovation without ownership of intellectual property?

Lampros Litos: It’s not an obstacle for the funding process, but it boils down to an agreement between interested parties.

Jess Antley: You said that much of your work comes through business in the Midlands, why is that?

Lampros Litos: We are always looking at more regional development, for the whole of the country. Who adds more value in the UK? That’s what we’re asking and what we’re looking at further afield.


Next to address the seminar was  Dr Paul Milne, and he began by explaining how WMG was established in 1980, and had been involved in innovation in Worcestershire since 1993. The group currently has a series of ‘catapult centres’ which it uses to fast-track modern practices.

“Everything we do has to have an industrial application,” he explained.

“The mission is to accelerate and de-risk the innovation process - it is about embedding knowledge.

“We have seven catapult centres, all with one mission but each with its own specialism.

“We’re here to help UK manufacturing, where all the innovative ideas are in industry, and there is a lot more talent in industry than we give it credit for.

“What it lacks is an access to the tools that will allow it to grow – and that’s where we are here to help support manufacturing.”

Paul also spoke about taking knowledge and learning from various sources before re-inserting it into industry by allowing more access to data.

“If you look at what impacts a business most – it’s tapping into new markets which, again is a reason for our existence,” he added.

“Data is a very valuable tool - if you can use data to find out what is happening on the shop floor, then you can give a boost to your acceleration.”

 

{QUESTIONS FROM AROUND THE TABLE}

Sharon Chance: How do your potential clients know you can do this sort of thing?

Paul Milne: By coming to events like this, and telling people what we do.

Sharon Chance: How do I get skills out of your group? We work with electronics, so if we were looking to offer a student a place with our group, you could do that?

Paul Milne: Yes, absolutely.

Dionne Oliver: Any SME can get your details and call you up?

Paul Milne: Yes. It’s got to be innovative, collaborative, and industry-based. It also counts if it is purely innovative to the business – not just the market.

Jess Antley: There are so many innovations going on – such as 3D printing and the accessibility to these things. People are working things out on a small scale and for mass markets. How can we harness those skills and solutions?

Paul Milne: It’s all going to come from small businesses. It’s one of the reasons why we exist.


Robert Loveday was the final speaker of the session, and he began by explaining how Gloucestershire-based GE Aviation was one of the world’s most well-respected manufacturers of aircraft parts and avionics. Robert, as GE’s UK Avionics Growth Director, is also a key member of the Aerospace Growth Partnership (AGP) – an innovation-driven venture between industry and the government.

“Effectively, the UK isn’t our market,” he began.

“We’re in the UK to serve the rest of the world, but the talent we use to do that, we are proud to say, comes from the UK.”

Robert explained the company was experiencing a growing involvement in software and electronics – a field they believe is driving productivity.

He also said the industry was vital to the UK economy, which is why GE was always on the lookout for new projects to fund and develop.

“The aerospace industry is very important to the UK,” he said.

“It’s all about exports, high value manufacturing, and high knowledge jobs.

“But there is competition from around the world. How do we stay on top?

“Well, we are continuing to grow in the market. More people are flying, but the market has moved. China has the largest growth area, and a lot of UK companies are increasingly involved in that market.

“The AGP is fostering innovation and change which is helping to move focus for aerospace industries.

“It is technology which is driving innovation, and we’ve launched 149 projects with 188 partners, worth £1.2bn.

He continued: “I’m involved in brand new ideas for the company’s economics and supply chain - we have to pick up new ideas that don’t necessarily fit our model. The ATI’s role in driving a technology plan is finding people who fit into the areas that you want innovation to be found.

“We are welcoming ideas from different groups, and there is an opportunity here for innovative loans to drive productivity and improvements as we invest in talent.


{OPEN DISCUSSION} Introduced by Dionne Oliver…

Ian Woodley: (Re: technology and knowledge transfer) We have clients with a lot of visual data that brings their technology to life. Clients are going into discussions with funding partners, but the communication isn’t fluid.

Lampros Litos: Virtual reality isn’t getting used enough in a typical manufacturing SME. A visual representation is very useful but needs to demonstrate the productivity benefits.

Paul Milne: There are always companies that don’t make use of their assets. Opening up the whole of the company to use all the resources is key to getting the best out of people.

Barbara Hankins: But how do we get that message across? So many businesses just overlook this and end up making people redundant in the end.

Paul Wenham: Businesses are run by accountants. That’s one of the problems.

Barbara Hankins: I find it hard to get to in front of people to explain the importance of getting the best out of existing staff. Even though it is common sense.

Paul Milne: Come to our networking events. You’ll be more than welcome.

Robert Loveday: We have a growth hub in Gloucester – get yourself recognised as someone who can provide this sort of expertise.

Paul Wenham: Productivity is always an area where we are looking to improve, how do others view this?

Robert Loveday: What are you doing to offer customers something different?

Paul Milne: And what are your challenges?

Paul Wenham: Meeting customer expectations of cost. Currently, streamlining the process of an engineer sat in a company to be able to upload their model to our systems.

Paul Milne: We’ve helped companies out with exactly that sort of thing.

Tony O’Donnell: The electric actuator industry is a $10bn global industry. It sounds a lot, and there’s a lot of profit to be made. But our system can easily be replicated. If we don’t bring concepts to market quickly, someone else will do it. That’s why we’re interested in grant funding – because it can accelerate what we can do. We as businesses need access to organisations like the WMG.

Sharon Chance: We have equipment in our workshops that has sat stagnant during the times, when our orders are quiet. We need to be utilising it. Our MD looked into safety systems (for control boxes in the lift industry) and, at their request, we’re looking at other companies’ processes. Is their technology working efficiently for them? We then take that and reproduce it, then help redesign it in a way that will improve their electronics. We have all different sizes of boards and layers. What we’re interested in is any part of the process. But our ideal would be to design it, and you take it away to manufacture.

Lampros Litos: On a tech level, what you do is brilliant. But in terms of production, you need a methodology that will address a potential problem (productivity bottlenecks).

Mike Gee: How do we improve the skills and creativity of our young people? I’m also keen to develop high-level apprenticeships. How do we take innovation forward and add value to what we are doing?

Philip Gill: Depending on the industry, you need to have complete control of the process, and I give people that control. I want to expand my business, and I get excited about speaking to customers. At the moment, I’m speaking to customers and doing the work. I’d like to get to the stage where I can bring someone else on board. Every household has multiple devices. It’s very different to control them all (how do you log how much use etc?). I use a box that controls every device in the house. Manufacturing companies need the same sort of technology – that’s what I do. You can identify efficiencies very simply through data analytics. If you don’t measure it, how do you know you can’t improve the process?

Robert Loveday: I’ve worked in that space for a while. One of the challenges is the business model. I’m interested in your niche. One of the things we’re looking at is not just about analytics, it’s about making the corrections and fixing the problem. Long term, you need to look at how you continue that engagement and process.

Matthiass Meyers: Heller has a great retention rate in the workforce. This also means we have an aging workforce, which is great for experience, but not for new technology. You can’t stop the transitional process.


{CONCLUSION} Presented by Jess Antley:

We encourage you to take up today’s offers of support, and keep us up-to-date on collaborations and successes that will hopefully follow.

In the meantime, we will continue ‘The Conversation’ – this is the first of hopefully many, and sharing these thoughts, needs and wants into what we do is top of the WINN agenda.

Meanwhile, these are the core headlines we’ll be taking away today:

The Importance of:

Note 1 :
"Deploying Winning Tactics for Adoption of Responsive and Reality Technology Advances"

Note 2:
"Getting ahead of the skills gap and succession problem by looking at the value that already exists within your workforce"

Note 3:
"Mastering productivity to manage profit erosion"

Note 4:
"Productivity through people; creating a culture that engages its stakeholders"

Note 5:
"Mass Production to Mass Customisation; automation and lean methods helping to meet customer expectations"

Note 6:
"Accelerating growth through speed of product to market"

Note 7:
"Exploitation of ideas being eroded by the selling of technology and patents"

Note 8:
"Global production and how business efficiency can also mean you in competition with your own HQ and group"

VIEW GALLERY


The Proof of Concept Project has received £1,537,394 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020, which £37,500 of this funding is supporting WINN events to promote innovation in Worcestershire. The Department for Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding

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WINN brings innovators together, acting as a catalyst to create connections and collaborations across the diverse business landscape of Worcestershire.

Our belief is that great things can happen when people get together.

WINN is a Worcestershire Innovation Programme formed by Worcestershire County Council and the Worcestershire LEP

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