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Future of Manufacturing 2019

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R A C O N T E U R . N E T 03 83% 83% /future-manufacturing-2019 ngineering fi rm BGB Innovation, based in Grantham, Lincolnshire, recently opened a state-of-the-art testing facility to make its product development process more fl exible and responsive. Faced with competi- tion in the wind energy sector, from low-cost and low-price competitors in southeast Asia, the company real- ised it had to increase investment in its research and development (R&D) to ensure the business continues to attract global customers. "Investing in a hardware facil- ity has enabled us to implement a high level of prototype evalua- tion and quality control," says Paul Holdsworth, programme director at BGB. "Although the overall aim is to test hardware prototypes, soft- ware has been key to making sure the product development process is eff ective." Mr Holdsworth adds that, with increasing levels of automation, it will ultimately be the software which drives the new testing facility and R&D forward. Smart manufacturing and smart factories are expected to have driven a 27 per cent increase in effi ciency in the manufacturing industry between 2017 and 2022, according to a report by global pro- fessional services fi rm Capgemini. While every manufacturer will be unique in how it operates, they'll all be working with the same universal goal in mind: to optimise processes, move faster and, most importantly, deliver products and services to cus- tomers seamlessly. The speed at which a factory moves will largely depend on R&D teams being given the fl exibility and free- dom to innovate. For innovation to occur, investments need to be made in hardware and software. Getting this balance right can be tricky. "Investment priorities are indi- vidual to each company. Generally, though, manufacturers need to con- sider both hardware and software," says John Mapother, principal ana- lyst at R&D tax specialists The MPA Group. "Despite software being seen as the more newsworthy and fash- ionable of the two, it often needs adequate, accompanying hard- ware to reach its full potential and vice versa." To illustrate his point, he gives the example of a manufacturer invest- ing in the most brilliant piece of robotics to help assemble goods. Without the robotic arm – hardware – fi tted or installed with the relevant technology – software – its data is of no value. Likewise, without soft- ware to monitor and track the arm's performance and effi ciency, the hardware is redundant. Martin Walder, vice president of industry at Schneider Electric, which specialises in energy management and automation solu- tions, agrees. He insists: "Good mechanics can't perform without good software." Underlining the need for robust hardware, Robert Sinfi eld, vice pres- ident of product for Sage Business Cloud Enterprise Management, argues that hardware should be seen as the heart of any manu- facturing operation. It shouldn't be overlooked. "Hardware is essential to the core business; better machines make better products," he says, adding that there is a caveat. "However, hardware can't tell you what's work- ing and what's not. It can't give you the insight you need to understand operations better." If hardware is the heart of a com- pany, pumping the innovative blood around the metaphorical body, then software can be seen as the nervous system. Its role is to check all parts are operating correctly and send signals when it detects that some- thing's wrong. "An enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution acts as the nerve cen- tre. It's fundamental for informed decision-making and means business strategies can be based on facts, not hunches," says Nick Castellina, direc- tor of industry and solution strategy at software company Infor. "Without the right insight being generated by a suitable ERP solution, investment in machinery can be counterproduc- tive and cause more headaches than it does help [to soothe]." With manufacturers under increasing pressure to deliver and ship products faster, with some assembly lines running around the clock, even the slightest delays or downtime can eat into the bottom line. For this reason, man- ufacturers can't risk machinery or equipment failing. Thanks to built-in artifi cial intelligence, software solutions can learn about every asset's performance, health and lifespan. This means red fl ags can be raised and interventions taken before any notable impact on pro- duction occurs. "Software's ability to connect devices to centralised asset man- agement systems means that it can now warn of impending failure," explains Mr Walder. "This allows repairs to be planned and carried out in a controlled manner out- side scheduled production runs or replacements ordered ahead of time." Cinzia Giannetti, senior lecturer at the College of Engineering, Swansea University, and an expert in smart manufacturing and sensors tech- nologies, believes that because software enables predictive main- tenance to be carried out, it might not always be necessary to upgrade hardware or buy new machinery and equipment. "It may be more viable to retrofi t existing [hardware] with sensors, communication and computing capabilities," says Dr Giannetti. "By deploying technologies, such as edge computing, you help to optimise data transmission and processing in the factory. In turn, this allows for enhanced equip- ment utilisation." Deciding between hardware and software is a constant balancing act. The way manufacturers should determine what to invest more in, argues Mr Walder, is to work out which of the two is going to deliver the higher return on investment for the business strategy. "The latest hardware off ers a quick win, helping to ensure the produc- tion line works as quickly and effi - ciently as possible," he says. "On the other hand, software off ers long- term value; investing more in soft- ware is eff ectively future-proofi ng the business. "You must remember, software is the key to unlocking the produc- tivity puzzle, but it needs to work alongside hardware on the factory fl oor, which itself needs to be capa- ble of running reliably." Tech investments are a constant balancing act FUTURE OF MANUFACTURING @raconteur /raconteur.net @raconteur_london Great mechanics need great instructions, and manufacturers upgrading to smart factories will need to balance their investments in both hardware and software to stay ahead of the competition Brian Groom Freelance journalist, he has held senior positions at the Financial Times and was editor at Scotland on Sunday. Emma Woollacott Specialist technology writer, she covers legal and regulatory issues, and has contributed to Forbes and the New Statesman. Dan Thomas Writer and editor, he has contributed to the BBC, Newsweek, Fund Strategy and EducationInvestor, among other publications. Karam Filfi lan Freelance business editor and journalist specialising in human resources, the future of work and innovation. Previously deputy editor of Changeboard. Nafeez Ahmed Investigative journalist and editor of Insurge Intelligence, he has contributed to The Guardian, Independent, VICE and The Atlantic. Olivia Gagan Journalist writing about energy, sustainability and culture for titles including The Times, The New York Times and Time Out London. Rich McEachran Journalist covering tech, startups and innovation, he writes for The Guardian, The Telegraph and Professional Engineering. Distributed in Rich McEachran Published in association with Contributors Publishing manager Frank Monaghan Digital content executive Fran Cassidy Head of production Justyna O'Connell Design Joanna Bird Grant Chapman Sara Gelfgren Kellie Jerrard Harry Lewis-Irlam Celina Lucey Samuele Motta Head of design Tim Whitlock Associate editor Peter Archer Managing editor Benjamin Chiou Although this publication is funded through advertising and sponsorship, all editorial is without bias and sponsored features are clearly labelled. For an upcoming schedule, partnership inquiries or feedback, please call +44 (0)20 3877 3800 or email info@raconteur.net Raconteur is a leading publisher of special-interest content and research. Its publications and articles cover a wide range of topics, including business, fi nance, sustainability, healthcare, lifestyle and technology. Raconteur special reports are published exclusively in The Times and The Sunday Times as well as online at raconteur.net The information contained in this publication has been obtained from sources the Proprietors believe to be correct. However, no legal liability can be accepted for any errors. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior consent of the Publisher. © Raconteur Media raconteur.net GEOFF CADDICK/AFP/Getty Images T E C H I N V E S T M E N T E 87% PwC/The Manufacturer 2018 of manufacturers in the UK say they are ready to invest in new digital technologies to boost productivity say these investments will accelerate innovation in design development and processes Stephen Armstrong Contributor to The Sunday Times, London Evening Standard, Wired and Monocle, he is also an occasional broadcaster on BBC Radio 4 and Radio 2.

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