The Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle played host to this year’s Manufacturing and Engineering 2018 show – the only industry conference of its type in the North of England and celebrating the very best of design and manufacturing innovation.
The 2 day event included a wide range of exhibitors, showcasing everything from automated guided vehicles to virtual meeting headsets, as well featuring 15 keynote conference speakers and practical workshops, covering topical opportunities and the challenges facing manufacturing and engineering businesses.
Having spent 2 days immersing myself in everything the show offered, there were some interesting takeaways to consider and particularly good to hear how firms are challenging potential issues head on.
The skills gap is a major issue in manufacturing and engineering businesses. The decline in apprenticeships and lack of focus by schools at an early age to concentrate on the skills relevant to the sector is a real problem, resulting in the next generation of manufacturers and engineers currently looking elsewhere for an attractive career path.
However, it was encouraging to see how some businesses such as Nissan, have taken matters into their own hands. Leveraging on the fact that one of the schools’ KPIs is to engage with local employers, they have now contacted over 500 schools, interacting with children at an early age to spark an interest in the industry and then continuing to engage through their academic years to nurture this interest.
Collaboration was a key point running through many of the presentations. Businesses and organisations accepting that together they were stronger, working alongside to share knowledge and innovate. One such collaboration, the manufacturing assembly network (MAN) has a great initiative where they shares apprentices, resulting in much more rounded employees.
Innovation was everywhere. It was enormously impressive and inspiring to see the technology that currently exists and what this technology will enable manufacturing and engineering businesses to do in the future. From digitalised reality to the internet of things, Industry 4.0 is with us and the commercial viability of this technology is already being utilised, with huge success, in many manufacturing and engineering businesses.
The lasting impression I have is a feeling of excitement of what technology may hold for manufacturing and engineering businesses willing to embrace it, alongside a feeling of confidence in the great strength of northern businesses in the sector.