Wed, Jul

Feeling a rosy glow of future success

How do you manage the challenges facing manufacturing in the UK right now - and profit from them? That is exactly what The Fespa UK Association hoped to tell delegates at its recent forum at London’s Ritz hotel.

Delegates came, and saw the future through the lens of the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC.) The view was challenging, daunting - and wonderful. But, as Peter Kiddell reports, if there was one key message from this Fespa UK Association arranged business building forum it was that it’s essential to have the data to enable you to measure, control and plan what are inevitable changes for your company as a new technological era dawns.

MTC recognises that PSPs - particularly in the wide-format, industrial and specialist printing areas - are already digitally sophisticated in many ways and ready to move into the next phase of advanced manufacturing. What is noticeable about the timeline below, is the duration of the industrial revolutions so far - with the acceleration in technology, the fifth industrial revolution could be much closer than we imagine. So how to prepare – and make money at the same time?

You know the drill - the high growth business of the future will be one that has the ability to adapt its business processes and structures to match market trends. But before a company moves into a development phase it has to know where it currently stands, and that it is making the very best use of current resources. Then questions need to be asked: Is my organisation receptive to change? Have we planned processes for how we utilise new technologies?

A technology road map, an understanding of the required changes in values and behaviours and aligning Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are imperative if you want any chance of business development. And there must be a culture of continuous improvement. Re-equipping your business without a change in thinking is simply not going to be effective longer term according to MTC speaker Nigel Knapp.

Meanwhile, Tim Andrews outlined why having accurate digital data from every part of the manufacturing process is crucial to future development - how linking customer requirements with the company’s resources, and programming in materials from suppliers, work together to help achieve the highest possible earnings.

Another key message that came out of the forum was from a delegate in regards to job selection and charging. Every PSP has those incoming orders that can be disruptive to production and that consume resources that could be used for more profitable work. The delegate spoke of their company’s ‘Express Order Service’ which carries a higher cost that justifies such disruption. Over time, these orders have fitted into production with minimal disturbance to production, satisfying the client and increasing profitability for the company. Of course another approach is to subcontract distractive orders, leaving the principle’s production free for the profitable work!

We hear how artificial intelligence (AI) is likely to be integrated into technologies we use, helping us optimise production, and how augmented reality (AR) is being used for training on new equipment etc. There is also software currently available that can mirror production in a virtual environment and enable a company to test run a product through production on its desktop to see any issues before they occur. Whilst the job is in production, the system will then monitor its actual progress against the predictions.

In this forum Knapp and Andrews took us to a world where we can create a production line in virtual reality that is as effective as a flight simulator, to rehearse how production lines will operate to accommodate new equipment.

The future is coming closer, and Fespa UK Association is committed to supporting its members through technological change by working with the MTC. As Kiddell points out, the R&D costs of the necessary developments attract tax concessions from HMRC. “A member has already received £800,000 tax rebates on such products,” he enthuses, adding: “There may also be funding support from Government as it plans it way to Brexit.” Perhaps now is a good time to investigate.

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