AUTOMATION LEADERS ADDRESS MANUFACTURING CHALLENGES AT FANUC UK OPEN HOUSE

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Over 600 visitors converged at the annual FANUC UK Open House event in Ansty Park, Coventry between 2 and 4 November 2022 as the industrial automation community sought to address some of the key challenges and opportunities facing manufacturers today. Comprising expert speaker presentations, case studies, panel discussions, hands-on training, live robotics demonstrations and an exhibition of more than 40 companies, the event showcased the numerous ways in which automation can support UK manufacturers to combat the ongoing labour crisis, raise productivity levels and increase our competitive edge in a global marketplace.

UK on the world stage

In his opening address, FANUC UK’s Managing Director, Tom Bouchier, was clear in his assessment of the UK’s standing among other leading manufacturing countries. “The UK is the ninth largest manufacturing nation, with a world class manufacturing industry and a world class workforce,” he stated. “But when it comes to robot density, we are the only G7 country that sits below the global average. A German worker is around 30% more productive an hour than we are, because of their increased use of automation. Let’s keep the UK at the forefront of the manufacturing revolution and raise our productivity by increasing the uptake of automation.”

Inspiring tomorrow’s engineers

Also essential to the success of UK manufacturing is ensuring a healthy pipeline of upcoming talent. Panellists and audience members alike enjoyed a lively debate about the best ways to inspire the next generation of engineers, with attendees agreeing that a joined-up approach between academic institutions, associations such as the MTC, and industry leaders like FANUC is required to showcase to today’s ‘digital natives’ – young people that have grown up in the information age – the reality of manufacturing today. As FANUC’s European IoT Product Manager, Jacek Urbanowicz, said: “It’s essential to promote to young people the new roles in engineering and manufacturing that are related to technology and digital skills, as the next generation want to work smarter, not harder.”

To this end, every exhibiting company at the Open House event was invited to make a donation, which FANUC has used to fund four young people through an Arkwright Engineering Scholarship.

Sustainable manufacturing

Another key topic at the forefront of people’s minds during the Open House was sustainability – no longer just a ‘nice to have’, rising energy costs, consumer demand and increased legislation mean that sustainability and manufacturing now go hand in hand.

Injection moulding firm Bloom-in-Box gave an inspirational presentation on their bid to become net zero, demonstrating how their ROBOSHOT machine is powered entirely by solar energy.

Meanwhile, in his speech on Meeting the Challenges of Modern Manufacturing, as well as during the panel discussion on sustainability, Phil Hadfield, UK Managing Director of Rockwell Automation, revealed that sustainability is now one of, if not the, top concern of manufacturers, stating: “It’s ethically right, it helps to reduce costs and it’s demanded by consumers. Being sustainable is now a real business imperative.”

The best of UK automation

Other topics under discussion included the power of partnerships, the outlook of UK manufacturing, incorporating IIOT into your company plans, and points to consider when purchasing a cobot. In addition, the final day was given over to education, and saw over 120 aspiring young engineers join the assembled industry experts to hear presentations on machine safety, WorldSkills UK and opportunities for apprentices.

Alongside the impressive seminar programme, the Open House hosted real-world demonstrations of the latest robotics innovations from FANUC as well as an exhibition showcasing the best industrial automation solutions from its network of partners. Companies such as Mazak, Loop Technology, Filtermist and Bauromat demonstrated the myriad possibilities available to today’s manufacturers across a variety of sectors including automotive, pharmaceutical, food and beverage, and aerospace.

Uniting the industry

Praising the event, David Dearden, Managing Director – UK & Ireland for machinery safety experts Euchner, said: “We enjoyed some great conversations with companies from across the manufacturing supply chain, discussing some of their key areas of concern, including safety. Many of these connections would not have been made had we not attended this event, proving how important FANUC’s Open House is in uniting the wider industrial automation community.” 

Phil Hadfield, UK MD of Rockwell Automation, added: “This was another fantastic Open House event from FANUC, bringing together the entire automation ecosystem and providing a platform for us to talk openly about the key issues affecting everyone. There was a common thread running through the presentations – namely, sustainability – and it’s clear that after Brexit, Covid and the supply chain issues, this is the next big pinch point for manufacturers.”

To view presentations from FANUC’s Open House 2022, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovE6t3mdpf0&t=614s

Image: Over 600 visitors converged at the annual FANUC UK Open House event in Ansty Park, Coventry from 2-4 November.

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