Plant & Works Engineering
New Knowledge Hubs initiative at MACH 2024
Published:  22 February, 2024

Reversing UK manufacturing’s poor record for adopting new technology will be tackled head on at MACH 2024 as The Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA) launches its new Knowledge Hubs initiative, showcasing how to adopt new technology to improve productivity and efficiency in manufacturing.

The programme showcases new technology that is readily available to UK manufacturers, helping them to understand the potential adopting such technology can bring to their operation, as well as when to adopt it and how to implement it to best effect.

The Knowledge Hubs initiative will have dedicated stands across the event, each focusing on a particular type of technology including Automation and Robotics, Sustainable Solutions, Additive Manufacturing, Consumable Tooling, and Data and Artificial Intelligence.

In recognition of the importance being placed on these hubs, each is being managed by one of the specialist centres from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, such as the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

The Catapult network is recognised for the cutting-edge research and development work being conducted at its various centres. The network collaborates with thousands of innovative businesses across a wide range of sectors, including manufacturing, space, health, digital, energy, transport, telecoms, the urban environment and many others.

The MTA, which organises the MACH event on behalf of the engineering-based manufacturing community, has been campaigning for greater adoption of new technology for some time. It will expand upon this at MACH 2024, which opens its doors at the NEC in Birmingham on 15th April, by explaining that implementing proven, readily available techniques in manufacturing processes is the fastest way to boost the UK’s output.

James Selka DL, CEO of the MTA, said: “The MTA is part of a united front of UK manufacturing organisations, along with the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) and MACH 2024 Headline Sponsor Lloyds Bank, to increase the uptake of technologies such as automation and robotics.”

“Only by embracing what the hubs are trying to achieve will the UK restore its position as a sovereign manufacturer, re-establishing itself as a major player on the global stage.”

“To have brand agnostic input from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult network, running our Knowledge Hubs, is an indication of the importance these organisations place on our initiative. Combined with the ability to see advanced technology, live and in action, in a fully working state – MACH 2024 is a must-visit for all the UK’s manufacturing community.”

The need for this approach was recently brought into sharp focus in a new report highlighting the UK’s lack of investment in technology and its poor adoption of robotics in industry. The figures, from the International Federation of Robotics, showed the UK languishing outside the top 20 developed nations in terms of the global utilisation of industrial robots in manufacturing – lagging not just behind the economic superpowers, but also the likes of Spain and Finland.

The Automation and Robotics Knowledge Hub will showcase how easily the technology can be adopted into existing manufacturing operations, automating repeatable processes, improving accuracy and consistency, and reducing repetitive and monotonous tasks.

MTC Chief Automation Officer, Mike Wilson, commented; “Robotics and automation is key to solving the UK’s productivity puzzle. This under-pinning technology will help manufacturers achieve high productivity and net zero aspirations while solving some of the UK’s labour shortage issues. It is also a significant contributor to strengthening the UK’s supply chain and securing resilient UK manufacturing capability.”

The Sustainable Solutions Knowledge Hub, sponsored by Lloyds Bank, will guide manufacturers on how investing in energy efficient technology now, backed by government incentives, can help offset energy cost increases, improve business fitness for the future and help balance the ‘cost of doing business’.

Dave Atkinson, UK Head of Manufacturing SME & Mid Corporates, Lloyds Bank commented; “Understanding how to get to Net Zero is one of the biggest hurdles for UK manufacturers. Many are looking for help and advice with the challenge they’ve been set by their supply chain and customers to improve sustainability and reduce their carbon emissions. Lloyds Bank are delighted to be partnering with the MTC to deliver the Sustainable Solutions Knowledge Hub at MACH 2024, providing impartial guidance on how small and medium sized businesses can accelerate their journey to Net Zero.”

The Additive Manufacturing Knowledge Hub is designed to help visitors looking to learn how to develop, adopt and use additive manufacturing and 3D printing technology in their manufacturing processes. Expert advice and wayfinding will be on offer from AM-UK on how to utilise the technology for making production parts and products directly from design data – building accurate components by adding layers of material to obtain the final shape with minimal waste.

The Consumable Tooling Knowledge Hub is where visitors should head to receive impartial advice on how to optimise their machining processes and how to deal with real-life machining challenges. The Hub will offer advice on matching the most suitable cutting tool material and insert geometry with the workpiece material to be machined, through to key considerations such as tool paths and cutting data. Visitors can meet experts from the AMRC who will be on-hand to help visitors with the complexities of metal cutting.

The Data and AI Knowledge Hub will explore how SME’s can use this technology to drive growth and innovation in manufacturing by measuring the output of their current operation, looking for opportunities to improve and ensuring supply meets demand. The aim of the Knowledge Hub is to provide advice and wayfinding, addressing the manufacturing applications that can be supported by data, technology and automated processes.

The Knowledge Hub initiative was handed a major shot-in-the-arm with the recent announcement by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt of £4.5 billion of funding to support advanced manufacturing. The funding will directly benefit several of the exhibition’s key themes, especially Sustainable Solutions, where £960 million has been earmarked for clean energy manufacturing through a Green Industries Growth Accelerator.

Selka concludes; “The UK must adapt to the global environment, accepting there will be partial de-globalisation. Greater adoption of the latest, most powerful technologies will therefore be vital to achieving this, helping improve manufacturing efficiency and optimising productivity. Through our Knowledge Hubs at MACH 2024, the MTA are doing everything we can to help UK manufacturers focus on the new technology, explain when to adopt it and how to implement it to best effect.”

MACH is the UK’s only live, national event showcasing sustainable, innovative technologies used across the manufacturing spectrum and is the destination of choice for companies looking to adopt and invest in the digital revolution.

The exhibition is more than 90% sold but prime locations within the show halls are still available for businesses looking to exhibit. Nevertheless, the MTA has said companies still considering exhibiting should not delay their decisions so they can secure the locations of their choice.