by Eamonn McMahon
Every two years, the MTA / Manufacturing Technology Association hosts a conference for advanced manufacturing and associated technology. After much anticipation, MACH 2018 got underway in Birmingham with over 25,000 in attendance on the 12th of April. The event not only facilitates over £100 million in commercial deals but acts as convergence point for networking, knowledge sharing and recruitment. If manufacturing had a world cup, this would be it.
EquipmentConnect was delighted to attend the event. It proved an excellent opportunity to meet many active participants in manufacturing who rely on high-value equipment and machinery. On display were robotic systems, CNC milling machines, turning machines, honing machines and the latest industrial 3D printing machines. Given manufacturing has generally been leading the economic charge these past twelve months we weren't suprised that the mood was cautiously positive.
We were very fortunate to sit down with James Selka who heads up the MTA and learn about the headwinds currently facing advanced manufacturing and the work the association is undertaking to support it's membership. We also spoke about how fintech can help manfuacturing in the UK by reducing the cost of financial products and improving the user experience and level of service.
We also got to speak with a range of companies who were exhibiting including Beckhoff automation, the Bradbury Group, Seeley International and many more. In drawing a consensus we concluded the following.
Key points we took away from the conference:
There are three factors of production that must be improved if manufacturing companies are to continue thriving in the UK:
1.) Access to fast affordable finance. While the funding gaps remains less than it was previously there are still fundamentally credit worthy advanced manufacturing and manufacturing technology companies who cannot easily access affordable finance. When accessible the finance is often delivered too slow with compromising commercial opportunities.
2.) Availability of talented, enthusiastic skilled labour. While automation will bring productivity benifits, we will be clearly dependent on a skilled human workforce for a long time. A combination of engineering and science talent supply on one side must be complimented by apprenticeships and vocationally trained workforce. The current government levy on apprecticeships was generally unpopular due to the broad blanket approach and low, £3mn annual wage bill, qualification.
3.) New technologies that push forward efficiencies. Be it 3D printing or augmented reality modelling, we must not shy away from exploiting new technologies that can drive forward efficiencies in the production process. With increasingly high labour costs its essential that UK enterprise becomes as technologically adept as possible.
We look forward to working alongside the MTA and the Advanced Manufacturing Industry in the future. Clearly there are challenges ahead but with a combination of old-fashioned resilance, engineering ingenuity and industry leadership we believe the future will be bright for UK advanced manfuacturing. EquipmentConnect will look to focus on serving this cornerstone of the real economy with easy, fast and affordable finance.