Smart Machines & Factories
Smart opportunities on show
Published:  20 June, 2018

The inaugural Smart Industry Expo took place alongside the established Drives & Controls Exhibition and co-located events, at Birmingham’s NEC last month. Smart Machines & Factories reviews a few of the highlights during the three-day event.

British manufacturing and engineering excellence is said to be ‘well and truly alive and kicking’ according to the organiser of the recent inaugural Smart Industry Expo, co-located with Drives & Controls; Plant and Asset Management; Fluid Power & Systems; and Air-Tech Exhibitions, which returned to Birmingham’s NEC last month (10-12th April), alongside MACH 2018. Collectively the exhibitions made up the largest manufacturing and engineering events of 2018.

Show organiser, DFA Media, said the official attendance figure of 13,518 over the three days, made the 2018 co-location the most successful to date, and highlighted industry optimism - this figure represents a 3% increase on 2016.

DFA Media managing director, Ian Atkinson, said: “This was the best outing yet for the co-located shows. The response we received from exhibitors and visitors alike has been highly encouraging, which we believe reflects the continuing overall market strength and optimism felt within the industry sectors represented by these exhibitions.”

The inaugural Smart Industry Expo gave visitors the opportunity to seek guidance in order to prepare for the smart engineering transformation that is taking place.

The entrance to the Smart Industry Expo was dominated by a double-stand occupied by Schneider Electric, covering around 150m2 – twice the area that the company had at the previous Drives show in 2016. Schneider Electric showcased its latest innovations in connected technologies and demonstrated how it could boost both productivity and sustainability. Alongside partners such as Cisco, NetApps and Salesforce, Schneider Electric explored how the Internet of Things is driving efficiency, productivity and competiveness among today’s business leaders.

With practical examples and tours of both its Smart Factory and Smart Office of the future, Schneider Electric showed the full extent of its EcoStruxure offering for the manufacturing supply-chain.

Connie Taylor, marketing operations manager at Schneider Electric commented:

“The Smart Industry Expo gave us the perfect platform to demonstrate a fully connected factory solution over the typical product displays of Drives and Controls. The feedback we received was outstanding.”

The Smart Industry Expo also attracted Festo, who showcased its new developments and products in Industry 4.0 technology; as a user within their own production, as the leading provider of training equipment and courses and as an automation product manufacturer.

It highlighted existing products such as the modular CPX valve manifold system and automation platform, which have been enhanced by the addition of the brand new IoT gateway connecting Festo’s own cloud based dashboards - allowing real time visualisation of data. CPX- IoT collects information about Festo devices via an Ethernet connection and the I4.0 standard communication protocol OPC-UA allowing their status and key performance trends to be monitored.

Other highlights included the recently launched Festo Motion Terminal, the world’s first controlled by apps, and the recent Festo and EPLAN collaboration around a comprehensive data portal. For anyone wondering how to implement Industry 4.0 projects, specialists were on hand to explain the cutting edge Cyber- Physical training factory and skills development courses to help companies start on their journey.

While HARTING demonstrated its range of automation solutions for improving the efficiency of manufacturing logistic processes based on the concepts of Integrated Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT).

HARTING explained that its approach to smart manufacturing is based on the addition of intelligence to manufacturing processes with the aim of achieving a high level of connectivity, visibility, awareness, and adaptability at all stages in the supply chain.

The company added that by enhancing users’ processes with RFID technology, it can make it possible to implement solutions that deliver real profitability gains without the need for re-engineering already proven, stable manufacturing processes.

The two key elements of HARTING’s approach are machine-to-machine communications and manufacturing logistics. Machine-to-machine communications is typically concerned with the transmission of information obtained from the monitoring of production equipment to improve diagnostics and to enable effective preventative maintenance.

Manufacturing logistics replaces the existing supply chain management model with the use of intelligent systems to implement functions such as supplying the line with discrete and accurate quantities of materials; ensuring goods flow on a “just in time” schedule, and faithfully tracking assets and inventory in the warehouse and in transit.

Natasha Sephton-Pike, regional marketing manager at HARTING, commented on its presence at the event: “Smart Industry Expo allows us to interact and build relationships with engineers in this fast-paced expanding industry. As the ‘Internet of Things’ matures into the core of Industry 4.0, the demand for high quality ruggedised networking devices and RFID solutions is becoming increasingly essential. These are not only helping to gather, process and transmit higher volumes of performance data and control signals, but doing so across a cost effective, more widely available infrastructure.”

Other well-known names such as Universal Robots, Panduit, Sigmatek, Senseye, Codra, ifm electronic, Exor and Applied Automation also exhibited at the event.

The Knowledge Hub

In addition, over the course of the three-day Smart Industry Expo, The Knowledge Hub, sponsored by Gardner Denver, featured a comprehensive programme of seminars and panel discussions, with speakers offering expert insight and practical advice on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

As part of the ongoing global transformation to the smart manufacturing era, The Knowledge Hub’s theme for 2018 was Smart Factory - Concept to Reality, the journey to a smart future.

The Knowledge Hub fully reflected the diverse range of digital opportunities and highlighted the global initiatives and the technological paradigm shift associated with the Industrial Internet of Things.

Over the course of the three-day seminar programme, visitors had the opportunity to experience a complete smart roadmap, with each day of the Knowledge Hub representing a different stage of the smart journey covering all aspect of the digital transformation:

• Day 1: Concept

• Day 2: Transition

• Day 3: Implementation

Panel discussions also debated how there is a growing opportunity for industry to take advantage of the creativity and entrepreneurial nature of UK companies.

Ultimately the programme’s central message was to emphasise how Smart technologies in the industrial sector will be central to the UK’s future economic success, by improving our national productivity, creating higher value jobs, and arming our workforce with the digital skills required in the decades ahead.

The Knowledge Hub seminar programme brought all these messages home effectively and provided a fascinating insight into the potential plants of the future.

Smart Industry Expo proved to be a comprehensive dedicated event focusing on the Fourth Industrial Revolution and transforming to a smart manufacturing era with a lot of added value thrown in with the co-location of events surrounding it.

Smart Industry Expo returns to Birmingham’s NEC alongside the biennial co-location of events between 21st -23rd April 2020.