Until now, smaller manufacturing companies have missed the productivity benefits of digital technologies and data-driven solutions. Experts suggest too many manufacturers do not know where to start, and lack the skills required to deploy and use digital solutions. The costs are also perceived to be high and the return on investment is unclear.
A consortium, including WMG, an academic department at the University of Warwick and a role model for the successful collaboration between academia and the public and private sectors, has been awarded funding through the UK Government’s Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge to tackle this problem by developing a Smart InforMation PLatform and Ecosystem for the manufacturing industry (SIMPLE).
Project SIMPLE will bring the benefits of digitalization to manufacturers for whom the technology, skills, and business benefits are currently inaccessible. The project will deliver a platform that it hopes will be “fast to deploy, easy to use, cost-effective, and versatile.” It will be supported by an ecosystem that addresses skills and training requirements.
The consortium includes a wide range of end-user, academic, and technology partners to provide the necessary breadth of expertise, including:
- Innovare Systems (construction) is representative of SMEs seeking to improve their operations through the deployment of digital capabilities, but have a low skill level in the domain, bare bones IT capabilities and low levels of automation.
- Lear Corporation (automotive) is representative of global organizations challenged by their operational complexity, the diversity of technologies deployed in production, fragmented software landscape and data repositories.
- The UK Battery Industrialization Centre is seeking a vendor independent solution that can support their short-term objectives and scale up rapidly to support multiple production campaigns in the future,
- WMG, University of Warwick is a world leading research and education group, transforming organizations and driving innovation through a unique combination of collaborative research and development, and pioneering education programs.
- The Science and Technology Facilities Council is a government agency that carries out research in science and engineering. The focus for project SIMPLE is on knowledge representations and knowledge models relevant to manufacturing.
- Fully Distributed Systems (FDS), AI Idea Factory and 4thWall Virtual develop engineering tools, industrial software components and supply related services.
The benefits of SIMPLE will be validated via deployment of the platform at the end-user partners’ facilities – demonstrating the value in three different use cases. The deployment of a skills training system at WMG, University of Warwick, will validate the skills and training proposition.
Project SIMPLE is co-funded by the businesses in the consortium and the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, through the Manufacturing Made Smarter Competition. The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Manufacturing Made Smarter Round 1 Competition offers grant funding investment in projects that focus on the use of industrial digital technologies (IDTs) to transform the productivity and agility of UK manufacturing. Of 34 applications submitted, project SIMPLE is one of 14 projects approved following independent assessment and expert review.
Dr Daniel Vera, from WMG at the University of Warwick, noted that WMG “will be focusing on making sure that manufacturers become fluent in deploying and using digital systems. Our training platform will mean that manufacturers can confidently use data-driven methods and digital solutions to optimize their processes, which in turn can speed up their project delivery and significantly improve their business operations.”
The project will engage the wider manufacturing community to ensure the SIMPLE platform and methodology addresses the widest set of manufacturers’ needs.