Thursday 22nd June saw the Insider bring their annual conference to the Liverpool waterfront as delegates from all over arrived at the Maritime Museum.
Creative and Digital Technology
This session looked into the transformation of the digital world into that of the physical including better use of data to help productivity. There were some really interesting points made including the development and use of of hardware and software along with collecting data, but more importantly how to use data effectively for your business to improve efficiency.
Tom Dawes of Value Chain gave a very interesting talk where he admitted to making mistakes in the past but has gained valuable lessons from these and since identifying where mistakes were made through data can assure to not repeat the mistake. Tom understands that data can not only be used for diagnostics but also to forecast by predicting trends in the future and prepare the business for such changes. Tom also said that Smart Factories can not only capture data from people, products and processes but can define and align smart supply chains through the collection and diagnostic of the correct data.
Dan Riley, founder and CEO of Spearhead Interactive explained how businesses need to add context to data and dashboards as this could improve effective decision making. Dan listed some of the types of data we can collect as visual data, experimental data and functional data, all of which can be applied to VR. Richard Gregory, Tech North director was also in this session and explained how the skills gap within manufacturing will indeed include covering IP and cyber security skills and capabilities.
Virtual Reality and Holograms
The Virtual Engineering Centre’s Technical Director, Dr Andy Levers discussed how the organisation looks to solve the problems businesses want to be solved. Regarding Virtual Reality Andy states the ‘only barrier is your ambition’ as the possibilities are endless. The Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC) through the University of Liverpool uses CAD data to create simulations through virtual realities, allowing businesses to improve product design and a range of processes, “you name it and you can probably interact with it!”
Rob Forrest from BAE Systems demonstrated some useful uses of simulation within their company including Flight simulation as well as a more generic use for crowd simulations which they often use for training purposes. This creates a risk-free environment whilst offering employees the opportunity to practise their training. Rob listed a variety of benefits for companies using VR including earlier stakeholder involvement, issues identified sooner, enhanced communication methods, VR can be immersive, dynamic and interactive as well as enabling for quick and better decision making whilst de-risking environments.
Ian Strath of Siemens claims businesses need to get to the market quicker and VR helps achieve this despite products being more and more complicated whilst meeting customer expectations. Ian wet onto explain that visual worlds can suggest real and high impact changes which can be made into a reality. Malcolm Collett of EON Reality UK then took to the stage to discuss using not only VR but AR (Augmented Reality) for continuous improvement of employee training and health and safety courses, creating more realistic environments and life like scenarios. Paul Hector of Ricoh was last for this session and introduced the audience to their holographic concierge which has launched in America. Rapidly being adopted by airlines, the hologram enhances the business’ customer service offering 24 hour assistance by answering questions, offering information and uses sensors to welcome arrivals and thanking those leaving in a range of languages.
Next Generation Automotive
Mark Downing of Scorpion Automotive shared some key facts about manufacturing within the UK and the North West as The Engineer has recently stated that the North West is one of the biggest areas for manufacturing whilst generating £23.7b, making it the 9th largest region in the world with automotive being one of the largest sections. Richard Fairchild of RDM Group showed the audience some great examples of perception of autonomous experiences including PodZero, the company’s very own driverless car which RDM Group hopes will act as a taxi service operated by an app system.
Next up was Professor Paul Jennings who is the lead for Intelligent Vehicles at WMG. Paul stated that 90% of incidents are caused by driver error which may lead to more drivers giving autonomous vehicles an opportunity to see how they could make roads safer. Richard Browning was last on stage as the founder of Gravity, whom have created a jet pack which is attached the arms and back of a person and allows the wearer to lift themselves above ground via manned flight.
Digital and Advanced Manufacturing
Discussing how manufacturers are being encouraged to embrace big data and the Internet of Things, Professor Joe Sensor of Sensor City took to the stage. With more than 10% per year growth, the UK sensor industry contributes £13 billion per year and is only showing signs of increasing. Many SME’s within the Liverpool City Region are involved in sensors in some capacity as the technology can be applied over a number of industries. Joe discussed how sensors are a horizontal enabler as there are many different sensors which can monitor and track many different types of data, even on a singular object or piece of machinery.
Jim Humphries is a technical director for FMI and discussed their recent opportunities to work with Sasol through underground mining within South Africa. They use sensors provided for them by Sensor City to identify when drivers are tired through the closing of eyes for example. When this action is identified, an alarm rings to indicate for the driver to take a break, reducing risks of drivers falling asleep at the wheel whilst in a challenging environment.
Key Theme: UK’s lack of engagement with new technology
Dr Andy Levers of the VEC explained that there is some government support through encouraging businesses to adopt new industries including the part ERDF funded programme, LCR 4.0. Offering free support, help and advice, the programme aims to inspire manufacturers within the Liverpool City Region to adopt industry 4.0 technologies.
Ian Strath of Siemens explained that the UK is great at generating ideas but investing appears to be the issue which is preventing the UK from being as innovative as other parts of the world such as Germany.
Rob Forrest from BAE Systems added that companies need to create the correct culture to encourage innovative ideas which are often driven by how well the business is doing at the time.
Richard Fairchild of RDM Group believes there is always a thread of stagnation and used Apple as an example. They have a burst of innovative ideas and apply these to their phones and applications but then after a while, the ideas tend to dry up and there are fewer innovative ideas.