Until now, smaller manufacturing companies have missed out on the productivity benefits of digital technologies and data-driven solutions. Too many manufacturers don’t know where to start, and lack the skills required to deploy and use digital solutions. The costs are perceived to be high and the return on investment is unclear.

A consortium, including WMG at the University of Warwick, has been awarded funding through the Government’s Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge to tackle this problem by developing a Smart Information Platform and Ecosystem for Manufacturing (SIMPLE).

Project SIMPLE will bring the benefits of digitalisation to manufacturers for whom the technology, skills, and business benefits are currently inaccessible. The project will deliver a platform that is fast to deploy, easy to use, cost-effective, and versatile. And 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. Innovare Systems 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 is representative of global organisations challenged by their operational complexity, the diversity of technologies deployed in production, fragmented software landscape and data repositories.

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.

Dr Daniel Vera, from WMG at the University of Warwick said: “At WMG, we will be focussing 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 optimise their processes, which in turn can speed up their project delivery and significantly improve their business operations.”

Jason Powell of Innovare Systems added: “The technology is important as it offers greater operational transparency, which allows greater scrutiny of performance whilst maintaining the production activities’ live information.  Additionally, this system can also be used as a tool to drive production efficiency through optimising performance which will increase capacity. We are expecting this technology to boost productivity by 10% even from the early deployment.”

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