UK manufacturing excellence highlighted at NEC extravaganza

Published:  04 May, 2016

British manufacturing and engineering excellence was said to be ‘well and truly alive and kicking’ according to the organiser of the recent co-located of events; Drives & Controls, Fluid Power & Systems, Plant and Asset Management, European Offshore Energy, and Air-Tech Exhibitions, which returned to Birmingham’s NEC last month (12-14th April), alongside MACH 2016 and National Electronics Week 2016. Collectively the exhibitions made up the largest manufacturing and engineering events of 2016.

Show organiser, DFA Media, said the the official attendance figure of 13,115 made the 2016 co-location the most successful to date, and highlighted industry optimism. The success was also reflected in the hundreds of delegates attending the more than 50 technical seminars and panel discussions. Speakers offered expert views, information, guidance and advice on a wide range of important and topical issues relevant to each show.

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.”

Drives & Controls Exhibition & Conference attracted a mix of first-time exhibitors and established regulars, and brought together key suppliers of state-of-the-art equipment representing the multi-tasking culture of today’s design engineer, covering critical areas such as energy efficiency, machine safety, drives, motion control, robotics and automation all under one roof.

For the first time the show also included a dedicated area where some of the latest industrial robot technology were demonstrated. Interest in robotics is growing rapidly as the significance of smart factories continues to rise, and prices come down and capabilities increase.

The demo attracted many big names including: ABB Robotics, Applied Engineering, B&R, Harmonic Drive AG, Mitsubishi, Universal Robot, RA Rodriguez, Staubli, Active8 Robots Ltd. There were several examples of the new generation of “collaborative” robots – or “cobots” – designed to operate safely alongside human workers, without needing a protective cage.

It was also announced during the three day event that an additional show - Smart Machines & Factories (SM&F) - will be launched alongside Drives & Controls in 2018, as part of it’s continuing evolution.

The launch of SM&F will focus on the transfer of information enabling manufacturing industries to adopt a new set of skills creating intelligent and fully networked factories of the future, these fundamental changes and the development of the industrial revolution and will encompass the products, systems and software that will move manufacturing towards the digital age.

Show organiser, DFA Media, explained that SM&F will drive the technology revolution in factories where they become more automated, IT driven, proficient, smarter, safer and sustainable and simulate the greater use of automation, efficient data exchange, new technologies, processes and the networking of products to machines.

The co-location of events which ran alongside Drives & Controls Exhibition, included: Plant & Asset Management 2016, the UK’s premier event for plant, asset, maintenance and works management engineers and directors, showcasing the very latest in condition monitoring, CMMS, outsourcing/contract maintenance, energy efficiency, boilers/burners/combustion, handling and storage plus much more.

Ian Chisholm, managing director, SOE, explained that the SOE supported the event so as to use its “in-depth knowledge of the UK’s plant engineering sector to help steer it in the right long-term direction, working with companies, academic institutions, government, and partner organisations to promote the sector to a new generation of engineering professionals. Plant & Asset Management represents a high profile opportunity to highlight these aims.”

The upbeat nature of the event was also highlighted by Stan Jackson, managing director of SPM Instrument: “It has been a first class show one of the best turnarounds in leads that we have had in a long time - in many years. It’s been excellent. We’ve signed up already for the next show without any hesitation.”

While Fluid Power & Systems 2016, the UK’s only exhibition totally focused on hydraulics, pneumatics, systems and related equipment, had the full support of the British Fluid Power Association (BFPA). Chris Buxton, CEO of the BFPA, (incorporating the British Fluid Power Distributors Association), said of Fluid Power & Systems 2016: “There are many digital enthusiasts who claim that the advent of the virtual or web-based show will herald the end of traditional exhibitions. There was certainly no evidence of this at Fluid Power & Systems 2016. Nor did the current challenges in the offshore and steel market appear to have prevented companies and suppliers turning out in strength to display their wares.” Buxton continued: “Visitor numbers were strong and the BFPA Pavilion was busy throughout the three days of the event. Innovation was a strong theme as was the inexorable trend towards automation and wider motion control whilst those visitors seeking a range of added value learning opportunities were very pleased with the range of topics covered in what was a strong seminar programme. We look forward to attending the 2018 event.”

In addition Air-Tech 2016 highlighted current key themes related to the very latest in air compressor and related technology from companies from around the globe. The event was supported by the British Compressed Air Society (BCAS), and is the UK’s only dedicated event for the compressed air and generators market.

Vanda Jones, BCAS’s executive director, commented: “Air-Tech was a great show for BCAS. BCAS hosted its spring conference at Air-Tech, which was attended by members from both the manufacturer and distributor sectors. For the end users we were also able to use the platform to launch our end user survey, our technical guide and the new knowledge base on the website. Show traffic was brisk on all three days and it was an excellent opportunity for us to provide impartial expert advice to exactly the right audience. All in all a very successful three days; it enabled us to link with new contacts and existing members.”

European Offshore Energy Exhibition 2016 also returned to bring together under one roof, suppliers, manufacturers and service providers for the entire upstream offshore energy marketplace – exploration, production, design, maintenance, upgrade, procurement and energy generation. Ryan Fuller, commercial director at DFA Media (Energy Division), commented: This year’s event came at a time of significant challenge for the offshore industries, and it is why as organisers of European Offshore Energy 2016, we were heavily focused on helping visitors find ways bringing costs down and improving efficiency through the latest technologies and services in the offshore industries.”

The biennial co-location of events returns to Birmingham’s NEC between 10 – 12th April 2018.

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