Monday, 29 April 2019

Manufacturing success in Sheffield Digital Awards

SELA is delighted to have been shortlisted in the Sheffield Digital Awards 2019, in the Best Use of Tech in Industry category.

Over the last nine months, a team of SELA’s undergraduate engineering leaders has been developing and promoting approaches to using Internet of Things technologies to increase efficiency in manufacturing businesses across the Sheffield City Region, in a bid to boost productivity. The team has also responded to the fears of companies about capital expenditure, recognising this as a barrier to adoption.

Generously supported by local manufacturer Tinsley Bridge, and mentored by Head of IT Alex Kelly, the team was able to see challenges in manufacturing first-hand, before developing a system to monitor electricity usage down to the level of individual machines in a manufacturing facility. Recognising capital expenditure concerns as a barrier to adoption of digital technologies, they developed a low-cost prototype, consisting of sensors for data acquisition, a data transmission device, and a dashboard that displays real-time data and management information. The prototype was recently showcased at an event with the Northern Crucible manufacturing group attended by over 40 industrial leaders in the north. It received heightened interest as a simple solution to an age-old problem – hence it is already proving to be a good tool in impacting and encouraging manufacturing leaders towards adopting IoT in their own plants.

The prototype has the following benefits:
  • Low capital requirement and operational costs.
  • Composed of materials that are easily sourced.
  • Programmed using open-source software, providing the option for in-house configuration with the right skillset.
  • Robust in industrial settings and easy to implement.
  • An adaptable dashboard, configurable to suit the needs of different levels of management, as well as customisable to different manufacturers.
  • Provides an ideal introduction to IoT technologies, and can generate savings to invest in other technologies – so catalysing the adoption of digital technologies across a business.

Dr Gary Wood, Head of SELA, commented: ‘It is fantastic to see our students really taking the lead through their project and making such impact, all whilst still undergraduate students. Their project provides a successful model for digital adoption in Sheffield, with higher education, the city region, and SME manufacturers working together to drive innovation towards a more competitive industrial sector. We are really grateful to Tinsley Bridge and the wide network of industry partners who are supporting us in offering such engaging learning experiences for our students.’

The students now plan to create a case study on Industry 4.0 and the adoption of Industrial Digital Technologies in manufacturing in the Sheffield City Region under the supervision of Dr Ceri Batchelder, Royal Society Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Sheffield and member of the SELA Operations Board. The team has also been working on gathering local manufacturers’ views through a survey and stakeholder engagement. The findings for all aspects of the project will be published in a report in late 2019. It will provide an overview of the benefits of adopting Industrial Digital Technologies, with the hope of inspiring more regional manufacturers to explore their potential.

In the meantime, members of SELA’s Digital Manufacturing Team will be attending the Sheffield Digital Awards on Thursday, 2 May, to celebrate their success alongside fellow shortlisted companies Bossa Nova and PES.

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