Hi-tech support for local supply chains

A new hi-tech partnership aims to help local manufacturers and their supply chains reach full potential.

Cambridge-based (RTO) TWI Ltd and the Smart Manufacturing Alliance (SMA) have joined forces to steer businesses through ongoing challenges thrown up by the pandemic, Brexit, skills shortages and supply chain disruption. They can also advise on strategies and activities to proactively address key changes in the wider operating environment.

The SMA is a joint venture between Opportunity Peterborough and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.

It aims to develop a world-class manufacturing cluster across Greater Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, currently home to over 3000 manufacturers, specialising in everything from 3D printing to pharmaceuticals, engines and robotics. Members have access to a network of like-minded manufacturers, supported by connections to relevant experts within industry, and across technology development, finance, education and academia.

TWI is an international, industry-focused research and technology organization: its TWI Innovation Network (TWIIN) offers support for innovation through funding, collaborative working, and other dedicated services. 

Plus, its Technology Innovation Management team, Innovation Centres and tech experts work closely with SMEs, larges companies and RTOs to help draw up proposals for engineering-tech R&D, and attract public funding from schemes such as Horizon Europe and Innovate UK.

The Alliance and TWIIN also run annual events and networking programmes, where manufacturing innovations are shared. 

Tat-Hean Gan, TWI’s Director of Research and Innovation, explained: “Some of the most pertinent subjects for manufacturers to address now, and in the coming years, are the drive towards net zero operations, adapting to industry 4.0 developments, and the transition to smart factories and automation.

“Therefore, TWI’s Innovation Centres for, respectively, Joining 4.0, Circular Economy and Recycling, Industrial Decarbonisation and Hydrogen, Industrial Net Zero, Renewable Energy, and Artificial Intelligence, together with TWI’s technical sections, TIM team and extensive networks, are ideally placed to support the Smart Manufacturing Alliance, with its aims for the regions manufacturing supply chain members.”

Bob Hart, SMA Programme Director, added: “One of our top priorities is to encourage higher levels of innovation among Cambridgeshire and Peterborough manufacturers. With such a heavy concentration of manufacturers and broad range of specialisms across the region, it’s imperative that we bolster their R&D and new product development to ensure our manufacturing sector can compete at a global level. 

“TWI’s Innovation Centres, TIM team, and technical sections are a huge asset to our region and we’re very excited about the potential our new partnership is creating for our members.”

What types of innovation does the partnership support?

The PCML Group has sites in March, Peterborough, Cambridge, and Sandy, and specialises in the precision engineering and manufacture of custom-built parts and components for use in medical, biotech, scientific and industrial technologies.

PCML recently partnered with a UK 3D Mobile Mapping Company to manufacture and build the precision parts and bespoke components for one of their 3D imaging cameras, used to map changes within difficult to reach places, such as mines and caves. PCML Group manage the complete design for manufacture, production, and assembly for all the required parts and looms –with full control of the BOM, manufacturing process and supply chain

Partnering with clients at the early design stages and working in collaboration with specialist design consultants ensure the smooth delivery of products through the entire manufacturing, quality, test, and assembly process.

Digitisation funding

Local SME manufacturers can get 12 hours’ free consultancy and capital grant funding through Advanced Capacities for Manufacturing – Industry 4.0 (ACMI4.0.

The £1.2 million European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) project helps SMEs to adopt and integrate Industry 4.0 technologies and design principles more effectively.

It’s being delivered by the SMA in partnership with Opportunity Peterborough. 

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