Greenwich University to lead UK-side of future factories project

Engineering researchers at Greenwich University have been awarded a €398,000 EU grant to lead the UK’s contribution to a €3.9m project to create factories of the future.

Manufacturers of high value goods often work across multiple sites, some of which might be overseas, and the Greenwich team will help improve innovation, communications, productivity and profitability in their future factories.

Prof. Simeon Keates, pro vice chancellor, of the Faculty of Engineering & Science said: “This is not about mass production of standardised goods at low prices. There, for example, robots can be used for just one specific mechanical task more than 100,000 times a month. We cannot compete with low-wage economies and countries with less stringent health and safety regulations.

“Our aim is to develop new systems and innovative ways of working with people and their manufacturing equipment. We will help businesses produce the best designs and products they can in the most efficient and cost-effective ways possible.

“For example, a robot may be needed to complete a task just 1,000 times or less each month. Costs will be cut considerably if businesses use flexible robots programmed to complete a range of tasks as required.”

He added that people across dispersed company sites lack the full communications systems they need to share best practices and develop new ideas collaboratively. Improved communications will help businesses capture the full range of cultural perspectives, creativity, knowledge and skills embedded within their work teams.

Greenwich University is also investing in the project to develop new systems to support manufacturers of high value goods.

The engineering research team is working closely with two UK project partners, Exeter University and Autofina, and five partners in France – CESI, BA Systèmes, IRSEEM, the Université du Havre and CERI.

Each partner is building a cluster of manufacturing businesses in their geographic area. They will liaise with their cluster businesses to develop and test new factory systems and processes.

“It is an exciting challenge,” said Prof James Gao, Medway Chair of Manufacturing Engineering and the leader of Greenwich’s Centre for Innovative Product Development and Manufacturing (CIPDM).

“We already co-ordinate an industrial manufacturing group in the south east which includes BAE Systems, Cummins Power Generation and Ford.

“This project, backed by the European Union’s Interreg France (Channel) England Programme, will strengthen our collaboration with local companies and extend our industrial links in France.”