Opportunities in Digital Manufacturing

Opportunities in Digital Manufacturing
January, 2017

South West College recently presented “Opportunities in Digital Manufacturing” at the College’s state of the art Passive Pavilion in the Centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology.

The event was part of the TARGET programme, a project funded by the EU Northern Periphery and Arctic (NPA) Programme, and led by South West College. The event was attended by companies from NI and RoI, government officials, and TARGET Project partners, and advanced the Project’s objectives for making regional manufacturing globally competitive and innovative.

Opening the event, Padraig McNamee, Head of Technology at South West College, set the context for the project and the event by acknowledging how recent government policy and investment in digital infrastructure was recognising how exploiting digital technologies offers the most cost effective way for maximising competiveness and improving products, processes, productivity and profitability, in this age of digital connectedness and Industry 4.0.

Key Note Speaker Dr Stephen Brennan, Chief Digital Adviser to the Irish Government, outlined the ever increasing importance of technology in all aspects of business.

‘The ubiquity of digital gives us so much opportunity, and the only thing stopping us is our willingness and ingenuity to engage with it. With what is available, and the way we are connected, the question for everyone here is how you as a business, can get closer to your end user.’ He highlighted how modern technology allows for great interaction, particularly between manufacturer and consumer, saying ‘the internet must now be pervasive, no one in the office should be non-digital.’

Dr John Moore of South West College gave a brief introduction to the TARGET Project, and explained how, ‘the countries involved (in the TARGET Project), though spread far and wide geographically, share many similarities, such as low population density and issues with accessibility. These countries, through working together, aim to become prime places to live, study, work, visit and invest in. South West College are delighted to join this dynamic partnership.’

Speakers Prof Wei Deng Solvang, Arctic University of Norway, Prof Asa Ericson, Lulea University of Technology, Sweden, Heidi Kaartinen, Centria University of Applied Sciences, Finland, and Vidar Gunnberg, CEO of Finnsnes Study Centre, Norway spoke about some of the industries in their respective countries, the issues and challenges faced by industry there, and how the Target Project is helping tackle them.

Stephen Kelly, CEO of Manufacturing Northern Ireland, and Michael Polson of InvestNI laid out the importance of manufacturing in general and Aerospace in particular, to Northern Ireland’s economy, employing over 85,400 people in well paid and sustainable jobs, and contributing £10 billion per annum, while Aaron Black, research lecturer at South West College, spoke about how the college engages with this industry, saying ‘manufacturing is a big industry in our region, and as a college we are training people for that industry.’

Lyn Sharkey, ABCON Industrial products Ltd, a TARGET Company, gave a business perspective, and explained her excitement at being involved in the TARGET Project moving forward.

Final speaker Dr Paul Hermon, Senior Lecturer Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Queen’s University Belfast, commented that ‘today has been an incredibly positive experience, full of positive messages about the growth of the manufacturing industry,’

Edel McCusker closed the event by thanking the speakers for what was a fascinating and insightful event, and one which successfully highlighted the work being done by the TARGET Project and the opportunities in Digital Manufacturing in Northern Ireland and beyond, and invited interested parties to contact South West College for further information on help offered through the project, or other avenues.