Until now, smaller manufacturing companies have missed out on the productivity benefits of digital technologies and data-driven solutions.  Too many manufacturers don’t know where to start, and lack the skills required to deploy and use digital solutions.  The costs are perceived to be high and the return on investment is unclear.

Earlier this year, a consortium which included the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) was awarded funding through the Government’s Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge to tackle this problem by developing the Smart InforMation PLatform and Ecosystem for Manufacturing (SIMPLE).

Project SIMPLE brings the benefits of digitalisation to manufacturers for whom the technology, skills, and business benefits are currently inaccessible.  The project is delivering a platform that is fast to deploy, easy to use, cost-effective, and versatile.  And it is being supported by an ecosystem that addresses skills and training requirements.

The consortium includes a wide range of end-user, academic, and technology partners to provide the necessary breadth of expertise:

  • UKBIC is seeking a vendor independent solution that can support their short-term objectives and scale up rapidly to support multiple production campaigns in the future
  • Innovare Systems (construction) is representative of SMEs seeking to improve their operations through the deployment of digital capabilities, but have a low skill level in the domain, bare bones IT capabilities and low levels of automation
  • Lear Corporation (automotive) is representative of global organisations challenged by their operational complexity, the diversity of technologies deployed in production, fragmented software landscape and data repositories
  • WMG, University of Warwick is a world leading research and education group, transforming organisations and driving innovation through a unique combination of collaborative research and development, and pioneering education programmes
  • The Science and Technology Facilities Council is a government agency that carries out research in science and engineering. The focus for project SIMPLE is on knowledge representations and knowledge models relevant to manufacturing
  • Fully Distributed Systems (FDS), AI Idea Factory and 4thWall Virtual develop engineering tools, industrial software components and supply related services.

The benefits of SIMPLE are being validated via deployment of the platform at the end-user partners’ facilities – demonstrating the value in three different use cases.  The deployment of a skills training system at WMG, University of Warwick, is also validating the skills and training proposition.

Project SIMPLE is co-funded by the businesses in the consortium and the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, through the Manufacturing Made Smarter Competition.  The Manufacturing Made Smarter Round 1 Competition offers grant funding investment in projects that focus on the use of industrial digital technologies (IDTs) to transform the productivity and agility of UK manufacturing.  Of 34 applications submitted, project SIMPLE is one of 14 projects approved following independent assessment and expert review.

Matt Patching of the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre said:
“The SIMPLE toolset will help us deliver battery technologies and processes to industry at a rapid rate. The flexible design will be compatible with our range of manufacturing processes, ranging from electrode and cell assembly, to module and pack; and will consistently present the relevant information. The scalable nature means that new promising technologies in the battery field can be implemented into our digital systems as quickly as it can be installed at our site.”

Dr Daniel Vera, from WMG at the University of Warwick comments:
“At WMG, we will be focussing on making sure that manufacturers become fluent in deploying and using digital systems. Our training platform will mean that manufacturers can confidently use data-driven methods and digital solutions to optimise their processes, which in turn can speed up their project delivery and significantly improve their business operations.”

Jason Powell of Innovare Systems adds:
“The technology is important as it offers greater operational transparency, which allows greater scrutiny of performance whilst maintaining the production activities’ live information.  Additionally, this system can also be used as a tool to drive production efficiency through optimising performance which will increase capacity. We are expecting this technology to boost productivity by 10% even from the early deployment.”

The project will engage the wider manufacturing community to ensure the SIMPLE platform and methodology addresses the widest set of manufacturers’ needs.  For further information, please contact peter.hopkinson@fullydistributedsystems.com.