Webinar: approaches to educating engineering workforce of the future

Indigo dreams

In view of the current climate (COVID-19), this is definitely the webinar era!!! We have felt the excitement pulsing through the presentations and question/answer sessions in today’s event. Participants were highly motivated, engaged and willing to grow their knowledge and understanding of the discussed issues. This is why today Northern Crucible are at the forefront of helping local industry to get the information they need and exchange good practice and innovation.

Webinar is in action

Educationalists and industry experts exchanged best practices, gained latest insights and developed their professional networks. Centred around the theme of approaches to educating engineers of the future, the main question of the night was how we could align manufacturing, teaching and training to the needs of modern industrial practice. We brought together representatives from schools (6th form), colleges, universities as well as such flagship manufacturers, as Rolls-Royce, AMRC, Boeing and Forgemasters to ensure the breadth and the depth of the debate and offer a comprehensive review the new offerings and explore opportunities in adequate training provision for the modern workforce, capable to tackle the greatest engineering challenges of the modern world.

The webinar was organised in the chronological order of educational stages, starting from schools/6th forms, progressing though to independent career development.

The evening opened with a presentation from Marie Cooper, trustee of Get Up To Speed. Marie is a director of three engineering companies in the northern region of the UK. As a Sheffield Cutler, Marie is a champion of education in engineering. Marie explained about the programme and how it was geared to engage school children and young adults with engineering by giving them cool demonstrations of some cutting edge engineering pieces and projects.

Wendy Trout, careers and enterprise coordinator, Sheffield City Region.  Wendy talked about her role to inspire young people for the fast changing world of work and how they linked schools and colleges to employers. Wendy has invited industry to join in the effort to engage with schools by providing educational site visits and mock interviews.

James Godsell, business development manager, RNN Group. James discussed the colleges’ engagement with the new standards for apprenticeships. James’ presentation initiated some positive feedback from the audience about various paths young adults could take in choosing their careers. James also specified that Level 2 apprenticeship was still very much available to students at RNN.

Dr. Gary Wood, head of Sheffield Engineering Leadership Academy (SELA) University of Sheffield. Gary shared his thoughts on importance of practical industry engagement for university students. Gary outlined his vision of how such engagement could be achieved. He also raised some thought-provoking points on why engineering was not often the first choice for school leavers. As part of SELA section of the night, Armand Keyworth, a SELA student, has asked for manufacturers’ assistance to complete a survey about ways data is collected, stored and used in manufacturing in the Sheffield City Region. If you are a manufacturing business, please consider completing a short survey here.

Gavin Hill, project manager, AMRC (Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre). Gavin gave an overview of the AMRC, offering opportunities for cutting edge manufacturing research. Gavin also shared valuable insights into how engineering was often misconceived as dirty and grimy and how these misconceptions were stopping people choosing engineering for their careers. To follow on from Gavin’s talk, Cristian Gheres, a PhD student at AMRC, has asked to submit his research findings discussing barriers to engagement of SMEs with Industry 4.0 in the region. The citation and as the downloadable file is below.

  • C. Gheres, T. Morley and C. Brooks (2020, March). Diffusing Industry 4.0: understanding barriers in digitalisation of manufacturing SMEs. Paper submitted to Northern Crucible, Sheffield.
Rolls-Royce Small Modular Reactor

The keynote speaker of the night was David Orr, Senior Vice President at Rolls-Royce Nuclear (small modular reactors). David gave an outstanding presentation of the SMR facility in Derby. We were taken through the inspiring and truly futuristic engineering project that would shape the modern world of clean nuclear energy. David raised one highly important point of the UK loosing its leading position of ownership of home-grown Intellectual Property of major engineering projects to aggressive imports. David has emphasised that while pure science and pure research has its own place, without a solid commercial foundation, we are in danger of becoming thought-leaders, which on its own doesn’t create or sustain many jobs. Government commitment to British research, linked to major manufacturing projects, as well as raising British highly-qualified and commercially aware engineers could address this worry.

There were overarching themes voiced by various participants during the meeting that spilled into an open forum at the end of the event. One of the main ongoing discussions was the low number of women in engineering. Participants discussed various reasons for this, possibly stemming from expectations formed in early childhood that are difficult to change in older years.

Indigo dreams
Inspiration to reach for the stars starts early.

Another subject raised repeatedly was factors that stopped people choosing engineering for their profession. It is possible that the choices are formed in early childhood and we, as a society, do not introduce children to the world of engineering early enough. While Science, as part of the National Curriculum, is taught in primary schools, it is not often directly related to engineering. Where some insight into engineering is given, it is often seen as an “exciting special activity” and is optional. This could be due to various factors, one of them being lack of time in day-to-day teaching. Another contributing factor could be the overwhelming majority of teaching staff in primary education coming from Arts and Humanities backgrounds, 95% in 2017 (The Baroness Brown of Cambridge DBE FREng FRS , (2017, November ). Educating engineers: where do we start and what do we want? In A. Nortcliffe (chair). Engineering Education Research Network – 5th annual symposium). This is a big problem because we can deliver numerous interventions, but teachers are not then equipped to build on what we’ve done. Our work therefore, however, exciting, is quickly forgotten because teachers don’t know how to link it to their teaching of the National Curriculum. This sentiment of not introducing children to the practical and engineering sides of Maths and Science is also is agreement with David Orr’s concerning comment of producing excellent theorists that without practical applicability of their knowledge are in danger of being unable to sustain large projects commercially.

A separate, but an acutely relevant point was raised by one of the apprentices from the audience is that an apprenticeship route into career development is often overlooked in schools in favour of the 6th form pathway. He shared his experience of almost leaping into the unknown, taking a risk of choosing engineering for his profession. While he is glad he’s made this choice, he explained that it was a scary time. Participants agreed that before the end of Year 11 or Year 13, schools and colleges need to work closer together to offer taster sessions for their students to try different subjects and ways of learning. It is also important to make apprentices aware that they can progress in their apprenticeship to a degree level of education.

Finally, the overall theme was felt that while the industry wants to welcome highly qualified engineers to supercharge their businesses for success, they need to engage with the training providers more by opening their doors with training projects, work experiences, mentoring, exhibitions or other engagement events to motivate and stimulate interest.

Northern Crucible presents at Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing webinar.

Sean Ibrahim was invited to address the manufacturing audience at Sheffield IoT meet-up. Due to the current situation with the Coronavirus, the meeting was held in the form of a live webinar with 68 attendees. Sean’s presentation slides are available from this website.

The discussion was an exciting exploration of Internet of Things in manufacturing and featured the highest quality input from RollsRoyce R2 Data Labs, the AMRC, Tinsley Bridge, Ioetec as well as Northern Crucible. In his talk, Sean outlined Industry 4.0 highlighting reasons why it remained such a challenge for legacy industry. He also explored common issues that legacy industry faced in adapting Industry 4.0 principles and what could be done to change this landscape. The talk was well received with numerous questions particularly from IoT suppliers about breaking into the market and what IT skills shortages existed in manufacturing. It also confirmed that this market is certainly the toughest to penetrate.

The main take-away from the meeting that most attendees agreed to was the local presence of the IoT provider, industry knowledge and access to government funding were certainly the major criteria of winning business in our region.

The online hosting of the meeting was eye-opening into new ways of hosting similar events and attracting larger audiences that may or may not be located in Sheffield.

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Northern Crucible 2020: Law and Industry 4.0

Northern Crucible group are listening to the talks

As the dust settles after busy preparation for the first Northern Crucible meeting of 2020, here are some reflections and observations. In this event, we have placed our focus on Industry 4.0 and legislation surrounding it. The presentations included an in-depth overview of Industry 4.0. Mike Burrows from RS Components gave an insight to their first forays into rolling out this technology, what challenges the company faced and how they were overcome. Mike also discussed what was achieved as a result of implementing Industry 4.0. It was a very hands-on perspective on the challenge itself and on how it can be broken down to sizable chunks and implemented in a real-life factory scenario.

Irwin Mitchell also delivered three talks: one on why we gather more data and how this data gets used; the second talk was about personal data and how the government is more likely to support claims of individuals on misuse of data by large companies. The third talk focused on types of cyber-attacks and risks involved. For every risk, a defense strategy was offered.

The topic of the event (Industry 4.0 and connectivity) was particularly well received by the local heavy industry contingent in the meeting. This sector faces strong realisation that implementing Industry 4.0 principles can turbo-charge their processes. Several attendees from metal industries have written in with positive feedback of how relevant and timely the meeting was. Some key points everyone agreed on:

  1. The companies who learn and use Industry 4.0 will survive the next decade. Those who cannot cope, will downsize or even disappear
  2. Training is the key to success. The biggest restriction to progress was board level not understanding how to roll this out. Even IT leaders, who had not kept up-to-date, were being left behind
  3. A large amount of security risks was through lack of simple training
  4. 49% of companies have been security breached. Cyber-security is the key to safe processes

This event was kindly hosted by Irwin Mitchell at their headquarters in Sheffield.
Irwin Mitchell is a full-service law firm with 15 sites in the UK. With over 1000 attorneys, it is one of the largest law firms in the UK. This event was supported by their manufacturing legal team. Also joining us on the night, was RS Components, a global trading company supplying electronic components and equipment. They have a worldwide turnover over £2.4 billion and are part of UK manufacturing supply chain backbone.

Northern Crucible visits United Cast Bar

A very impressive Northern Crucible event was held at Casa Hotel Chesterfield on the 18th of June, 2019. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss various ways of smart manufacturing and energy saving, in particular in heavy industry, such as metallurgy, foundries or anyone who uses furnace type equipment. As usual, the event attracted a melting pot of manufacturers, academics and service providers, who together represent the shared enthusiasm, knowledge and experience to push boundaries and ensure continuous improvement.

The highlight of the event was a very engaging site visit to United Cast Bar, where we all got to witness a remarkable process of casting the record-breaking diameter iron bar in the world. The complex process was timed specifically to coincide with our visit, so the attendees were able to see it for themselves. James Brand, the MD of the company, has shared his experience in using an innovative method allowing 15% energy saving in their cast processes. James was also happy to share this good practice with other companies.

On return to Casa, we had a detailed discussion of the observed method with the supplier of the energy-saving system currently used at United Cast Bar. The Question and Answer session involved most of the audience in participation, which indicated the importance of the topic to the local industry.

The continuation of the event saw academic input from Ben Steer (University of Sheffield, Engineering student) and Dale Riahi (AMRC, PhD student), who discussed further smart technology and new ways of making production even more efficient. As part of Norther Crucible, academic perspective is always there for manufacturers in order to break barriers between cutting edge technology fresh from scientific papers and its implementation in the real world.

Northern Crucible is determined to explore smart manufacturing for the benefit of its members

In our June event (Casa Hotel, Chesterfield, 18.06.2019, 18:00), we continue to investigate smart manufacturing, including cost-effective ways to save energy. The event will include a site visit to United Cast Bar, where we will see a unique functional high energy saving solution.

The event starts at 18:00 in Casa Hotel, Lockwood Lane, Chesterfield, S41 7JB. On arrival, please report to reception and you will be guided up. This event is fact finding. Please bring your questions, suggestions and enthusiasm for innovation.

Event sponsor: Professional Energy Purchasing Ltd.

Northern Crucible IOT Tribe Visit

Northern Crucible visits IoT Tribe! The event is aimed at strengthening ties between start-ups, corporates and the broader global deeptech ecosystem. Our mission is to get start-ups to their first big enterprise sale and give our corporate partners access to the technologies that can fuel their businesses.

Founders are immersed in vibrant local and global manufacturing ecosystems and global business and investment networks from day one and supported by our outstanding mentors and technology partners.

Northern Crucible High Value usage energy saving event

April’s Northern Crucible event: 30th of April, 6.30pm. The venue: the National Fluid Power Centre, Carlton Road, Worksop, S81 7H.

In our April event, Northern Crucible members discussed real case studies focusing on real engineering solutions. Members heard presentations from Professional Energy Purchasing, GridBeyond and United Cast Bar. We have discussed one of the most acute costs in metal industry, energy, and looked into ways of optimising its use and storage from three view points: that of manufacturers, energy brokers and the National Grid.

If you are an engineer or a plant manager (or just involved in running a manufacturing business), you are eagerly invited to join the Northern Crucible group and benefit from this highly informative exchange of knowledge, experience and ideas.

Kayleigh Thompson, Professional Energy Purchasing Ltd
Shawn Duckett,
Account Director, GridBeyond
James Brand MD 
United Cast Bar
National Fluid Power centre. The tour
John Savage, founder and Director of the National Fluid Power Centre (NFPC) (middle)
John has had an amazing 50 year career working in the fluid power industry from Mining Apprentice to Lifetime Contribution Award in Fluid Power and Control and the Joseph Bramah Medal awarded by IMech E. Supported by an Industry Advisory and Strategic Planning Group consisting of over 50 World Class Companies, the NFPC has become the UKs flagship Training Centre for specialist short courses involving HYDRAULICS, ELECTRO-PNEUMATICS and APPLIED ELECTRONICS AND CONTROL.
John will give a short presentation about the Centre and how improved levels of knowledge and skills can save energy in Fluid Power Systems and improve performance, productivity and machinery up-time

Northern Crucible SELA Visit

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 a local manufacturer Tinsley Bridge and mentored by Head of IT Alex Kelly, the team was able to see challenges in manufacturing first-hand. They then moved on to develop a system to monitor electricity usage down to the level of individual machines in a manufacturing facility. The SELA team recognised the capital expenditure concerns as a barrier to adoption of digital technologies and 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.

Northern Crucible IOT meeting Event

Another great evening with the Northern Crucible! This was our third event and we have turned our attention to smart manufacturing, Internet of Things and digital connectivity in industry. Event was kindly hosted by Siemens at their MindSphere Lounge in The Diamond at the University of Sheffield.

The Diamond itself is a futuristic building that hosts world-class engineering, teaching and research facilities. The Northern Crucible members were treated to a building tour and saw how the University are bringing the next generation of engineering talent through.

The theme for the night was Internet of Things (#IoT) and smart manufacturing. The presentations included an inspirational talk by the very engaging professor Rab Scott from the rapidly expanding Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). Prof. Scott gave an overview of the five key digital technologies: virtual and augmented reality, additive manufacturing, robotics and automation, machine learning (AI) and Internet of Things. It was also fantastic to see the high quality of innovation generated by the IOT Tribe start-up accelerator in the north.

The joy of the evening was a live project presented by the Sheffield Engineering Leadership Academy undergraduate students. Supported by Tinsley Bridge Group, the team analysed production, identified peaks of energy use and developed a way to accurately monitor energy consumption over a period of time.

SELA students
SELA students presenting
Northern Crucible members, enthused with innovation!
Northern Crucible members
Northern Crucible
The Diamond, University of Sheffield. A £50mln engineering department at the heart of Sheffield.
Prof. Rab Scott
Professor Rab Scott giving a inspirational talk.

Northern Crucible Takeovers and industry change Event

Our next Northern Crucible event will take place at 7pm on 20th February and I am very pleased to announce that Kevin Parkin ‘The Turnaround King’ will be joining us as a guest speaker. Kevin has been described as a “No Nonsense, hands-on general manager and turnaround professional.” He is an enthusiastic communicator and a believer that high quality communication, training and succession planning are key business drivers. In December 2015, Kevin led an MBI of Precision Technology International Ltd (PTI) a manufacturer of demanding power train components based in Tamworth, Staffordshire. In 2006, Kevin joined DavyMarkham, recruited and promoted a new management team who made a £1m profit turnaround in 18 months. He then led an MBO and resurrected the apprentice training scheme which had been abandoned twenty five years previously. Kevin is a Freeman of the Company of Cutlers, is an ex-Chairman of the work-wise Foundation and is a member of the Steering Group for the Advanced Metallic Systems PhD Program at Sheffield University.