Will the UK be left behind in the next Industrial Revolution?

In the latest Plastics & Rubber Weekly, there is an interesting and concerning article on an anticipated fourth industrial revolution, known as Industry 4.0, and how the EEF believe that the UK could be left behind.  If this happens then could this be the end of manufacturing in the UK?

Manufacturing in the UK has been under pressure and under the spotlight for many years and despite warnings from the industry there still doesn’t appear to be a political will or strategy to develop this vital sector of our economy.  Technological changes have already altered the face of manufacturing forever and the prediction is that Industry 4.0 will further change manufacturing ‘beyond recognition’.

For any manufacturer the key to long term success is product and process development.  However, a skills shortage still exists, especially in the engineering manufacturing sector, and that needs to be addressed.  Or will the next industrial revolution mean the end of manufacturing as we know it.  Will welding and fabricating metal be a thing of the past as new technologies take over?  Will there be a lesser demand for men and women to physically make products?

This is a changing manufacturing landscape and even though a cohesive and well-planned Government plan is needed, ultimately it will be left to the companies who show innovation not only in product and process development, but also in marketing.  At Bunting, we are embracing online marketing (eg regular blogs), communicating our message through a wide variety of marketing channels and have even produced short videos of manufacturing processes to engage a wide age-range of audiences.

So how prepared do you feel for Industry 4.0 Revolution?

Was Exhibiting at Southern Manufacturing 2015 a Success?

Bunting Magnetics at Southern Manufacturing 2015 (2)The exhibition closes and the weary exhibitors pack up their stands and disappear away into the night.  Many have spent all 3 days on their feet greeting customers and talking with prospects whilst drinking far too much coffee and eating all the wrong foods.  Anyone who has not manned an exhibition stand will just not appreciate how long the days are, how hoarse your voice gets and how likely it is that you will pick up a cold or cough on the way.

With all that in mind, we have to ask ourselves whether our attendance at the Southern Manufacturing 2015 show could be classed as a success.

Before booking the stand we all agreed that exhibiting at Southern Manufacturing was important, primarily because many of our customers are from the manufacturing industrial sector.  We set our objectives, focusing on maintaining and further developing existing relationships, whilst also introducing us to new prospects.  Our expectations were realistic and we carried out some pre-show marketing leading up to the show to announce our presence and participation.

Alan Why, our Sales Manager, was really pleased.  “80% of the people who visited our stand were new potential clients.  This was surprisingly high.  People were keen to find out more about many of our products, but it was the Magnets that proved to generate the greatest level of interest.  Over the next week or so our focus is to contact everyone who visited us.”

So, was it successful?  “Absolutely!” Alan says.  “Yes, we would have liked more footfall, but sadly that is indicative of many exhibitions today.  However, the people who came to the stand had specific requirements.  And in 2016 we will be there again.”

Southern Manufacturing 2015 was the first exhibition for Bunting in 2015 and details of the other shows being attended can be found on their website.

How do we get young people interested in manufacturing?

Sadly, manufacturing and engineering in the UK is not regarded as being ‘sexy’ or ‘exciting’ by young people at school and, as a result, many do not even consider a career in the sector.  The media tends to be full of news regarding the service sectors and manufacturing only tends to get a mention if one of the leaders of the main political parties or royalty is visiting a plant.

Manufacturing is the backbone of any economy and it is vital that there is a constant flow of talent into the UK’s industry.  The magic and excitement of manufacturing and engineering needs to be ‘sold’ to people in school.  However, one challenge facing manufacturing and engineering companies is modern channels of communication.  Information is transferred, consumed and discarded at a increasingly fast speed.  Social media continually evolves and at a rapid rate of knots, but is an increasingly vital part of a company’s marketing strategy.  Engagement with existing/potential customers and existing/future employees is increasingly challenging as there is so much content to view.  We all tend to flit from one subject to another, sometimes without really taking in the information.  Only a small selection of information that is retained.

To engage our youth it is vital to show them something that they haven’t seen before.  Using just words does not work and they should only be used to support the visual content.  Understanding and embracing social media in all it’s forms (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, etc, etc) is vitally important.

With this in mind, we at Bunting Magnetics Europe Ltd are releasing a number of short videos showing dynamic and colorful parts of our manufacturing process.  Our first video shows our plasma cutter, an item of equipment that has had a huge impact our productivity and quality.  It will be very interesting to get other manufacturers views on the value of this campaign.

Further information on Bunting Magnetics can be found on our website.  We also recently released a series on Magnetic Separation Myths to dispel some of the untruths of magnets and separation.

Why are Global Plastics Recycling Rates Falling?

Research from Worldwatch Institute featured online by PRW.com reported that plastics recycling rates are falling despite a growth in production.  Political parties from across the world and especially in Western Europe continually advocate the importance of environmental policy and the need to reclaim, recycle and reuse.  However, this rhetoric is often without substance or knowledge.

So what is the issue with the recycling of plastic?  As as been recently reported in the press (eg letsrecycle.com), in December 2014 one of the UK biggest plastics recyclers, ECO Plastics, was placed into pre-pack administration prior to its business and assets being acquired by investor Aurelius.  Is there a fundamental problem that needs to be addressed at government level?

Plastics recycling has always been challenging and the advent of pre-sorted refuse plants in Germany in the 1990s resulted in warehouses stacked to the roof with recovered plastic that was of no use to anyone.  The industry has advanced significantly since then, but problems still remain.  Bunting has worked on a number of projects recently assisting with separation technology to enable the recovery of plastic from waste materials such as laser and toner cartridges.  Are these some of the key issues:

Mixed materials prior to separation on a Bunting Magnetic Drum

1. Is there a market and a value for the reclaimed plastic?

2. Does the technology exist to effectively and economically process the reclaimed plastic into usable fractions?

3. Does the plastic packaging manufacturer’s insistence on producing products with multiple types of plastics cause a serious recycling problem?

4. With the high calorific value, should reclaimed plastic simply be burnt to generate energy?

The Worldwatch report highlights the need for the plastics industry to face up to the challenge of plastic waste and decide upon a reclamation, recycling and reuse strategy otherwise the dumping of plastic waste will increase and continue to live for centuries in landfill sites around the world.

Comments would be welcomed.

Do Exhibitions Work Anymore?

Exhibition, Bunting, Paul Fears Photography
The Bunting Magnetics stand at RWM 2014

Next week we are exhibiting for the first time in 2015 at the Southern Manufacturing and Electronics Show in FIVE, Farnborough, UK (10th – 12th February stand T61).  As with all exhibitions, there is a great deal of pre-show preparation and work involved that is often not even taking into consideration when assessing the cost, value and results of attending an exhibition.  So in today’s digital age, do exhibitions work anymore?

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the exhibition industry was thriving.  New shows were popping up everywhere and the engagement from visitors and exhibitors was fantastic.  However, last year we had a number of exhibitions with two large ones called RWM and Interplas in the UK, and there just wasn’t the same buzz or excitement as there has been in the past.  Many exhibitors were present because they had to be, but did not expect a wealth of leads or even visitors.  There appeared to be apathy on the side of the exhibitor and the visitor.

Enticing visitors to a show appears to be getting increasingly difficult.  Many people advocate that they just simply don’t have the time.  Also, we are continually bombarded with news and information via our computers, tablets and phones and I wonder where people have become ‘information saturated’.  Often researching a new item of equipment or service is done on the internet and so there is no need to go to an exhibition.

So what’s the benefit of going to an exhibition?  It’s that one key aspect of business that even Facebook can’t replace and that is to develop face-to-face relationships.  People do business with people and exhibitions provide an ideal opportunity to see old friends, suppliers, customers and meet new contacts.  Southern Manufacturing gives us an opportunity to see and talk to many contacts and customers who we may not have seen for sometime.  It keeps business human, but do other people feel the same way?


Attractive Magnet Photographs

Magnets Bunting Magnetics-3 Having the right images and photographs to market the wide range of Magnets, Magnetic Assemblies and Magnetic Separators designed and manufactured by Bunting Magnetics Europe Ltd is always a challenge.  The photographic library is forever increasing with photographs taken during the manufacturing process and at site.  Changes in marketing methods, especially with the continued expansion of on-line marketing, mean that creative and imaginative photography is increasingly important.  Any social media marketing is far more likely to get engagement if supported with a relevant and interesting image.

As part of the promotional campaign for the forthcoming Southern Manufacturing Exhibition in Farnborough on the 10th – 12th February, a range of photographs were commissioned.  The brief was to focus on the extensive manufacturing capabilities, especially focusing on Magnets and Magnetic Assemblies. The complete manufacturing process was reviewed, with photographs taken capturing the engineering team during the design process, through manufacture and onto final assembly.  The aim was to emphasize that there is more to magnets that being on the front of fridges or being seen as the classic Horseshoe Magnet.  There is a great deal of science in the design and production.  Also, many people are unaware that they are using devices where magnets are a key component in their operation including laptop computers and Smart phones.  The symmetry and precision of the final magnet and magnetic assemblies proved ideal for the photographs, which have now been used on a range of social media and in on-line press.

Magnets, Bunting

The Magnetic Separation product range focused on some of the smaller ferrous metal separation systems such as the FF Drawer Magnet which captures ferrous metal contamination present in free-flowing products.  All Magnetic Separators have been designed using Bunting’s extensive knowledge of magnetism and magnetic circuitry.

Bunting Magnetics Europe Ltd, part of the Bunting Magnetics Co group,  is a leading global designer, manufacturer and supplier of a wide range of magnetic technology.  All the photographs were taken by Paul Fears Photography.