Most modern high-value manufacturing systems continue to rely heavily on the dexterity and flexibility of manual work.
Intelligent automation could be a better alternative to many elements of human work by improving operational efficiency and removing the need for people to carry out tasks in unhealthy, difficult or dangerous working conditions. This will enable companies to grow and skilled workers to be redeployed into other more rewarding tasks. This should bring substantial economic benefits, enabling manufacturers to continue (or return to) producing goods within the UK.
We work closely with our founding industrial partners, Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Controls and Data Services and The Manufacturing Technology Centre (The MTC). Many of our current research challenges are based on the needs of one or more of our partners and we work together to develop initial ideas into working proof of concept demonstrators.
Our unique relationship with the MTC then provides further opportunity to develop the industrial readiness of these solutions through a continuous and collaborative pipeline.
We now have the opportunity to reach out beyond our existing network to the wider manufacturing industry, especially engaging with SMEs. We aim to build relationships, working with companies who may otherwise have little access to such high value work. With support from the British Automation and Robot Association (BARA) and the Manufacturing Technology Centre, we are identifying automation issues for smaller manufacturers and opportunities to address these challenges. We are currently working with a small number of non-aerospace SMEs to explore the potential for automating complex and highly skilled processes. The initial work to identify and understand these challenges is funded through our outreach programme.
The EPSRC Centre is also keen to grow and expand into different areas of manufacturing and welcomes expressions of interest from companies interested in investing as partners, and shaping the future research direction.