MACH 2014 preview - in positive mood and with perfect timing

7 min read

Andrew Allcock previews this year's MACH manufacturing show, highlighting the positive news surrounding economic conditions and the show's increasing breadth of coverage and attraction

The official MACH press launch took place a day ahead of the very positive news about the UK's economic growth that broke on 22 January. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) now expects the economy to grow 2.4% this year – faster than any other major European economy; the IMF's previous forecast put the figure at 1.9%. And for next year, the organisation expects growth of 2.2%. The day before the MACH event, the EY Item Club of economists (the only non-governmental forecasting group to use HM Treasury's model of the UK economy) said it expected the UK economy to grow by 2.7% this year. And on the MACH 2014 event day itself, the CBI business group's Industrial Trends Survey offered that growth in new manufacturing orders was at its strongest since April 2011. The MTA's head of external affairs, Paul O'Donnell, added his bit to this positive backdrop on the day, showing the assembled gathering a graph that plotted UK manufacturing and engineering output alongside capital goods output. From a base of 100 in January 2005, the capital goods graph plot plummeted to a sickly 86 in January 2009, climbing back to 100 in mid-2010 and now standing at over 112. The equivalent figures for manufacturing and engineering output are 107, 95 and 101. The divergence of capital goods output above the sector's output index reflects the release of pent-up investment, both nationally and internationally. So, with the MACH exhibition – a focus for UK manufacturers' investment decisions – taking place in April (7-11 at the NEC, Birmingham), this year's edition of the country's major, biennial manufacturing technology and services show is set fair to be the best for many a year. Indeed, there are 150 exhibitors attending that did not exhibit at the 2010 and 2012 events, Adrian Sell, business and events manager, highlighted, while exhibitor numbers are up 15% on the 2012 event, with over 500 companies taking space and occupying some 38,000 m2. And there are hopes that the 21,500-visitor number that MACH 2012 generated will be surpassed, especially as preregistrations for the event are up 22% at the same point in the pre-MACH calendar, Mr Sell offers. BIGGER; BROADER But it is just not bigger – the breadth of the event has also increased, as MTA director general Graham Dewhurst offers, explaining that the theme for the show has been and is partnership. This means working with other associations and, new this time, major OEMs who have a relationship with manufacturing technology suppliers, subcontract manufacturers, as well as a demand for new employees; the latter underpinned by the growing training and education element of the exhibition. Associations in attendance at the event that will have a pavilion/village presence include: the Association of Industrial Laser Users (AILU, Hall 4); the Gauge and Tool Makers' Association (GTMA, Hall 4); the British Abrasives' Federation (BAF, Hall 4); the Confederation of British Metalforming (CBM, Hall 4); the British Turned Parts Manufacturers' Association (BTMA – Hall 5), which has an enlarged presence, compared to 2012; the Metalforming Machinery Makers' Association (MMMA – Hall 4), with a 20% increase in occupied pavilion space over 2012; the Association of Welding Distributors (AWD – Hall 4), which boasts a 45% increase in attending companies this time, versus two years earlier; and, new for this event, the Institute of Material Finishing (Hall 5). Outside of the associations' presence, in terms of zones there is the UK Manufacturing Zone (Hall 5), which this year has attracted 50% more companies than previously and which sees, for the first time, OEMs involved, with Airbus, Safran (Messier-Bugatti-Dowty) and aero-engine-maker-and-more Rolls-Royce supporting this area. A further OEM announcement is promised imminently, says the MTA. The Education and Training Zone (Hall 4) will see an enlarged presence, taking in 1,000 mph, land speed effort Bloodhound SSC (see next issue), the Sheffield-based Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing's ManTra truck that sports a CNC machine tool and 3D manufacturing simulator, plus Weldability-SIF's Virt-U-Weld digital welding simulator. Machine tool suppliers with a particular education and training offer will also be present: 600 Group, Boxford, RK International and XYZ Machine Tools. The zone is sponsored by Sandvik Coromant and Mr Dewhurst thanked the company for its support: "It's great news that Sandvik Coromant is supporting the Education and Training Zone in this way. Attracting young people into careers in engineering-based manufacturing is really important to the future of our industry. An exhibition like MACH provides a wonderful opportunity to bring the technology to life. Sandvik Coromant's support will enable us to do justice to that technology and help the students who visit to understand what is possible." COMPETITION/SKILLS AREA The zone is also located alongside another new initiative, a demonstration/skills competition area, taking in CAD, CNC turning, CNC milling, industrial electronics, mechatronics and mobile robotics skills. The mechatronics competition is actually a Worldskills UK event selection (Worldskills UK is held at the NEC in November), while others form part of the competition training effort for this year's Sau Paulo, Brazil, Worldskills national team. A further part of the education and training effort will, again, see student tours conducted by apprentice representatives from some prominent MACH exhibitors – 600 Group, Sandvik Coromant and Renishaw plc. In 2012, some 2,500 students attended these and there are 1,000 already signed up for tours this year. In addition to the Education and Training zone, others areas take in Metrology and Inspection (Hall 5), Software and Design Solutions (Hall 4), Engineering and Lasers (Hall 4), Logistics for Manufacturing (Hall 4, new), Surface Finishing and Component Cleaning (Hall 5, new), plus 3D printing/additive manufacturing gets its own zone for the first time. The MACH event has, like the UK's manufacturing sector, evolved throughout recent years and the show clearly demonstrates even more reasons to command attendance from those within manufacturing companies. And with the economy and the sector on the up, the 2014 edition promises to set a recent high water mark. Box item 1 Banking on manufacturing, seriously The headline sponsor for MACH is Lloyds Bank, and Richard Holden, Head of Manufacturing for SME Banking, outlined the bank's sector-related activity on lending/support at the January 21 MACH event. Following its support at the 2012 edition of the exhibition, in September 2012 the bank committed itself to a £1 billion manufacturing loan target for the next 12 months: "Which we achieved in 9 months, lending £1.3 billion in 12," he explains, adding: "We have extended this commitment into 2014." This initial 12 month, £1.3 billion effort was underpinned by the government's Funding for Lending scheme (which sees a 1% interest rate discount) and helped 2,500 manufacturing companies. One of those was subcontractor KMF, which used the money to invest in new machinery to support its aerospace work. Another organisation helped was MIRA – the Midlands-based automotive research and development organisation that won an £11 million funding package, used to support the development of facilities at its new landmark Technology Park and assist in the acquisition of new specialist rig equipment. Offering some background, Mr Holden explains that, over many years, the bank had supported property-related lending and that it needed to rebalance its lending book in favour of trading businesses, of which part was the manufacturing sector. In subsequently researching manufacturing, the bank spoke to trade bodies, including the MTA, and manufacturers and was told that "in no uncertain terms, none of the banks was supporting manufacturing very well". Banks "didn't understand their supply chains they operate, their investment cycles or the key success factors within manufacturing companies; that there was a need for better access to trade and asset finance". And with this revealed, Mr Holden says: "The bank took that on board and threw it back to the likes of MTA, EEF and WMG, and asked them to help us with a training programme for our managers. "And over the last 2½ years, we have actually got 130 of our managers trained through the accreditation programme with the WMG at the University of Warwick. We are the only bank to put our managers through such an in-depth training programme, whereby they have to, after a 5-day residential training course, do an assignment that is marked by the university, which they have to pass to be accredited as a manufacturing manager at Lloyds Bank." This, he underlines, is so the bank can be "trusted advisors within manufacturing". But that doesn't mean that it has all the solutions, he adds, admitting that it hasn't. "But working with our customers, we can signpost our customers to get the right guidance and advice." So this was what lay behind the launch of what Mr Holden terms the bank's "new manufacturing proposition", its initial MACH 2012 presence, the September 2012 lending commitment and its continuing support of MACH and the manufacturing sector. This support includes £25 million via its Regional Growth Fund commitment, specifically to "develop their [manufacturers'] asset base and secure jobs", plus £6.3 billion committed to Funding for Lending and the provision of a quarter of all enterprise finance guarantee scheme lending in the UK. And Lloyds Bank's lending to SMEs has grown, increasing 5% year on year in a market seeing 3% annual contraction, Mr Holden underlines: "We are bucking the trend." Fundamentally, manufacturing credit policy gets a 'green light', meaning the group has "a strong appetite towards supporting manufacturing businesses." Lloyds Banking Group is also supporting industry training efforts, funding the Lloyds Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre at the Manufacturing Technology Centre to the tune of £1 million per year for five years, with the aim of developing 1,000 apprentices and trainees during the initial partnership. All apprentices and trainees will become Lloyds Manufacturing Scholars. Building of the centre will begin this year, with it opening its doors in 2015. Box item 2> Tools for the job MACH show event organiser the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA – represents manufacturers and suppliers of manufacturing technology, taking in machine tools, cutting tools, workholding, metrology, CADCAM software and related services, plus an increasing number of subcontracting companies. The MTA estimates turnover for the manufacturing technology sector in the UK in 2012 at about £1.4 billion, of which more than 80% was exported. Data on the output of machine tools, cutting tools and tool/work-holding equipment gives a total of around £960 million, of which £835 million was exported. The output of metrology equipment is estimated to be worth in the region of £350 million, again with a high export ratio, with the turnover for other manufacturing technology estimated at £100 million, giving the total of £1.4 billion. Machine tool manufacturers are located across the UK, with concentrations in the Midlands and West Yorkshire. Companies in the cutting tool sector are mainly based in the West Midlands and around Sheffield, but again, there is wide geographical spread. From MTA estimates, UK machine tool manufacturing businesses employed 6,100 people at the end of 2012, compared with 5,800 at the same point in 2011. Equivalent data for the other elements of the manufacturing technology industry is not available. Although the numbers are relatively small when set alongside some other sectors, the key to the importance of manufacturing technology is its pivotal nature in other sectors; without it, they literally cannot work. First published in Machinery, February 2014