Profound transformation

1 min read

Last month (October 2018), the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing’s flagship robotics and automation facility, Factory 2050, was officially opened, with Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry MP performing the task. This building is just the latest on the Sheffield Business Park, neighbour to the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) that straddles Rotherham and Sheffield city regions and where the AMRC first set up shop in 2004, although the organisation was established in 2001. Machinery has regularly reported on its activities since then (see for our 2004 feature). (This article was first published in Machinery, November 2018)

The AMRC today operates from 10 purpose-built centres on the AMP and The University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Campus on Sheffield Business Park, and is part of the government’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult.

The two parks incorporate the area where the Orgreave coking plant used to reside and where ‘the battle of Orgreave’ took place on 18 June 1984 – historical references that may not chime with younger readers, but think coal mining (coal-derived coke was for local steelmaking) and industrial dispute (the coal miners’ strike as the Conservative government took on the miners’ union).

The parks’ residents such as the AMRC, Rolls-Royce, Boeing and McLaren represent the regeneration of a region that once symbolised all that was wrong with industrial relations in Britain. Berry told the audience gathered on Factory 2050’s gleaming factory floor that he had looked at aerial photographs from 30 years ago, which show a derelict and decaying coking plant amid a bleak wasteland. "The transformation has been profound," he said at the official opening event.

And devolved Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis added: "[This] is a city region that is experiencing a renaissance in advanced manufacturing and engineering –
for the first time in a generation, we have seen a growth in high value manufacturing and engineering roles. This renaissance is evident in the performance and capabilities of businesses such as Nikken, Metalysis, PES, Magnomatics, Metlase and Iceotope, to name but a few."

As it happens, Boeing is the latest international business to open a facility on the Sheffield Business Park (on Thursday, 25 October). It has invested £40m in a new factory there. The facility employs 52, including 25 apprentices, and will make 10,000 parts a month at full production next year, covering some 147 different components, with these destined for Boeing 737 and 767 aircraft.

The AMRC with Boeing and all that it has spawned since its inception offer very much to celebrate. And the Northern Powerhouse Minister’s observation of a "profound transformation" was certainly no overstatement.