Current Issues

Regular Industry Development Updates, Opinions and Talking Points relating to Manufacturing, the Supply Chain and Logistics.

Taking the Hype out of the Innovation Cycle

From disrupting supply chains to rethinking material use and ending over-engineering, innovation is gaining pace.

19-Jun-2019
Taking the Hype out of the Innovation Cycle
New technology alone does not represent innovation. It can be exciting. Inspiring, even. But true innovation is only achieved when that technology can be actively used to deliver quantifiable, transformative benefits. And, in many ways, that is where so many designers and manufacturers have been frustrated by the promise of Generative Design and Additive Manufacturing to date. From topological optimisation to the use of biomimicry, compelling design visions abound; but the suboptimal fit with traditional manufacturing methods has constrained the practical delivery of these innovative concepts. How can a business realise the full benefit of optimisation, for example, when the end product still has to be machined from a soft block using a CNC Machine?

What is truly exciting today, therefore, is the way multiple individual technologies are now working together to disrupt, transform and enhance. In isolation Generative Design, Artificial Intelligence, and Additive Manufacturing have of course delivered benefits. Existing processes have been enhanced, material consumption reduced, and turnaround improved. However, it is the way in which these technologies align that is breaking down the boundaries between design and manufacture and truly enabling innovation.

So what has changed? A number of factors have dovetailed to transform the design-to-manufacture relationship. Firstly, the software is no longer the preserve of high-end engineering firms. Vendors such as Autodesk have made Generative Design ubiquitously accessible. The company’s commitment to providing students and startups with its Fusion 360 software, for example, is creating an incredibly exciting funnel for new thinking outside the constraints of traditional processes. Materials are far more available, with Ultimaker’s recent partnership with leading materials companies including BASF, Clariant, DSM and DuPont, for example, providing immediate and low cost access to a wealth of materials that can be used not only for proof of concept and functional prototypes but for tooling, bridge manufacturing and production of spare parts. Many schools and universities are also investing in 3D printing labs, such as the University of West England who has developed a print research centre. The introduction of these programmes is key for introducing a new generation into the workforce with a 3D printing skill set.

Blended Solution

This combination of a maturing technology and accessibility to both tools and materials is helping organisations of every size take extraordinary ideas from the drawing board to complete product in a way that has simply not been economically viable to date. For example, the use of Generative Design to reconsider wheelchair design, using modular assembly to provide customisation is incredibly exciting, not least because the project is using a blended manufacturing model. Component parts are delivered using different manufacturing methods – with some made on a 3D printer, others cast using the same processes that have been deployed for decades. This is true innovation: leveraging new technologies to disrupt the status quo and in this case, transform the quality of life for wheelchair users.

At the other end of the scale, aerospace company Lockheed Martin is exploring the value of combining multiple exciting technologies that, individually, offer primarily theoretical innovation. Working in tandem with the US Navy, the company is combining machine learning with additive manufacturing and robotics in a project to optimise the use of robots managing laser deposition of titanium alloys for complex, high value satellite parts. In this case, it is the addition of machine learning to the mix that is key: due to the complexity and material value it is essential to constantly monitor production quality if the use of robots is to be viable.

Clearly there are financial benefits – with the high cost of consumables, the ability to eradicate error and achieve ‘right first-time’ 3D printing is compelling. But that is not the essential innovation. This project highlights two of the most critical aspects of deliverable innovation that are set to drive extraordinary new value from these blended technologies – namely reimagining the supply chain and removing the need for compliance / health & safety driven over-engineering, both of which have very significant sustainability implications for organisations globally.

Realising Innovation

Adding machine learning to this ‘additive design by robots’ process transforms quality assurance and confidence. With a robust and proven ‘right first-time’ model parts can be built in any location on demand using highly accessible low cost 3D printers. From a defence perspective – the key stakeholders for this project – it opens the door to print on demand spare parts in typically challenging environments, from the desert to the ocean and in the future in space. This print on demand model also has very significant ramifications for businesses globally by enabling ‘just in time’ manufacturing anywhere in the world; Not only on demand, but local, using additive manufacturing equipment within a network of small locations. No more resource draining global supply chains or warehouse operations, simply an agile, efficient supply chain and a chance to transform customer experience with on demand production.

Improved quality assurance will also enable organisations to avoid the endemic over-engineering required by current manufacturing processes. The ability to combine intelligent design with blended manufacture plus the robustness of machine learning to improve confidence in product quality will enable organisations to avoid the overuse of essential resources. Indeed, it is a great sign that certification bodies are actively working towards evolving standards in line with the changing design-to-manufacture models, with a view to minimising resource usage where possible.

This is not one off change, but an essential stepping-stone in rethinking manufacturing to deliver long term sustainable change.

Conclusion

The new level of material and technology accessibility is transformative: there is no need for massive investment or high level engineering expertise. Anyone can now explore these technologies – from students to multinationals – and this is now driving not just conceptual innovation but on the ground, deliverable change that is transforming lives and improving sustainability.

Industry 4.0 should not be about comparing the bill of materials required for additive versus traditional manufacture just to achieve small cost savings. There is now a very tangible opportunity to meld multiple maturing technologies and take significant steps to reduce fossil fuel consumption, improve sustainability and safeguard the environment for the next generation. That is true innovation.

Alex Saric
Smart Procurement Expert, Ivalua
The business impact of the new PM’s approach

Smart procurement expert Alex Saric warns that businesses trading with the EU need to urgently review supply chain operations ahead of Brexit

Guy Cuthbert
CEO, Atheon Analytics
Bring clarity of purpose to fixing food waste

Identifying the impact that waste has on sales margin and customer perception, and looking at the steps we can take to reduce total waste

David Griffiths
Senior Product Marketing & Strategy Manager, Adjuno
Putting your brand in the hands of AI

Entrusting data and brand values to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning could prove to be your hero, not your villain.

Andreas Koenig
CEO, ProGlove
Wearable Technology - bringing data to the user and unlocking worker potential

The rise of the machine is fuelling essential discussions about the future role of workers – not least within logistics

Mike Thornton
Head of Manufacturing , RSM
UK manufacturing downturn mirrors other developed economies

Commenting on the latest results from the Markit/CIPS PMI manufacturing survey

Johannes Panzer
Head of Industry Strategy for Ecommerce, Descartes Systems UK
Is digitisation the key to preventing cross-border landed costs from disrupting international ecommerce?

How ecommerce organisations can ride the storm of uncertainty to international retail success.

John Perry
Managing Director, SCALA
Companies lose millions by side-lining procurement teams, research shows

SCALA surveyed a selection of the UK’s best-known businesses and 3PLs

Richard Seel
Managing Director Supply Chain & Logistics, Delaware
Meeting the Challenge of Supply Chain Efficiency – How Manufacturers Can Achieve their Goals

The process of building efficient sustainable supply chains is becoming increasingly difficult, manufacturers must ensure they don’t fall behind.

Olivier Binet
Managing Director International Markets, InPost
How to build sustainability into last mile deliveries

Why streamlined delivery is at the heart of a green supply chain

Ron Volpe
Global Vice President Apps Business Development, Tradeshift
Under-Pressure Retailers Turn to D2C to Level the Playing Field

‘Retail apocalypse’ continues to ravage the high street - 2,700 closed UK Retailers in 2018

Craig Summers
UK Managing Director, Manhattan Associates
Margin Erosion is turning the spotlight on the Warehouse

Craig explains how the next generation of warehouse operations will not only halt margin erosion but deliver new levels of retail profitability.

Simon Runc
Principal Visual Analyst, Atheon Analytics
Unlocking the Value in Data

The Science of Visualisation

Steve Purvis
Operations Director, Bis Henderson Space
Brexit Uncertainty Highlights Need for Flexible Logistics Strategy

Reassessing the balance of risk to supply chains and the potential horrors of trying to find well-located warehouse space

Alan Gunner
Business Development Director, Adjuno
Starting at the source: achieving a sustainable supply chain

Alan outlines why the key is for organisations to take control and focus on achieving full visibility

Craig Summers
UK Managing Director, Manhattan Associates
Conquering Connected Commerce

From the omnichannel dream to the retail reality, paving the way for future prosperity

Mark Jolley
EMEA Manufacturing, Transport & Logistics Solutions Sales Lead, Zebra Technologies
Augmented Reality is becoming a Retail Reality

4 ways this advanced technology is improving the shopping experience

Craig Summers
UK Managing Director, Manhattan Associates
The Cost of Doing Nothing

Retailers that continue to innovate, listen to their customers and invest in technology will reap the rewards;

Sam Ireland
International Marketing Manager, Loftware
Are You Navigating Global UDI Compliance?

If so, you won't won't want to miss this year’s European UDI Forum, taking place in Brussels, April 24-25

Stephen Cameron
Business Development Director, SWRnewstar
How the Resource and Waste Strategy Can Empower Industry

The DEFRA’s Resource and Waste Strategy sets out to reduce waste, get businesses to place sustainability higher up the priority list

David Jinks MILT
Head of Consumer Research, ParcelHero
No more fashion victims - retailers will flock to copy ASOS’ returns clampdown

ASOS’ new crackdown on ‘wardrobing’ will be replicated by most stores, says ParcelHero

Georgia Leybourne
Senior Director International Marketing, Manhattan Associates
Are we embracing the profit potential of the over 50s?

Far more demanding in their retail habits, more likely to invest in big ticket items, much more money to spend vs the younger generation.

Jon Moody
Chief Executive Officer, SSG Insight
The Future of Supply Chain Management

SSG Insight CEO Jon Moody discusses the importance of adopting a digital supply chain in a post Brexit Britain and Industry 4.0

David Luttenberger
Global Packaging Director, Mintel
Mintel announces top global packaging trends for 2019 and beyond

Mintel, the world’s leading market intelligence agency, has today announced four trends impacting the global packaging industry in 2019 and beyond

Andrew Tavener
Head of Marketing, Descartes UK
Compliance Management – it’s time for joined up thinking

How joined-up approach to compliance data transforms the overhead & provides insight that can deliver additional efficiencies throughout the business

Stephen Cameron
Business Development Director, SWRnewstar
Primark's move to 100 per cent sustainably sourced cotton should be commended

Primark is one of the latest retailers to announce new measures to become more sustainable by launching 100% sustainably sourced cotton jeans.

Marc Corriveau
Account Manager, Loftware
Changes in packaging result in ROI for F&B products

If you work for a food and beverage company, you may have noticed something about your competitors

John Perry
Managing Director, SCALA
Why an extension is best for British businesses

It is likely that the prime minister will now have to request a long extension to article 50 at Thursday's Brussels summit

Will Broome
CEO, Ubamarket
Increasing competition in the digital age will be beneficial for the high street

Increasing competition regulation during the digital age will not only be beneficial for consumers

David Jinks MILT
Head of Consumer Research, ParcelHero
Booking a courier? No printer required, says ParcelCompare

It’s a common misconception that a printer is essential when booking a courier pick-up.

John Perry
Managing Director, SCALA
Why an extension is best for food and drink businesses

Given that the Brexit referendum was only advisory, not in any way binding, there have really always been four potential outcomes open to us

Graham Parker
CEO, Gravity Supply Chain Solutions
Mitigating The Risks Of Trade Wars And Tariffs

As trade wars heat up, businesses need to protect their profit margins from increased tariffs.

Sam Ireland
International Marketing Manager, Loftware
How Brexit Will Impact Supply Chain Labeling?

The clock is ticking for the United Kingdom and European Union to finalize plans for the UK’s departure from the EU.

Sid Holian
Managing Director, Bis Henderson Consulting
Three critical steps to a hi-tech, agile supply chain

Retailers are facing a new reality and as a consequence supply chains must change.

Manu Tyagi
Associate Partner, Retail and Consumer Goods, Infosys Consulting
M&S and Ocado have signed a £750 million deal to take M&S groceries into the home delivery market

M&S’ deal with Ocado marks the high street retailer’s continued fight for survival, as it enters into the home delivery game.

Olivier Frère
Serialisaton Expert, Zetes
Understanding the Tobacco Products Directive

In a recent report issued by KPMG it was estimated that last year, counterfeit and contraband cigarette consumption was 8.7 % of total use in the EU

Dan Brown
Corporate Sector Director, SWRnewstar
Mind the gap: how the transport sector can meet targets to reduce avoidable waste

UK train companies are forever warning us to ‘Mind the Gap’.

Paul Heiden
Senior Vice President of Product Management, Ultimaker
6 overlooked benefits of 3D printing for your supply chain

Year on year, 3D printing is becoming more capable.

Dave Locke
EMEA Chief Technology Officer, WWT
Merged pharmaceutical firms seek fast-track route to savings

The pharmaceutical industry is preparing for an accelerated pace of consolidation, with the number of mergers up 39 per cent since 2017

David Jinks MILT
Head of Consumer Research, ParcelHero
Amazon and Alibaba are creating the biggest revolution in shipping for 60 years

Global e-commerce is leading the biggest shake up in international shipping since containerization

Johannes Panzer
Head of Industry Strategy for Ecommerce, Descartes
How to make international ecommerce transparent, efficient and cost-effective

Cross-border ecommerce provides organisations with, theoretically, a low-cost opportunity to break into new markets.

Stephan Buhre
Managing Director, Implico
Standardized data communication in the downstream oil and gas sector

Today’s downstream companies do no longer just trade oil and gas.

Craig Summers
UK Managing Director, Manhattan Associates
Putting the WOW in the checkout experience

Embracing technology is a prerequisite for success in the modern retail environment.

Richard Parfect
Fund Manager, Seneca Investment Managers
The cessation of Airbus A380 production

Richard Parfect, Fund Manager at Seneca Investment Managers, comments on the cessation of A380 production in 2021

John Perry
Managing Director, SCALA
What next for British business?

John Perry comments what next for British business

Chris Jones
EVP Marketing & Services, Descartes
5 Key Logistics Trends and Technology Implications for 2019

2018 can certainly be summarised as a turbulent year in logistics and transportation management

Craig Summers
UK Managing Director, Manhattan Associates
What is the Checkout of the Future?

To keep up with consumer expectations, the in-store experience, in particular, the process of checking out, needs to transform.

Jason Chester
Director of Global Channel Programs, InfinityQS
Industry pessimism could delay digital transformation and restrict growth across the manufacturing sector

Latest CBI Survey reveals spending on plant & machinery, training and innovation all expected to be lower in the year ahead

Charlie Pool
CEO, Stowga
Five key trends shaping the supply chain in 2019

2018 was a turbulent year for most industries - logistics and supply chain was no exception.

David Jinks MILT
Head of Consumer Research, ParcelHero
DIT 'Exporting is GREAT' free webinar: ParcelHero Reveals the Secrets of Getting Your Goods to Overseas

SME retailers and manufacturers can find out everything they need to know about shipping products to new markets by joining the DIT