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Education takes centre-stage at Smart Manufacturing and Engineering Week

16 April 2024

The live events for Smart Manufacturing and Engineering Week 2024 take place at the NEC, Birmingham on the 5-6 June. Here we dig a little deeper into what visitors can expect at the event amid the myriad of activities taking place.

ACROSS ITS two halls, six exhibitions, two summits and eight education theatres Smart Manufacturing and Engineering Week 2024 addresses the key issues that concern manufacturing and engineering businesses currently, irrespective of the market sector they serve. The main themes that the wide-ranging event covers are innovation, the supply chain, sustainability, digital transformation and people and skills.

Education content and summits

To those familiar with Smart Manufacturing and Engineering Week it will come as no surprise that education and peer to peer learning plays an important role. There are two summits that run alongside the exhibition namely the Industrial Data and AI Summit and the Manufacturing Digitalisation Summit. 

Now in its seventh year the Industrial Data and AI Summit takes place on the 5 June and focuses on Data Management and Data Insights. The structure of the summit includes four keynote presentations, a panel discussion and two 60-minute roundtable discussion sessions. The summit allows senior leaders to hear from the sector’s most respected experts, such as the Head of Digital and Data at BAE Systems and the Senior Director of Data and Analytics at Mars, as well as to share their knowledge and experiences with their peers. The roundtable sessions offer a unique opportunity for in-depth discussions on topics ranging from Data Integration and Management to Developing a Data Driven Business to Generative AI. 

Taking place on both the 5-6 June at the NEC is The Manufacturing Digitalisation Summit. This summit includes eight keynote presentations, two panel discussions and four 60-minute roundtable discussion sessions. The Summit focuses on how digitalisation is changing how products are designed, produced, used and maintained as well as transforming the operations, processes and energy footprints of factories and supply chains. This summit is broken down into two distinct streams, the Enterprise stream is for those working within businesses with revenues in excess of £100m while the Growth stream is for those less than £100 million (theoretically classed as SMEs)

While the summits charge an entry fee there is also a huge amount of free-to-access education during the event with no less than 144 presentations taking place across the eight education theatres. The theatres cover: Drives and Controls, Digital Transformation, IIoT and Connectivity, Industrial Data and AI, Innovation, Maintenance, Air-Tech Solutions and Fluid Power and Systems. 

Some of the highlight presentations include Jonathan Peedell, head of maintenance, Bentley Motors who will be presenting a case study on the pros and cons of developing and driving a maintenance strategy within an Industry 4.0 infrastructure at the Maintenance theatre. 

Geoff Mackey, UK country head, Plastics Europe who will be presenting on the essential connection between product design and circularity in manufacturing, emphasising that thoughtful material selection, comprehension, and sustainable design decisions can advance a circular economy, decrease waste, and improve business outcomes by shaping innovation and environmental accountability in the design phase and lifecycle analysis. Geoff will be presenting at the Design Theatre.

Notable organisations

Smart Manufacturing and Engineering Week brings together a wide variety of the most influential organisations in the sector - from giant global businesses to SMEs to trade bodies to startups. Premier partners for the 2024 event include Charter Controls, 3M Abdex Hose and Couplings, Amazon RME, Binder UK, ELGi Compressors SRL, Emerson Process Management Shared Services, ERIKS Industrial Services Ltd, ETA Enclosures, igus UK, Jenny Science AG, SMC Corporation, Teseo SRL Lutze and Wurth Electronics.

A notable element of the planning for SM&E Week is the advisory council that the organisers bring together. The advisory council includes representatives from the event’s Strategic Partner organisations such as the British Manufacturing Consortium; The Centre for Compressor Technology; the iMechE; Engineering UK; GAMBICA; IED; BFPA; IFM University of Cambridge; The Manufacturer, Made Smarter. These organisatons collectively steer the educational element of SM&E Week, ensuring that presenters are addressing the crucial topics that people are interested in and in most cases, they have exhibition stands themselves so that they can talk to their members or answer questions from visitors.

The charity partner for SM&E Week is Engineers Without Borders UK, an organisation focused on ensuring that globally responsible engineering is taught as a principle on engineering degree courses and also used within industry.


As well as giant tech businesses, SMEs and industry organisations one of the key themes is innovation. Many manufacturing-focused startups will be showcasing their ‘bleeding edge’ solutions in Innovation Alley which is sponsored by the HVM Catapult and Innovation UK and which literally runs right through the middle of Smart Factory Expo.

With so much innovation on show across all the events it's difficult to pick out individual examples but two early disruptive technologies do catch the attention. Firstly, Insphere on Stand: 4-N73 is launching IONA, a scalable network of sensors that deliver metrology-grade positional data to automated manufacturing processes. The data is used to improve the accuracy and performance of industrial robots, including identifying and correcting errors in the production line. 

Using IONA, manufacturers can make sub-millimetre corrections to robot positions and alignment with parts before mistakes are made. IONA enables a right-first-time approach, saving time, money, energy and reducing waste. 

A second example on Stand: 4-D21 is Addition Design which has designed a new process that allows food manufacturers to access production parts that meet food safety requirements through additive manufacturing. The process extends Addition Design’s 'AddParts' service - which supplies digital spares for automated production lines using 3D scanning, digital data management and industrial 3D printing - into the food processing sector. The new technique addresses several issues that affect the industry’s ability to embrace the benefits of 3D printing while complying with food-safety regulations and production line efficiency needs including those of low-cost, fast turnaround, blue, food contact components.

The co-located events

As mentioned at the beginning of the article there is a whole host of related activities and attractions taking place during Smart Manufacturing and Engineering Week. Central to SM&E Week are the exhibitions, of which there are three taking place in Hall 4.

Of great importance to Industrial Plant and Equipment readers is the newly invigorated Maintec, the UK’s longest-standing exhibition dedicated to the maintenance, reliability and asset management industry. Maintec has its own education theatre and the ability for visitors to access the major maintenance, repair and operations product and service suppliers as well as all the other content taking place makes the event more relevant for visitors and has brought it to life. To ensure that visitors access the information they want there will also be a ‘Maintenance Safety Trail’ which visitors can follow to ensure they see the right businesses and technologies dedicated to ensuring maintenance is conducted safely.

Also in hall 4 is Smart Factory Expo which is designed to allow manufacturers to be the most efficient, the most sustainable, and the most profitable in the world and where visitors can find the insights, the solutions, and the connections for their digital transformation projects. Similarly to Maintec a ‘Cyber Zone Trail’ will be part of the exhibition directing visitors to the technologies and solutions that address cyber threats and the real threat of cyber-attack that manufacturers and other large scale digitally focused businesses face.

The Design and Engineering Expo is also in Hall 4 and, as so much at the event, it focuses on innovation so that design and engineering professionals who want to reduce costs, streamline and optimise future design and engineering strategy can find what they need.

A major addition to SM&E Week in 2024 are the exhibitions taking place in Hall 5. Pre-registration ensures seamless access to all the exhibitions mentioned in this article with a single badge and for 2024 this includes Drives and Controls, Fluid Power and Systems and Air-Tech. Drives and Controls has always been a major exhibition and this year it will be enhanced by being part of SMEW. Drives and Controls traditionally brings together suppliers of state-of-the-art equipment covering critical areas such as energy efficiency, machine safety, drives, motors, motion control, robotics and automation and much more. 

Alongside Drives and Controls in Hall 5 is the Fluid Power and Systems exhibition that focuses on hydraulic and pneumatic equipment for the industrial and mobile markets. Endorsed by the British Fluid Power Association the BFPA will also have a stand to meet with its members to discuss their education, training and other needs.

As well as this the BFPA will be presenting several sessions in the Fluid Power and Systems educational theatre. One of these sessions, presented by Nicky Quinn, is on The Standards Development Process and explores the role standards play in facilitating international trade and improving product quality, safety and interoperability. Another session looks at Fluid Injection Injuries. During this session Martin Kingsbury will look at the dangers associated with such an injury, how to avoid them and the treatment if such an incident occurs. Finally, in Hall 5, the Air Tech exhibition focuses on the compressed air, generator and vacuum markets. As you would expect, these exhibitions contain their own educational theatres and are strong additions to the events of the week. 

Allocating time away from the workplace to visit events at the NEC is a challenge and this is appreciated by Nineteen Group, the organisers of Smart Manufacturing and Engineering Week which is why they are doing everything they can to ensure there is a huge amount to see and do to maximise the Return on Investment for a visitor. 

As well as the events mentioned in this article taking place at the NEC at the same time are other relevant events including the UK Garage and Bodyshop event run by Messe Frankfurt; Med-Tech Innovation Expo and TCT 3Sixty from Rapid News Group and Subcon from the Mark Allen Group. 

With so much going on during Smart Manufacturing and Engineering Week the organisers will be creating ‘visitor trails’ to help attendees tailor their experience to their own areas of interest.  

To build a personal trail visitors must be registered in advance at: