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'World's first' intelligent bogie manufacturing workshop put into production 23/05/2019

CRRC ZELC has announced that what is said to be the world's first intelligent bogie manufacturing workshop had started its production in Zhuzhou, Hunan Province, China. Comparing with traditional manual operation, it provides 30.1% more production efficiency with 50% fewer staff and 35% shorter R&D time.

As the chassis of rolling stock, bogie is the key component to its safety, comfort, orientation and car-body support. The main part of this intelligent manufacture workshop is composed of four plants and eleven sub-production lines covering the whole bogie production process of processing, assembly, welding, painting and logistics etc.

Once inputting order, AGV(Automated Guided Vehicle) will automatically retrieve and transport materials from ASRS to the corresponding work stations. Then automatic production will be conducted by the intelligent following the parameters contained in the QR code. Each time a new QR code is generated for the next procedure until the finished products are stored. No human assistance or intervention is needed throughout the whole process.

The waiting time among production lines of bogie frame, wheel, axle is almost zero. Meanwhile, the intelligent bogie manufacture workshop could perform flexible production in accordance with the variation of tasks. Small-scaled trials and mass production could be conducted simultaneously. It only takes about 20 minutes to produce a wheel.

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UK manufacturing orders slump 22/05/2019

Manufacturing output growth remained broadly steady in the three months to May, while stocks of finished goods were reported as significantly “above adequate”, at their highest balance since the financial crisis. That’s according to the latest monthly CBI Industrial Trends Survey.

The survey of 279 manufacturing firms revealed that output growth was predominantly driven by the mechanical engineering, chemicals, and food, drink & tobacco sub-sectors, while the motor vehicles & transport equipment and the textiles & clothing sub-sectors proved the biggest drags on growth. Manufacturers expect output volumes to be roughly flat in the next three months.

Order books further deteriorated compared with the previous month. Total orders reached their lowest balance since October 2016, while export orders worsened to a balance not seen since July 2016. Nonetheless, both were broadly in line with the long-run averages.

Inflation expectations for the next three months remained flat, for the second survey in a row. Inflation expectations are now at their lowest since March 2016.

Anna Leach, CBI Deputy Chief Economist, said: “These results provide further evidence that manufacturers have been stockpiling at a rapid pace as part of their Brexit contingency plans. When combined with a sharp decline in order books, it’s clear why manufacturing firms are so keen to see a swift end to the current Brexit impasse.

“With investment down, stockpiling up, and the threat of a no-deal ever present, we desperately need parliament to thrash out a viable deal in the national interest. Where the cross-party talks failed, Parliament must succeed, or continued economic paralysis will see us hurtle ever closer to disaster.”

Tom Crotty, Group Director of INEOS and Chair of CBI Manufacturing Council, said: “Manufacturers are being forced into putting huge amounts of money and resources into contingency planning that could have been spent on creating jobs or making investments in new technology. This relentless Brexit uncertainty must be lifted as a matter of urgency.

“As long as the deadlock continues, the sector is being held back from solving long-term challenges such as raising productivity and addressing skills shortages.”

Across the economy, stock-building has supported economic growth in early 2019. However, business surveys suggest that underlying conditions remain more subdued, as Brexit uncertainty and slower global growth bite further on activity. For more detail on our view of the outlook, see the CBI economic forecast.

Key findings:

  • 23% of manufacturers reported total order books to be above normal, and 32% said they were below normal, giving a rounded balance of -10% (from -5% in April). This was the lowest balance since October 2016, but still broadly in line with the long-run average (-13%)
  • 13% of firms said their export order books were above normal, and 30% said they were below normal, giving a rounded balance of -16% (from -5% in April) – broadly in line with the long-run average of -17% but the lowest balance since July 2016
  • 36% of businesses said the volume of output over the past three months was up, and 23% said it was down, giving a rounded balance of +14%. This rate of growth was broadly steady on April (+11%) and quicker than the long-run average (+4%)
  • Manufacturers expect output to be broadly flat in the coming quarter, with 27% predicting growth, and 24% a decline, giving a balance of +3%
  • Expectations for growth in average selling prices for the coming three months (-1%) were at their lowest balance since March 2016
  • 35% of firms said their present stocks of finished goods were more than adequate, whilst 9% said they were less than adequate, giving a balance of 25% – the highest balance since March 2009 and noticeably above the long-run average (+13%). 
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One million logistics robot shipments predicted by 2022 21/05/2019

A growing number of warehousing and logistics companies are incorporating robots, says research from Tractica.

Tractica forecasts that worldwide shipments of warehousing and logistics robots will grow rapidly over the next 5 years from 194,000 units in 2018 to 938,000 units annually by 2022.

The firm puts take-up down to a competitive market driven in large part by consumers that demand rapid fulfillment. At the same time, robotic warehousing and logistics technologies are advancing in capability and becoming more affordable each year, says the firm.

According to the report from Tractica, demand combined with labour shortages have created a tipping point that could lead to widespread adoption of robots in warehouses and logistics operations to assist and displace human workers.

The market intelligence firm anticipates that the rate of growth will begin to slow after 2021 as many major market players will have adopted robotic systems by then.

Tractica estimates that worldwide revenue for this category will increase from $8.3 billion in 2018 to $30.8 billion in 2022.

“The warehousing and logistics robot market is experiencing strong growth, and supply chains are being transformed as companies replace fixed infrastructure and outdated processes with flexible, scalable robotic solutions to meet the changing demands of modern commerce,” says senior analyst Glenn Sanders.

Tractica’s report Warehousing and Logistics Robots - which covers Mobile Robot Platforms, Shuttle Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems, Industrial Robotic Manipulators, and Gantry Robots - can be downloaded here.

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Time to recognise air pollution as an occupational health hazard, says British Safety Council 21/05/2019

The British Safety Council has launched a report ‘Impact of air pollution on the health of outdoor workers’ which provides compelling evidence to recognise ambient air pollution as an occupational health hazard in Britain.

In the report, the charity presents the demands that spearhead its campaign to limit the dangers of air pollution to the health of outdoor workers.

Air pollution, linked with up to 36,000 early deaths a year in the UK, is considered the biggest environmental risk to public health. Research from King’s College London suggests that more than 9,400 people die prematurely due to poor air quality in London alone. Ambient air pollution is linked to cancer, lung and heart disease, type-2 diabetes, infertility and early dementia.

Several pilot schemes are beginning to monitor and measure the levels of air pollution experienced by people working and living in London. Their findings will be instrumental in developing recommendations for reducing people’s exposure to air pollution in the capital.  

However, at the same time, the government and regulatory bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), continue to demonstrate a lack of interest in relation to regulation and guidance on air pollution.  

In March 2019, the British Safety Council launched its Time to Breathe campaign, which is focused on the protection of outdoor workers from air pollution. The cornerstone of the campaign is Canairy, the first mobile app that gives outdoor workers and their employers insights into pollution and how to reduce staff exposure to it. It has been created in co-operation with King’s College London. Canairy draws on the London Air Quality Network (LAQN) pollution map at King’s and the worker’s GPS to calculate an individual’s exposure to pollution on an hourly basis.  

The British Safety Council’s report Impact of air pollution on the health of outdoor workers’ is the next step in the campaign. It gathers available evidence about the causes and consequences of air pollution in Britain. It also reviews international examples of initiatives set up to measure air pollution in different locations and their recommendations for risk reduction.

In the report the British Safety Council is calling for:

  1. The UK to adopt the World Health Organisation’s exposure limits for the main pollutants;
  2. Government action to ensure ambient air pollution is treated as an occupational health issue and adopt a Workplace Exposure Limit for Diesel Engine Exhaust Emissions (DEEE);
  3. Improvements to pollution monitoring across the UK, so that all regions can have the same accuracy in emissions data as London;
  4. Recognition that protection from the dangers of air pollution should be enshrined in law as a human right.

Lawrence Waterman, Chairman of the British Safety Council, said: The impact of air pollution on people working in large cities is starting to be recognised as a major public health risk. However, we are yet to see any true commitment to addressing this issue by the government and the regulators.

The Time to Breathe campaign, together with our recent report, is a call to action for policymakers, regulators and industry leaders. The social and economic implications of ambient air pollution are clear. It must be recognised as an occupational health hazard, much like some toxic substances such as asbestos. Breathing clean air is not a privilege but a basic human right for the thousands of people who are undertaking vital work outdoors.”

The British Safety Council is urging everyone to write to their MPs to request that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) do more to protect outdoor workers from the dangers of ambient air pollution. To download the template of the letter, click on this link (go to ‘Become a supporter’ section) or use the attachment.

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UK falling behind in global automation race, says International Federation of Robotics 16/05/2019

​Installations of industrial robots in the United Kingdom fell by 3 percent to 2,306 units in 2018. In the previous year, robot sales in the UK had risen by 31 percent. The European Union´s recent sales numbers are still positive - up 12 percent.

This is according to the preliminary results of the World Robotics Report 2019, published by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

In terms of robot density by region, Europe has the highest level worldwide, with 106 industrial robots per 10,000 employees installed in the manufacturing industry – Germany (3rd), Sweden (5th), Denmark (6th), Belgium (9th) and Italy (10th) all make the top-10. The UK ranks 22nd worldwide with a density of 85 units, which is equivalent to the global average. China overtook the UK in 2017 and is currently ranked 21st with 97 units.

“The United Kingdom has been adding robot automation at a lower rate than our main competitors in all manufacturing sectors outside of automotive,” says Mike Wilson, Chairman of the British Automation and Robot Association (BARA). “Over many years, the UK has attracted workers from other countries, with businesses preferring to hire people rather than invest in capital equipment. The consequences of the Brexit vote and subsequent political developments are leading to reduced labour availability as the many workers who have come over from Eastern Europe are starting to return home. As a result, businesses have to ensure that they use their workforce effectively and find alternative ways of performing tasks for which they have a shortage of staff - robot automation being an obvious solution.”

What the experts at the IFR World Robotics Roundtable say 

“Robot adoption is central to driving productivity growth and every nation should want faster productivity growth”, says Dr. Robert Atkinson, President, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), USA at the recent IFR CEO Roundtable 2019 in Chicago, where international experts discussed the global robotics and AI race.

Artificial Intelligence 

“Robots play a major role in manufacturing,” says Junji Tsuda, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “There are so many projects. Everybody is engaged in enhancing the capability of robots. We can apply robots in many areas – so everybody will be a winner. When it comes to AI the developer community is very open and they share the basic logic globally. There is a race for implementation. This implementation has a very close connection with robotics engineering which makes the difference. When it comes to AI for robotics, still Japan and Europe will be the major players for robot applications.”

Focus on implementation

“We need to focus more on the implementation side,” says Dr. Byron Clayton, CEO, Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing, USA. “The US government needs to follow international examples who are putting money and effort in policy towards the implementation and deployment side of high technology and getting it to the factory floor.”

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GMB welcomes labour's 'big and bold' energy plans 16/05/2019

GMB, the energy union, has welcomed Labour’s ‘big and bold’ policy to bring energy network back into public ownership.

The Labour Party has unveiled plans to renationalise the National Grid, creating a National Energy Agency to own and maintain transmission infrastructure. 

Returning energy networks to where any natural monopoly belongs under public ownership is a great first step according to the union. 

Justin Bowden, GMB National Secretary, said: “This is a big and bold announcement.  

“Returning energy networks to where any natural monopoly belongs - under public ownership - is a great first step and should be quickly followed by announcements on domestic gas and electricity supply.  

“Any credible energy policy must be affordable to consumers and taxpayers, guarantee security of supply and increasingly rely on zero and very low carbon sources like nuclear, green hydrogen gas and wind as part of a balance energy mix.” 

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Free automation event 16/05/2019

Flexible and cost-effective automation will be the topic of the first RARUK Automation breakfast event at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Milton Keynes on Tuesday 11th June.

Anyone interested in registering for this free event should visit: https://rarukautomation.com/demo-events

Registration opens at 08:15am with breakfast available from 08:30am. Between 08:30 and 11:00am attendees can drop in to consider with the experts how and why the products and systems sold by RARUK Automation in the UK can be freely combined to provide the best solution for any given application.  Its leading brands include Universal Robots, MiR, Robotiq, Pick-it, and the newly appointed EffiMat for automated storage solutions.

The company will discuss why it has never been easier to create safe, off-the-shelf, tailored automated solutions that can boost productivity irrespective of a company’s size, the nature of its products or production volume.  

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Good Practice Guide for safe use of dumpers 15/05/2019

In order to help address the problem of injuries and fatalities associated with the use of dumpers, the Strategic Forum Plant Safety Group (SFPSG) has launched a Good Practice Guide for the Safe Use of Dumpers.

The SFPSG is chaired by the Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA) and the guidance was borne out of an industry forum set up through a partnership of the CPA alongside the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) who collectively took the initiative to tackle dumper incidents that have occurred such as overturns and individuals being struck by dumpers.

As part of the forum’s campaign on dumper safety, a seven-point strategy was devised with development and production of a safe use guidance document forming an integral part of that strategy. 

The safe use guidance extends to 96 pages and is designed to help those involved with planning and carrying out dumper activities achieve a better awareness of the particular risks involved and the measures that can be put in place to mitigate those risks. 

It focuses specifically on forward tipping dumpers as they are most commonly used on construction sites to transport earths and materials. This involves the machine negotiating ground and terrain - which is variable and not always suitable for a loaded dumper - and discharging their loads into excavations or on spoil heaps. Such activities have led to operational incidents resulting in serious injuries and deaths to either the dumper operator or those near to the machine. 

Hard copies of the guidance will be available on CPA stand CE4 at Plantworx 2019 and staff will be on hand to outline key information within the guidance. Electronic copies can also be downloaded from the CPA website at www.cpa.uk.net/sfpsgpublications

A large working group was formed to start development on the Good Practice Guide in February 2018 and included representatives from plant hirers, owners, clients, contractors, users, manufacturers and importers, card schemes and the HSE. Four sub-groups were formed to focus on specific subject areas including exclusion/segregation, ground conditions, operation and training. 

The content produced by each of the four working groups was assimilated into a single comprehensive document with the final version comprising of 96 pages covering a wide number of topics such as Planning the use of dumpers; Selection of, types and limitations of dumpers; Management and supervision requirements; Stability, loading, driving and discharging; Training and information; Segregation/exclusion zones; Ground conditions; and Maintenance and inspections.

Kevin Minton, Chief Executive of the CPA said: “Using dumpers safely depends on a number of factors including planning and supervision, machine selection, competences, exclusion zoning and site conditions. If any of these are deficient, the risk of a serious accident increases significantly and it is therefore essential that all of those involved need to ensure that dumper operations are properly planned, managed, supervised and carried out safely by competent people. 

“Accidents have a terrible cost in terms of human suffering and they also have a significant emotional and financial cost for all concerned. There is therefore a very strong business case for improving safety performance. The advice in the safe use publication is straightforward, comprehensive and easy to adopt and I recommend its use to anyone who manages, plans supervises or carries out dumper operations,” he continued.

Alasdair Reisner, Chief Executive of The Civil Engineering Contractors Association said: “CECA, along with the CPA and HSE, took the initiative to tackle the increasing number of dumper incidents which were leading to untimely deaths and as part of the industry campaign on dumper safety, the development and production of a safe use guidance formed an integral part of a seven-point strategy. CECA are pleased to have participated on production of the guidance and we hope that compliance with the guidance will help significantly in mitigating future dumper incidents. We urge all clients, manufacturers, owners and users of dumpers to read the guidance and put the contents and recommendations into practice.”

Peter Brown, Chair of the Plant Safety Group added: “The Good Practice Guide is a culmination of just over a year’s worth of hard work by the working group in identifying and detailing the safe use practices described in the document. I’d like to thank the members of the group and the Editor, CPA Consultant Tim Watson, for providing their time, expertise and commitment in producing this important document. The group recognises that with developments on issues such as cab design still underway, appropriate reviews will need to be regularly undertaken to update the guidance where changes in technology and operational practices occur.”

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Gardner Denver to combine with Ingersoll Rand's industrial segment 09/05/2019

Gardner Denver Holdings and Ingersoll-Rand have entered into an agreement to create a global leader in mission-critical flow creation and industrial technologies

Gardner Denver Holdings, Inc.(NYSE: GDI) and Ingersoll-Rand plc (NYSE: IR) have announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement pursuant to which Ingersoll Rand will separate its Industrial segment (“Ingersoll Rand Industrial”) by way of a spin-off to Ingersoll Rand’s shareholders and then combine it with Gardner Denver, creating a global leader in mission-critical flow creation and industrial technologies (“IndustrialCo”).

The HVAC and transport refrigeration assets of the current Ingersoll Rand will become a pure play global leader in climate control solutions for buildings, homes and transportation (“ClimateCo”).IndustrialCo will be composed of the entirety of Gardner Denver and Ingersoll Rand Industrial, including, subject to closing, Ingersoll Rand’s pending acquisition of Precision Flow Systems (“PFS”), which is expected to close by mid-2019. Gardner Denver’s CEO, Vicente Reynal, and executives from both companies, will lead IndustrialCo. IndustrialCo is expected to be called Ingersoll Rand and trade under Ingersoll Rand’s existing ticker (NYSE: IR).

IndustrialCo will operate a diverse portfolio of iconic brands, including Gardner Denver. The Board of IndustrialCo will be led by Gardner Denver Chairman Peter Stavros. Michael W. Lamach, Ingersoll Rand’s Chairman and CEO, along with the current Ingersoll Rand executive team, will continue to lead ClimateCo, which is expected to be renamed.

“This transaction will create a global leader in mission-critical flow creation and industrial technologies, and accelerate both companies’ strategic priorities of deploying talent, driving growth, expanding margins through increased efficiencies and allocating capital effectively,” said Vicente Reynal. “Gardner Denver and Ingersoll Rand’s Industrial business have a combined history of over 300 years, and are both renowned for our commitment to operational excellence, innovation and quality.” Vicente Reynal added, “Together we believe we will create meaningful value for shareholders through our increased scale and reach, unmatched portfolio of iconic brands, highly compelling service and aftermarket platform, exposure to diverse and attractive end markets and geographies and the expected realization of significant synergies. We look forward to combining the strengths and talents of our teams, and providing our customers with more comprehensive solutions and broader, industry-leading product, service and aftermarket offerings.”

“Ingersoll Rand has a long track record of top-tier financial performance,” said Mike Lamach. “This transaction presents a compelling opportunity to unlock significant value for all of our stakeholders through the formation of two global leaders in their respective sectors. In addition to owning one hundred percent of the ClimateCo, our shareholders will also benefit from majority ownership of IndustrialCo and the significant synergies expected to be unlocked as a result of the combination.” Mike Lamach added, “As a pure play global leader in the climate control solutions markets, we will leverage our leading brands, outstanding sales and service channels and our proven business operating system to capitalize on global sustainability megatrends that play directly to our strengths: reducing energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions and improving efficiency in buildings, homes and transportation. With greater focus, more targeted investmentsand a simplified business model, we believe our new company will continue to drive above GDP growth and deliver value for shareholders, customers and employees.” Following the close of the transaction, IndustrialCo intends to grant all employees of the combined company – who are not already equity eligible – with an equity award in IndustrialCo. The total amount of these awards will be approximately $150 million

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Sickness absence picks up in manufacturing 07/05/2019

Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, has published its latest Absence Benchmark, the annual survey of days missed by employees due to sickness in the manufacturing industry. 

According to the benchmark the overall absence rate increased slightly in 2018 to 2.3%, up from 2.2% in the previous year. 

The average number of days a year lost to sickness absence per employee also increased slightly to 5.3 days, up from 5 in 2017. At an average of 6.8 days, manual employees lost significantly more days to sickness absence than those in non-manual roles, who missed an average of 3.9 days a year.

The benchmark shows that the variance in days missed across sectors has widened since the last survey. The rubber, plastics & chemicals sector had the highest average number of days absent at 6.2 (up from 5.5 in 2017) and the other manufacturing sector the lowest at 4.6 days per employee in 2018.

There were differences in the number sick days taken between larger and smaller companies too. Smaller companies, with a workforce of up to 50, saw employees each miss on average 4.2 days a year (3.7 in 2017),  whereas mid-size companies with 101-250 employees saw staff miss 6.3 days.

Across the UK, the East Midlands had the highest number of days lost per employee with 6.9 days whereas Wales had the lowest number at 4.4 days.

Tim Thomas, Director of Labour Market and Health and Safety Policy at Make UK commented: “Manufacturers will want to look carefully at our latest absence benchmark trends and review their policies, procedures, support and wellbeing practices as a result. Manual workers continue to show a higher number of days lost than non-manual workers, with  the significantly differing absence rates for these two groups of workers showing little change over the past three years.

“The challenge for manufacturers now will be to realise the productivity and workforce engagement gains in reducing the working days lost by manual workers in particular, and focus on improving their existing well-being and return-to-work  practices.“

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