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Georgina Bisby

It’s show time 24/10/2019

Welcome to the latest issue of Industrial Plant & Equipment, a very special issue because as well as our usual mix of informative articles and innovative technology, it includes our annual maintenance supplement with an in-depth preview of Maintec - the reliability event. 

IP&E is the official magazine of Maintec which takes place at the NEC Birmingham from 30th-31st October and the IP&E team is really looking forward to this year’s show. As well as being an excellent forum for networking and finding out about new products and technology, this year’s event features a new-look education programme that promises not to disappoint. Visitors will be able to enjoy a variety of different session formats including; keynote presentations, in-depth case study reviews of active maintenance projects, technical sessions, and panel discussions – full details in the maintenance supplement from page 8 onwards. We look forward to seeing you at the show.  

In our industry focus this issue we take a look at the Automotive Industry. With the government’s ambition for all new cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040 in mind, Charlotte Stonestreet considers some of the challenges and opportunities around the manufacture of low emission vehicles in All things electric (page 10). 

Meanwhile, according to AkzoNobel end-to-end digitalisation of the plant at one of its paint factories has helped the company feel like they have jumped 30 years ahead. As well as reducing the time it takes the paint specialist to get its products to market by 85% connecting every manufacturing process vertically and horizontally, allowing the entire factory to communicate and become automated, has helped them to reach their sustainability goals of reducing waste, reusing energy and using less solvent. Read all about it on page 16.

In another nod to the future, I went to visit automation specialist Comau to find out more about why they’re investing in exoskeletons and how this wearable technology is on track to define our factories of the future. I also found out more about their vision for HUMANufacturing. More on page 86. 

Enjoy the issue and as always your feedback is very welcome. 

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5G is almost here but security concerns persist 14/04/2019

5G was one of the headline themes at this year’s Hannover Messe in Germany, the industrial trade fair which took place from the 1st to 5th April, which featured a large-scale 5G testbed where network equipment providers demonstrated the kinds of functionality that the new mobile standard will be able to deliver.  

Much was made of the Mecca of possibilities it offers in terms of flexibility, mobility and convertibility of industrial plants. With 5G, networks of driverless transport systems and mobile robots, mobile operating devices and new human-machine interfaces, such as applications of augmented reality, are conceivable. In addition 5G enables completely new manufacturing concepts by means of wirelessly networked, highly flexible production modules that can be easily combined with each other without the need for cabling (more on page 11).  

Of course none of this is news but Hannover's organisers were keen to impress that the launch of 5G may come sooner than many people think – possibly even as soon as the second half of this year. Say the organisers: "It is a technology that offers unbeatable benefits for industrial users, so now is the time for industrial firms to start planning their next step in the Industry 4.0 journey."

However 5G brings risks as well as opportunities; in particular 5G's potential for remote control leaves it particularly susceptible to cyber attacks – an area where manufacturers' confidence is already low. In its 2018 report Cyber security for manufacturing, Make UK (formerly the EEF) along with AIG and The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), found nearly half of manufacturers have been the victim of cyber-crime, with the sector now the third most targeted for attack. More worryingly according to the report 41 per cent of companies do not believe they have access to enough information to even assess their true cyber risk. 

A cyber attack in March 2019 which is estimated to have cost aluminium producer Norsk Hydro between $35 million and $41 million in one week and a new report from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) which indicates that the cost of cyber attacks is rising in general will have done little to alleviate these concerns. 

5G may be pitched as the next step in the Industry 4.0 journey but without assurances over cyber-security, for many it may feel more like a leap of faith.

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Why women need #PPEthatfits 31/01/2019

The UK is on track to have 1 million women working in core STEM roles by 2020, according to gender balance campaign group WISE, yet women say they are still struggling to find personal protective workwear and footwear that fits, despite ranges of both being available for over a decade. Have women’s ranges been missing the mark or are they simply not finding their way to the women who need them? It seems it’s a bit of both discovers Georgina Bisby

The case for providing women with protective workwear and footwear designed for the female form has been well made. From different hip to waist ratios to wider forefeet and shorter foot arches, women’s bodies are not the same as men’s so offering women men’s gear in smaller sizes or a unisex range just doesn’t cut it.

For example when choosing from a male or unisex workwear range women often have to go up a size to accommodate their hips. Consequently trousers are too long and become a trip hazard, knee pads are in the wrong place leaving knees exposed and long sleeves can get caught in machinery. Tales of women cutting sleeves off and taping up trailing garments are commonplace. Meanwhile poorly fitting footwear comes with a catalogue of complaints including blisters, weeping sores and general discomfort with women compensating with two pairs of socks and cotton wool. Needless to say being drowned in oversized clothes and stumbling around in shoes that don't fit isn’t particularly empowering, especially when women are trying to command respect in workforces that may traditionally have been a man’s domain. With groups like WISE emphasising that retaining women in STEM roles is as important as recruiting them, addressing this issue is more urgent than ever.

If you don’t ask you don’t get
Yet even though there have been examples of protective clothing and footwear on the market for over a decade a large proportion of women still aren’t getting what they need. This is partly because an “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” culture prevails. Health & Safety Consultant Becky Ray, who was the first and only female engineering apprentice in her company nearly two decades ago when, by her own account, she was a tiny 17 year old, says finding workwear to fit was an immediate issue. Becky counts herself lucky because distributor Arco sourced her some suitable women’s workwear from a supplier called Diamond but Becky says: “Since then working for other firms as an engineer and more lately a health & safety professor I have found that most firms default to men’s sizes for women and you have to ask if you want a better fit. This is sometimes a hassle - or at least feels like a hassle.”

Women who put their hands up and ask for better fitting workwear or footwear may fear they will be seen as seeking preferential treatment. Women’s options can also be more expensive with female workers reporting they have to persuade their employers to invest in suitable workwear rather than it being something they are routinely offered. In addition women express discomfort about having to disclose their clothing sizes to male colleagues and suggest they would appreciate more discretion. One female surveyor explains: “PPE is purchased by a predominantly male team and therefore I have to reveal my sizing to them, I am not embarrassed about my size but I don't feel comfortable discussing the need to accommodate ‘my wide hips’ with a male colleague.” The consequence is that many women simply put up with what they’re given, or worse still, feel uncomfortable in their role and are driven to leave.

Frustration with not being able to find the right protective gear drove surveyor Sophie Smith to take action. “The biggest challenge I have faced in my job as a female in a male dominated industry is not the attitudes and behaviours, as I have always felt very welcome; it is the physical aspects that make me feel I do not fit in, such as wearing ill-fitting PPE,” says Sophie. After years of struggling, Sophie started to write a column in her local paper about the challenges she faced. Sophie caught the interest of UK safety footwear brand Amblers Safety and they worked with her to develop ‘The Sophie Shoe’ which has become one of the company’s best sellers in Europe and led to her launching ‘The Lydia Boot’ in 2017. The AS601C Lydia boot has well thought out features such as a side zip for easy removal on cold sites and goes down to a size 2. Sophie explains: “The materials are lightweight and the boot infuses style with my signature touch of charm – with a statement splash of colour, in the image it is pink – a design flair much admired in my classic FS706 Sophie Shoe.”

Flower power
But pink isn’t for everyone. Some argue that feminising workwear can help to attract and retain women in traditionally male dominated workplaces by signalling that they are welcome there too. However others feel alienated by feminised offerings and believe a gender neutral approach is more helpful. Plumbing apprentice Hannah Cornby explains: “I don't want to wear pink or pink trim, I want to be known for my work, not the fact I'm a female.” While Senior Project Manager, Francesca Spencer reports feeling humiliated by workwear she has been offered: “I have a terrible pair of steel toe capped boots that have “women in work” stitched on in pink (you can only imagine the comments) but they were all we could get in a size 5. The box has butterflies stitched on it. It’s okay for the women who wants to feel like a princess at work but I don’t.”

Certainly attempts to feminise workwear can backfire. When one well meaning rail operator adopted a women’s workwear range they decided to have a floral design sewn into the inside of the clothes in an effort to make them more feminine but it didn’t hit the mark. Employees report that it had the opposite effect as it made a spectacle of the women’s garments and equally left some men asking “where’s our flowers”?

The good news is that manufacturers and employers are working closely with women to get the design of women’s workwear and footwear right. In the launch of its latest range footwear manufacturer V12, emphasises that women’s feet are different; the work they do is not. V12 worked alongside Transport for London for two years to develop its Challenger and Intrepid products. Determined not to patronise women with a ‘pink it and shrink it solution,’ the company came up with a design it says is perfectly fitted to the female foot shape. Meanwhile ProGARM safety has launched a whole range designed specifically for women who work at risk of ArcFlash. They redesigned all of their core products in women's sizes so that the whole team can still wear the same PPE and not compromise fit or comfort. And workwear manufacturer Ballyclare expanded its female fit range earlier this year to include sizes from 8 – 20, four leg length options and also made-to-measure garments.

Groups representing women in industry such as Women in Transport, Women in Fit Out and Women in Surveying are also helping to shed light on some of the challenges women face getting dressed for their job. Surveyor Marion Ellis, founder of Women in Surveying, has been leading discussions on #ppethatfits among the female surveying community through the Surveying Sisterhood Summit, covering topics including how protective workwear can be designed to accommodate pregnancy, breastfeeding and the menopause which are issues that will likely resonate with women in all sectors. Gas Fitter, Hollie Webb, explains: “As a self employed Gas Engineer I couldn't find any maternity trousers with knee pads in. It was one of the reasons I took maternity leave early. I felt ridiculous in baggy trousers and I would have made good use of some over the bump work trousers with pockets for knee pads as I continued to service boilers during my pregnancy.”

It is worth noting that not all women are unhappy with selecting from men’s or unisex ranges. Commercial Manager, Elizabeth Breedon explains: “I wear the men's sizes. I was offered new PPE in women's sizes but I just stuck with what I've been used to. There probably is some excess material that is an encumbrance, but I'm not wearing it everyday so it doesn't bother me too much. Project Geologist, Fiona Connor adds: “I’m fortunate to be 5'11'' with size 7 feet so can usually get away with men's PPE which doesn't always fit great but is usually cheaper, lasts longer, is more functional and has a greater range of options.”

The key to women being dressed for success is of course choice. Personal protective workwear and footwear is just that, personal, so ideally it is desirable for women to have a say in what they wear; 2018 has been a bumper year for launches of female-fit workwear and footwear with lots more in the pipeline for 2019 so there are certainly no shortage of options. But as these women's experiences suggest, if the goal of reaching and retaining 1 million women working in core STEM roles by 2020 is to be achievable, as an absolute minimum employers should check whether a women’s protective workwear is comfortable, safe and enabling her to do her job. Otherwise their female employees might just vote with their blistered, weeping feet.

(This article first appeared in the BSIF Guide). 

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Challenges & opportunities lie ahead 14/02/2019

Hello and welcome to the first issue of IP&E for 2019 and my first as Editor.


Unfortunately I don't have a crystal ball to know what Brexit will bring in the coming months but in this issue we have plenty of information about the challenges and opportunities that are likely to define 2019, along with some very important dates for your diary.

Of course we don't need a crystal ball to know that smart manufacturing is here to stay but it can be difficult to know where to begin the transformation of making the smart factory a reality, which is why this issue has a special focus on finding a path ahead. Gavin Stoppel, product manager at HARTING, looks at some of the key focuses of smart manufacturing in 2019 including miniaturisation and the rise of 'Big Data' on page 54, while head of product management at Festo, Steve Sands, offers some tips on getting started on page 50. 

Maintenance is another essential focus in this issue. As IP&E consultant editor Andy Pye notes in his preview of the Maintec event on page 42: "These are turbulent times for UK manufacturing and processing businesses, with uncertainties not least over the logistics of obtaining spare parts at short notice. Now more than ever it is vital to keep abreast of all the means available to get the best value out of a manufacturing or processing company’s assets. Maintec takes place at the NEC, Birmingham from 30-31 October 2019 and registration opens in June. 

More imminently April 2019 will see four formidable events being hosted at The Birmingham NEC which promise to tackle some of the most pressing challenges currently facing UK businesses head on. Registration is now open for The Facilities Event, The Health and Safety Event, The Fire Safety Event and The Security Event which take place from the 9 – 11 April 2019, offering visitors an exceptional content programme with CPD hours available, networking opportunities and a comprehensive exhibition, all completely free. See the full preview on pages 44 and 46 which also include details of how to register now for free.  

Finally an issue that I have been personally campaigning about on social media in recent months, the goal of reaching and retaining 1 million women working in core STEM roles by 2020 has become even more important with Brexit threatening a reduction in the labour pool, yet some traditionally male dominated professions have been slow to adapt to the needs of women. In particular many women are still being denied basic PPE that fits, instead being offered men's items in smaller sizes. From different hip to waist ratios to wider forefeet and shorter foot arches, women’s bodies are not the same as men’s so offering women men’s gear in smaller sizes or a unisex range just doesn’t cut it and there is a groundswell of women across several industries who've decided enough is enough. Read the full article on page 76 and follow the debate on Linkedin, Twitter and YouTube at #PPEthatfits. 

As always we welcome your feedback. 

Georgina Bisby



A word from Val

For regular readers wondering where Editor Val Kealey has gone, after working on the magazine since its very first issue over a quarter of a century ago she has decided to take a well-earned rest from editing the title but Val will be continuing to support the magazine as products editor. 

Val says: "I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent editing IP&E; it was a big part of my life for many years and I shall miss it and those who work on it. In particular, I enjoyed visiting factories and exhibitions, which gave me the chance to meet the diverse range of IP&E clients. In addition, it was a privilege to work with several of the sector's leading trade associations. 

"I am looking forward to my new role which, in addition to keeping me in touch with IP&E, gives me a bit of time to do a few of the other things I want to do before I become too decrepit.

"It's a challenging, but exciting time for UK manufacturing. I wish the IP&E team all the very best for the future."

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Time to speed up adoption of IIoT? 08/01/2019

As Irish manufacturing growth slows – a survey released by IHS Markit showed that the rise in output, employment growth and new-order growth all slowed in December – maximising manufacturing efficiency by exploiting the latest techniques and technologies is more important than ever.

However according to Industrial IT and automation specialist Novotek manufacturers might be missing out on the benefits of a whole range of technologies because they wrongly believe IIoT is a distant concept that is not yet practical.

Novotek points out that many countries around the world are introducing initiatives aiming to achieve industrial digitalisation in the next 10 to15 years. However the industrial automation expert argues that the technology is already available and says businesses can begin digitalising operations by 2020.

“Discussions around modern industrial automation and digitalisation are always very forward-looking,” explains George Walker, managing director of Novotek UK and Ireland. “While businesses should create a digitalisation roadmap for the future, it’s important we don’t overlook the technologies that exist today. Plant managers don’t need to wait to begin seeing the benefits of industrial automation.” (Full article and details of where to download Novotek's industrial internet of things (IIoT) whitepaper later in this issue). 

This is evident at Printed Balloons & Promotional Products, B-Loony where the deployment of five UR3 cobots has enabled the manufacturer to continue manufacturing in the UK in challenging conditions. B-Loony says the ease and flexibility of the cobots visibly boosted productivity at the factory, allowing the company to increase output and cut the average cost of each item produced. “Despite rising inflation and labour costs, investing in robotics and automation has made us more efficient and able to compete,” states Operations Director James Clephan.

B-Loony saw a payback period of just nine months for its investment in cobots, increasing its production of one of its lines by 5000% and significantly increasing hits market share. It expects paybacks for future products to be brought down to just six months. (Full article later in this issue). 

As always we hope you enjoy the issue and welcome feedback. 

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Western Business Publishing Group Editor