Made Smarter, an independent review commissioned by the government and released last year, identified the positioning of the UK with respect to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Since its release, over the last 12 months it has been impossible to discuss the future of manufacturing without hearing terms like Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning or Big Data. The terminology, branding and messaging has come to the fore of the manufacturing conversation. However, the over-arching sentiment that seems to have been established is clear: collect data and use it to improve your manufacturing system.

Leading the way with Data

As innovators of value-added metrology, INSPHERE have a long, proven history of delivering measurement data to improve both quality and productivity within aerospace and other advanced manufacturing sectors. Robust, efficient and effective data are core to the company’s philosophy, deeply rooted in INSPHERE’s delivery of advanced manufacturing services, and as a metrology integrator. 

Many of the companies, catapults and research centres currently working in collaboration, are now rolling out Industry 4.0 or Smart Factory initiatives that have provided a platform and revived interest in data-driven manufacture. This is great news: as manufacturers and their suppliers recognise the need for more data, it puts a greater spotlight on metrology as a key source for manufacturing data. 

In response to recognising the importance of collecting and displaying data, factories are increasingly presenting metrics on the shop floor, usually on a huge monitor! These dashboard presentation terminals are becoming a more familiar sight. However, the kind of data on display which includes machine up-time and asset tracking, is still in its infancy. Having no clear vision of where and how data is generated, and for what purpose, is a barrier to potential innovation and the adoption of industrial digitalisation. This is where metrologists such as INSPHERE are leading the way by working to develop new innovations such as their BASELINE system for rapid machine tool verification.

Adopting Rapid Machine Tool Verification

Typically, complex machine tools used in the manufacture of large volume aerospace parts can be out-of-service for up to five days for a full verification. However, INSPHERE have created BASELINE which can reduce this to as little as one hour. 

BASELINE trials took place earlier this year at the Nuclear AMRC on the Soraluce FX12000 horizontal machining platform.

BASELINE trials took place earlier this year at the Nuclear AMRC on the Soraluce FX12000 horizontal machining platform.

The system uses a high-accuracy laser to track a target held in the machine’s tool-holder. It gathers precise three-dimensional static and dynamic datasets throughout the working volume of the machine, and can be used to asses 3-axis, 5-axis or other configurations. The greatly-reduced impact of verification allows machines to be checked far more frequently which in turn ensures manufacturers are able to meet tight tolerances under ever-increasing economic pressure, and the relentless drive for maximised productivity. 

“One of the clearest business cases for Industry 4.0 data and connectivity is reduced maintenance of machine tools - Jurgen Maier, CEO, Siemens UK”

Fundamental to its function, BASELINE generates actionable data, and deeper insights into machine performance can be gained through the innovative adoption of Industry 4.0 philosophies. Ultimately, it provides confidence in an organisation’s manufacturing process and step change in high value manufacturing.

Addressing a Fragmented Skills System

Whilst leadership products such as BASELINE are being developed, it is important for the enablers of industrial digitalisation to be aware of the barriers that might prevent its adoption. As often as we hear Industry 4.0 terminology being used, we are also made aware of the skills shortage that hinders innovation and the adoption of industrial digital technologies (IDTs). 

For some, focus on addressing the skills shortage in digital engineering capabilities may be a priority, especially with the rise of automation and the importance of equipping the workforce with advanced manufacturing skills. However, it is equally important not to ignore the value of short workplace training courses that can have a very real and long-lasting impact. Such courses help to avoid the dangers of skills silos and sets a platform for mutual understanding between a wide range of staff including designers, shop-floor technicians and even managers. The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) Dimensional Measurement training provides short courses essential for anyone in the business of metrology or manufacture. 

Although robots are most commonly associated with automation technologies, significant gains can be made by automating the software aspects of the measurement process. In some instances, this requires specialised training but can yield very effective results. Metrology specialists such as INSPHERE are able to deliver bespoke training to avoid the pitfalls of fragmented skills within an organisation.

According to the Made Smarter review, the industrial digitalisation could see industrial productivity significantly improve, more than 25 percent by 2025 and boost UK manufacturing by as much as £455 billion. Metrology is the key enabler for UK’s industrial digitalisation and leading a step change towards the fourth industrial revolution. 

INSPHERE are experts in dimensional measurement and provide solutions to simplify and increase the productivity of measurement processes. We provide measurement automation solutions, sub-contract services, measurement training and consultancy across a range of industries including aerospace, energy, marine and automotive. Contact us for more information on how our expertise and best-practice measurement approaches can help your company.