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The Art of the ImPossible podcast - EPISODE 9

Achieving more through automation

Is the design and manufacturing industry taking too narrow a view on the topic of automation? 

Automation stirs up conversations around industrial robots, productivity, worries about the comparatively high costs for SMEs, and the ever-present concerns about jobs. But why should design and manufacturing embrace automation?

Automation has a key role to play in the digital transformation of the design and manufacturing industry, and yet our adoption globally perhaps isn't where it needs to be.

Listen to the podcast below



Automation is so much more than industrial robots or productivity. And while certain economies seem to be way ahead of the investment curve in those arenas, a big part of the conversation also looks at the comparatively high costs of automation for an SME and the ever-present concerns about jobs. But whatever your view is, automation has a key role to play in the digital transformation of the design and manufacturing industry, and yet our adoption globally perhaps isn't where it needs to be. 

We are joined by Jocelyn Cole, Goods Lift General Manager for Penny Hydraulics, and the University of Warwick’s Dr. Simon Leigh to try to understand if we’re taking too narrow a view on the topic of automation and what we need to do to embrace change. Jocelyn and  Simon offer tips to SMEs wanting to embrace automation, but wary of the costs. Start small and measure benefits. 

The podcast also talks about the importance of companies taking responsibility for the job losses that can result from major automation implementations. If you replace a whole job through automation, what happens to that now displaced person? The podcast also explores the importance of partnerships with universities to get young, fresh graduates into businesses who have new ideas about old concepts. Customers know what they want and they want it yesterday - the only way to meet higher demands is to automate parts of the business that are non-value, freeing up more time to spend on the value-add areas.



Jocelyn Cole

Jocelyn Cole – Chartered Mechanical Engineer and GoodsLift General Manager at Penny Hydraulics.  Penny Hydraulics design, manufacture and install bespoke lifting equipment from its factory in North Derbyshire.

Jocelyn joined Penny Hydraulics on a placement from University to implement 3D CAD within the business. She was given the opportunity to develop an established CellarLift product into a suit of GoodsLifts which led to an increase in demand, causing the design to become the bottleneck. Using design automation techniques this bottleneck was eradicated allowing turnover to increase as the number of units fitted trebled, profit increased, and errors decreased. This automation impacts all areas of the business and offers customers flexibility in design, detailed and accurate information, and industry-leading lead times.

Dr. Simon Leigh

Dr. Simon Leigh is an Associate Professor of Engineering at the University of Warwick, where he leads the Digital and Material Technologies Laboratory. His research is undertaken in the field of Additive Manufacturing (AM, also known as 3D printing) and focuses on the development and application of digital design technologies and novel materials for manufacturing. He is also Academic Lead for the Warwick Engineering Build Space, a multi-million-pound creative design space housing everything from hand tools and machine tools to CNC equipment, 3D printers, and robotics systems.