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Looking forward to a smarter future

08 April 2019

There’s no denying the enormous impact Industry 4.0 is having on technology, manufacturing and business. MiniTec is a company that is embracing the fast-changing developments. Not only are they enabling their own manufacturing process to become smarter, but they are also manufacturing solutions to allow other businesses to become smarter too.

The smart solution

MiniTec call themselves the ‘one stop shop for smart industry’. Their modular aluminum profile systems provide bespoke solutions for businesses. They are individually specified to meet customer’s individual manufacturing requirements, so there are no surplus costs, components or wasted time and resources. As a global company, they have a large resource pool: a worldwide library of components in addition to local, on-the-ground experts who can offer creative process improvements.

Gary Livingstone, MiniTec UK’s MD, knows how their capabilities benefit others: “We provide an invaluable resource to modern manufacturers. Because industry moves so quickly, some of the grassroots knowledge and understanding can be lost in translation, or completely overlooked. At MiniTec we have the experience and expertise to offer solutions that businesses might not know how or where to source, or even understand how cost-effective and time-saving they can be.” 

How do MiniTec help manufacturing processes keep in line with Industry 4.0 advances? 

Their strategy is focused on improving productivity in their own business and for their customers. They have integrated different technologies, introduced automation and increased the technology used. Their solutions allow manufacturing businesses to be more streamlined, through a reduction in manual processing and with the appropriate use of resources. Integrating MiniTec components results in smoother assembly lines, fewer errors in picking and placing workflows, increased workstation ergonomics and the ability for one-piece-flow assembly lines to handle small quantities. Together these improvements equal a reduction in waste and an increase in automation. Smart manufacturing becomes possible with leaner and more closely monitored and controlled processes.

Does a smart future mean automation will replace manual jobs? 

Inevitably, the more mundane and repetitive tasks will be replaced but not at the cost of people. Staff will be able to be trained in more skilled applications which also meets the skills shortage faced by the industry: make the most of people’s knowledge and ability where it is really needed and let technology take care of the unskilled processes. Workers are likely to be more fulfilled at work and less likely to leave the industry, keeping investment within and actually allowing for growth. 

People investment is already a key part of MiniTec’s strategy. They know that not all companies have staff or engineers with the same degree of knowledge they once had and so will turn to an expert third party, like MiniTec, to manufacture their entire process or the parts of it they are not equipped to do. Automation will allow MiniTec to focus their skilled staff where they are most needed and nurture their talents.

What else can we expect to see in a smarter future?

Given the rapid pace of technological advancements, we are probably just scratching the surface of potential. The Internet of Things (IoT) is enabling the automated elements to communicate, ‘smart’ technology is becoming commonplace in our homes and collaborative robots (cobots) are being introduced to production lines. All this technology is becoming easier to manufacture and therefore more affordable and this in turn will allow businesses like MiniTec to develop their range and offer even more bespoke solutions. 

What could stop the future being so smart?

The industry can’t be expected to carry these huge changes by itself. Gary sees the biggest challenges being those beyond MiniTec’s control: “One of the great limiters to the advancement of technology in the UK is the industry’s ‘make do’ attitude. How can any business or sector be expected to improve productivity and work smart if there’s no willingness to improve or if the proper investment to do so isn’t available? How can we attract and retain the best talent, grow our skills base and be recognised as a major worldwide technology player? Investment needs to carry through to people as well as smart processes. I don’t know how any business owner can plan for growth and development if they can’t retain their staff.”

Be smart the MiniTec way

Undoubtedly exciting times await the technology industry, including MiniTec. Gary knows his team need to be smart about the individual components of their modular system, think smart while constantly looking for ways to further automate and streamline the manufacturing process for smart factories. Should suitable investment be granted to the industry, just imagine the opportunities and possibilities that await.   

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