• Interview with Performance Engineered Solutions LTD

    We recently sat down with the Directors of Performance Engineered Solutions Ltd for their views on a range of issues relating to the ways in which technology is transforming the manufacturing sector. During the discussion we also engaged their opinion on two of the most important topics manufacturers are concerned about – Brexit and the skills gap – and what solutions can be found to deal with both.

    Performance Engineered Solutions (https://www.pes-performance.com/) in the words of Mike Maddock (Co-Founder) is ‘a solutions business.’ With an impressive pedigree the business is co-owned by Mike and Dan Fleetcroft. Mike’s career includes 13 years as a bomb disposal expert in the Royal Navy; a member of the British Bob Skeleton team for 7 years and a Senior Operations Director on an executive board plc. Dan Fleetcroft – an Aerospace engineer by qualification, starting out working for John Barnard at Ferrari’s Formula 1 team at the young age of 17. He did work experience with John and two weeks after graduating joined him at what was then Prost Grand Prix and then continued to work with John till he retired.

    You can watch a clip below which covers a discussion on technology and the 4th Industrial Revolution.

    Please click here to see the video


    The Interview with the directors of PES Ltd

    Elements of a successful project

    Jim Davison – So think about the projects you get involved in – without going into details – what is it that makes a successful project when an organisation works with you?

    Dan Fleetcroft – Fundamentally it’s understanding the challenge. We are predominately client driven and that usually means someone has a problem that needs fixing. The key aspect is understanding what that problem is and what the best solution is going to be for the client. Sometimes the most successful project comes from educating your client in terms of what is available as a solution and what they actually need - as opposed to what they think they want.

    For us it’s understanding those requirements – it’s documenting them, it’s measuring them. For us the feedback on projects is instantaneous when you deliver a part. It goes on the aircraft, it goes in the race car – it works, or it doesn’t work.
    You must be certain it works. The bit that doesn’t get discussed too much in projects is how the progress of projects are measured, the testing and all the things you need to make sure you are confident that the part or product is going to work when you deliver it.

    To me it’s understanding the problem and scrutinising your solution before you make something, and the success comes from ensuring it is right before you bolt it to something else.

    Mike Maddock – We are a really collaborative model – as Dan said – educating the client, is really difficult. The reason we are based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park is because we almost see it as the Kensington address for advanced manufacturing, and research & development. As a business we just can’t keep pace with technology and that’s the environment we’re in to support our clients. Therefore, we must be immersed in an environment where we can see what’s coming through – what’s coming up. This is not only on the engineering side but looking at the commercial aspect as to what is affordable.

    When we first started we looked at what does performance mean? And we realised it actually means money. The more money you put in to a project the more performance you are going to get out of it. That works well in a Formula One environment, but it doesn’t work in a commercial environment. We look at commercial solutions for our clients and also collaborate with companies looking at research and development in new areas funded by government. It’s quite a broad portfolio.

    Technologies PES Ltd have worked with

    Jim Davison – Can you share with us some of the technologies you have assisted organisations with?

    Dan Fleetcroft – Technology-wise we have a strong in-house understanding of composites – a really growing manufacturing technology, which is increasing being used in the mainstream automotive industry. Another area is additive manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing – that is a fast-paced technology moving with some real opportunities to rethink how you design and make everything.

    So those are probably the two fastest growing areas that we see. But we’re also seeing where traditional manufacturing technologies such as milling and turning are being optimised. Research here on the AMP is developing technologies that will half the time it takes to machine something and also half the production cost. There’s really a whole host of such developments, almost in any area; materials, manufacturing, measurement and design tools – they are all evolving so quickly. Keeping abreast of those is what gives us that advantage to provide our clients with the best solution possible.

    Sector wise – we still work in motor sport, it’s a challenging place to be – the budgets are not what they used to be, or they tend to be more focused on the bottom-line than they are on delivery schedules. There’s also aerospace, medical technologies, green energy and other mainstream high-level technology sectors such as automotive, but we also find clients coming from all over.
    We end up with domestic goods that require optimising through manufacturing techniques. Also, anything with light-weighting or recycling, where you can save material or change materials. We are even doing some bio-composite work now for retail point-of-sale. As legislation changes the requirements for ‘end-of-life use’ of products we can be asked by clients to find a novel solution to improve a production process that has not changed for the last 30-40 years.

    Mike Maddock – We realised early on that we are not a design consultancy – we are a solutions business. When we started we were badged as a design consultancy but with the experience of our team we work much wider than that. We are also in a unique position against other businesses in that we have a holistic view of what’s going on across multiple sectors and therefore we can cross-pollinate technologies. For example, we’re currently working with an aerospace client and have secured a research grant to apply their aerospace technology into the wind energy sector. This is looking at leading edge corrosion on wind turbine blades operating in off-shore environments and takes an existing technology into a completely different industry sector to potentially create advantage.

    It is key that we support our clients, and not just in the environments that they work in. The advantage that we provide to our clients is in a more technically holistic view. Many businesses tend to measure themselves solely against the competition within the sector in which they operate, and so are only influenced by the technologies they see and touch within their industry. Often they don’t see what’s going on in other environments, so therefore we have the advantage of saying ‘did you know about such and such?’ or ‘are you aware of a particular technology?’

    Sometimes companies can realise too late that they are rapidly approaching a technological cliff for their business. It’s like the famous story of Kodak, who believed that digital cameras would never work – until digital virtually wiped out their film sale & processing business within ten years. That’s the debate where we have currently about education and trying to get people to understand what Industry 4.0 means to them as individuals and as businesses.

    Additive Manufacturing

    Jim Davison – You mentioned additive manufacturing – the point you mentioned was that the pitfall is just 3D printing the existing part you already make – how do you help organisations think differently and fundamentally redesign the products or components they are looking to produce?

    Dan Fleetcroft – really it is helping our clients understand the technology, the capabilities of technology – design for manufacturing information, and how you address the challenges. All of these technologies have advantages but also have some challenges linked with them. It’s a case of working our way around how you integrate parts together. For example; 3D printing means that we can now print things inside other things that we couldn’t do before, but is that really a benefit?

    For us, we need to understand the additive manufacturing technologies, their benefits and limitations and how to get the best from them. We also need to steer our clients in their thinking to start with and that’s at a much higher level.

    You may have a client who says that they want to 3D print everything. From calculations it maybe that the 100,000 products they produce annually would require 20,000 3D printing machines to make them. It’s important to step back from getting into the detail of a project straight away from a design point of view, to look at the commercial side and logistics of what will be achieved. May involve saying to the client that actually that 3D printing isn’t quite the solution yet, but there may be an interim step.

    As Mike mentioned we really want to collaborate with our clients and challenge them respectfully but to add value. It’s not just a case of going “yeah we’ll do that”, when that might not be the best solution. Often, we find we’ll work with them to look at a programme which engages them into a particular technology in a low risk, low cost way. At times they may need some hand-holding – supporting them in a way that says “we don’t know everything but we may know a little bit more than you”, and that might be enough to help the client get you where they want to go.

    The 4th Industrial Revolution
    Jim Davison – Thinking about the business environment – is there anything government or organisations like EEF could do to help accelerate the adoption of some of those technologies?

    Mike Maddock – I think it’s about education and creating awareness. The issue – with 4.0 is there’s a lot of businesses that just don’t understand it. Day to day they are just trying to survive and it’s about trying to get organisations into that R&D culture. In simple terms from a business point of view we’re looking at where a client’s particular product may be on the product lifecycle. For example, if it’s coming to the top of the lifecycle you get high volume, low margins, and there comes a point where you need to change and invest to allow your business to move forward. We can then help them with business strategy, R&D investment and then the introduction of automation, robotics or new materials – it’s right across the board. I think the assumption is that 4.0 is just too expensive – and businesses just can’t afford it

    Dan Fleetcroft – It’s important to get the information out there, so people can see real examples of where it has been used, and particularly where it has been used in more mainstream applications. That might give people more confidence.
    I think that often businesses assume that the technology is not ready or the materials they require are not there or the costs will be too high. I think that’s probably half the problem because people just dismiss it and ignore what could be possible, or they will stick with more traditional methods that might not be the best approach.

    What’s needed is to raise awareness – the UK has a massive challenge with its perception of engineering and fundamentally what the British public think engineers do. I think 3D printing has really captured the public’s imagination along with to a lesser extent the use of composite technologies in road cars. All things that get the British public to think of engineering as a professional career/job with high technology.

    Jim Davison – So do you think the digital revolution – going back to the 4th Industrial Revolution and the fact that we are going to be merging technologies will help with this understanding?

    Dan Fleetcroft - Yes you need to understand how to design and make products but overlaid with this are some of these digital requirements. In my mind this opens career options to young people that historically wouldn’t have thought of going anywhere near engineering or manufacturing. But suddenly with driving apps and interfacing with these systems, designs and technology they are interested.

    Mike Maddock – What percentage of advanced engineering is digital? It could be anything; 75-80% of advanced manufacturing if you’re looking at 4.0 and the new types of jobs that are being created through technology that many people haven’t realised about yet.

    This brings things back to the skills factor. We already know that there’s going to be a shortage of skills and we’re not going to be able to fill that gap so therefore productivity, automation, and the digital revolution will become more important. People are going to be forced down that route whether they like it or not, and so they really need to understand this and educate themselves.
    Large organisations are in a unique position because they can afford to create R&D cells within their business and look at new operations to survive. They are also working collaboratively with other large organisations to try and create solutions for the future. Some SMEs are also being supported as the OEMs become more collaborative with SMEs because they are can be more dynamic and fast-moving. Inevitably some businesses will be left behind, and I think the skills shortage will bring this to the fore.

    Celebrating the year of engineering and encouraging the next generation
    Jim Davison – So 2018 is the year of engineering – how do you think we should celebrate that and encourage the next generation of engineers to get on board in a career in engineering?

    Mike Maddock – I believe on the skills side we need to educate the older generation and the current teacher base because often they are influencing the younger generation based on old, outdated perceptions and understanding.
    We need to educate them into understanding that manufacturing is completely different from what they believe it to be. It’s a real future career. When Dan and I go around schools and organisations –– one of the key questions we ask people is to look around the room and show us something that is not engineered. Suddenly the penny drops – everything is engineered. We even had grass suggested once and we spoke about how grass can be genetically engineered to improve performance, yield etc. We believe engineering is what underpins society.

    We moved to the AMP in Yorkshire from the south because this is the place to be and I think there is an awareness of what technology means and what jobs of the future are going to be. Not only those skills but the need for retraining. As Jürgen Maier mentioned in the digital strategy, it’s the retraining of the current population that has to be key.
    As automation increases I don’t believe we are going to lose jobs, we will retrain people to a higher more technical skills base because there’s not a pipeline of younger people coming through.

    Dan Fleetcroft – I think the world we live in today is driven by social networks, especially for younger people. What we don’t appear to have are figure-heads in engineering to inspire that generation. There are some interesting projects – when we look at Elon Musk with Tesla, or maybe James Dyson, but even Dyson’s business – he still has vans going around with engineer on the back – coming to fix your cleaner. The terminology means that many people think engineers are more technicians.

    I wonder whether the scale of modern engineering means that we don’t have those figures. I look back at the start of my career when John Barnard was one of the design geniuses from F1, and you had Patrick Head and Adrian Newey as figureheads of other F1 projects. We can look further afield in car design back to the Mini and Sir Alexander Issigonis, or to engineers like Barnes Wallis & RJ Mitchell who designed the Bouncing Bomb and Spitfire respectively. We don’t seem to have such famous engineers now, so what do we celebrate? We celebrate footballers and reality television stars and they get all the attention.

    Dan Fleetcroft – And what do kids grow up wanting to be? Footballers or singers or movie stars. That’s great but there are probably less of those jobs then there are in engineering.

    How do we get to a position where those engineering figureheads (whoever they are) are seen to be inspirational and show a career you wish to pursue? The other thing is projects. If we look back – the Space Race and Apollo lunar missions inspired a generation of engineers, but they are already close to retiring if not already retired. Currently we have the Bloodhound land speed record project. It is kind of that ethos, but it doesn’t seem to capture the imagination of the press and media.

    The kids love it, but I don’t see it in the press – I don’t see this continual feed of information. Surely that is something that we should be pressing just to inspire all those young minds. We’ve got a skills shortage and manufacturing is the saviour of the economy. The government now seems to understand that manufacturing doesn’t happen without engineering – so the message needs to change to show how engineering is going to save the economy. It feels like it needs some figureheads and as there are people doing amazing things in engineering across all sectors, we should be able to inspire almost anyone.

    Mike Maddock – I think an issue is the way it is currently communicated now. The route to become an engineer just seems too difficult. Dan is Chair of Sheffield’s University Technical College and we are really trying to drive the young generation.
    We are now focusing on EQ and IQ. The apprenticeship route is really adding value, along with advanced apprenticeships. Sometimes its just a matter of timing in terms of a person’s development – in terms of maturity.

    You can see many students that would have traditionally taken the academic university route are now going into the apprenticeships, working with companies on a tailored programme and then moving towards a degree/ professional qualification. The EQ and IQ balance is really key – and coming back to the engineer message we need to communicate that starting as a technician is no barrier and can lead to becoming an engineer if you wish. There are different routes, but you can still end up with the same result.

    It’s great to see where we are going with apprenticeships but again we still need to drive that. The Royal Academy of Engineering’s ‘This is Engineering’ campaign is working with key partners to change the perception of engineering among young people aged 13-18. It shows that only 11% of all engineers are female, and that the UK will need 1.6 million engineers by 2025.
    Not sure that we are going to achieve these figures but if we can increase the interest of young people in engineering and also offset some of that requirement with the introduction of new technology, digitisation and automation, we will have a better opportunity for success.

    Dan Fleetcroft – It does feel that maybe we should follow the German model where the engineer title has the same level of protection and respect as doctors or lawyers.

    The beauty of engineering is that the route to engineering can be so different. If you want to be a doctor or lawyer, you have to go to med school or law school – there’s not really another option. Some of the best engineers I know did a couple of A-Levels or a GSCE and went on to design racing cars, aeroplanes and space rockets.

    This means I’m torn between protecting the qualification, because I think it adds value to it, but not making it elitist or making it something that this generation can’t inspire to be. I don’t know the answer, but it feels like there needs to be something to really show the opportunity there engineering will offer.

    Jim Davison – We held our first hackathon last week which all about addressing this exact challenge – how do you generate the pipeline for future engineers and we got together students, who had no comprehension about an engineering career or what that meant; people from engineering or manufacturing businesses and some technology experts. By pulling those three cohorts together they came up with some really fascinating and innovative ideas as to how we might approach that. Two of the key things that came out of it 1. Degree apprenticeships/advanced apprenticeships – a lot of young people had never heard of and when they heard about it they thought – wow – that’s something I’d really love to get involved in and 2. Branding – however you want to wrap that up – it was how we represent engineering and manufacturing – and the point you make is very good – it’s how we promote ourselves as a sector and an industry is key and we need to do that very differently.

    Dan Fleetcroft – It’s really exciting times and this kind of combination of technologies – the digital era – the smart devices and how that keys into all the other technologies for kids growing up. All the kids are tech savvy – they are building 3D printers in their bedrooms – you can’t imagine that 20 years’ ago.

    Mike Maddock – It’s true what Dan said. We’re working in an environment at the forefront of technology, but even we are still amazed and astounded at some of the things we see and the technologies that are coming through. We focus on how we learn about these technologies, so we can apply them and start pushing them forward. It’s just phenomenal.

    Brexit
    Jim Davison – How is Brexit affecting you as an organisation?

    Mike Maddock – It’s making a difference but in a positive way. There’s a lot of emotion involved with Brexit, whereas from an engineering base we like to deal with facts and see if we can create a solution.

    It is what it is. There’s a lot of uncertainty but we are focusing on how we support our clients to take their business forward? For us, there are real opportunities. We have been looking internationally and we do work with international clients. Recently I went to Canada on a Innovate UK trip – looking and working with Canadian businesses – collaborating and sharing best practice with the UK.

    In terms of our current clients, we can work with them to put a strategy together if they wish us to support them to become more effective. I was at a recent meeting where they were talking about whether there will be a customs union with the EU or not, and what impact is likely from potential delays at the borders.

    Businesses may look to consolidate their operations and become more productive. That way if it takes 5-6 days to get something to the border currently, why not try to get it in two days to adapt for any delays. For many SMEs there’s the ‘just in time’ delivery supporting the OEMs – we don’t know where that is going to go.

    It’s going to be about the implementation of technology; looking at innovative ways to move forward and having those products that are best in class within the market place that people can get. The relationship that UK business has with the rest of the world is still very strong and we are classed as a real innovative nation – so it’s very positive.

    From our perspective we think that business will always face changes. Whether its economic situations like Brexit or recessions, or changes in technology that can come along and take your business out. But these changes generate opportunities. After a slump in the oil & gas sectors many businesses looked at their core skills set to see how they could diversify into other sectors. We have a Canadian client that is currently in aerospace but wants to look at composites due to their potential use in the future as a lightweight material.

    The key question is how do we futureproof our business? It’s about stepping back and understanding the business. In the context of Brexit it just helps you to focus a little bit more. Yes, there will be challenges, but there are always challenges in business. You can continue to complain about Brexit or you can do something about it and be pro-active to get your businesses to a position that it is going to work.

    Jim Davison – Yes – I think whatever the political outcome is – the strength of business – particularly manufacturing and engineering businesses is that they will always find a way to cope with those challenges.

    Mike Maddock – We’re working with companies now that have some interesting challenges, but ultimately people do business with people. Everybody has a relationship with their clients or suppliers and they want to work to take that forward. We have got a client we are working with in the aerospace sector that has just secured two projects, where you’re looking at 22 years – through Europe, despite Brexit – so business goes on. There will be solutions, there will be challenges but again let’s look at it in terms of an innovative way of how we go forward and prove ourselves.

    Dan Fleetcroft – If we put the parallels back to broadcasting the benefits and successes of engineering – we take that and do that for the projects that are successful. But the press are dreadful – anything that is Brexit related or not Brexit related is a negative. What’s the point of watching the news anymore? There’s never any good news. There’s got to be good news out there – our business is flying but nobody wants to talk about it.

    Mike Maddock – EEF are pushing out stories in terms of the positive impact of the manufacturing sector, how we are growing and how we are contributing in terms of GDP and where it is moving forward.

    Dan Fleetcroft – Actually, for me the biggest issue with Brexit was not having the information available to really make a decision. So, you assimilate what you can and make the best decision you can – and we’ve got to get on with it and regardless of where we are at if we don’t get on with it we’ll drag ourselves down.

    There will be some challenging stories and some businesses won’t survive but they may not have survived regardless. We need to get some balance. We don’t have a particularly unbiased broadcasting network anymore – the news in the morning is pretty dire and it’s pretty opinionated.

    There needs to be a balance in terms of stories. We need to have a fair understanding of what the world is doing. If we can at least have some positive stories about the good news in engineering and manufacturing, I think that this will help people. They might just go “you know maybe it isn’t all doom and gloom” and the sky isn’t falling in.

    Mike Maddock –I think it is going to drive more efficiency. At the moment in the automotive sector many parts are taking several trips around Europe before coming back to be fitted to a vehicle. As well as industrial strategy about on-shoring, I think it is going to create clustering as well. Supply chains will increasingly cluster around their customers which will be interesting. I’m not sure how that is going to pan out but I’m sure it is going to drive more efficiency and productivity.

    Jim Davison – As we move away from Europe and there are restrictions with regards to the movement of people again I think those people will not be fundamentally available and that will drive investment in technologies to drive productivity and other benefits within manufacturing and engineering businesses.

    Mike Maddock – Well it’s an interesting. After doing some research about the supply of talent and people across Europe it is predicted that 12 of the 27 European nations are going to experience population decline by 2042. This means we are going to have a larger aging population and less of a working population. Whereas if you look at India – over 50% of their population is below the age of 30, with high levels of education, and many coming through engineering. So firms will need to look globally for skilled staff.

    Jim Davison – Part of the work we are doing is helping businesses to understand the detail because the devil is in the detail. So whatever agreement we come to with Europe eventually we need to make sure that businesses in Britain understand those details and they are in the best possible shape to manage and deal with whatever that outcome is.

    Mike Maddock – Some people are trying to drive a rift between the UK and Europe – it’s just ridiculous. We’re going to have a trading relationship – we trade with people and businesses in Europe and we always will do.

    The best piece of career advice…

    Jim Davison – A question for both of you – think back through your careers – what’s the stand out piece of advice that you have received from somebody along your career journey?

    Dan Fleetcroft – I didn’t get it as a singular piece of advice but from an engineering perspective it would have been from John Barnard and it would have been his attention to detail. His genius, his vision – he could see that solution in his head, but what really stood out for me was how obsessed he was with the details. If you look after those little things, the big things will fall into place.

    Mike Maddock – From my experience in the navy the level of OCD in terms of detail means it’s all in the preparation. It’s the upfront work that tries to eliminate any grey areas it’s all in the preparation so it’s the upfront work The navy used to be 90% training, 5% preparation and 5% fear. If you can keep the fear at 5% rather than 50% then you are doing pretty well with your job. But also risk management is understanding where and when you step back and that’s the same in business in terms of R&D. People aren’t cutting off projects, they are pushing them far too far forwards because they really haven’t analysed and looked at the risks. Probably the best advice I have ever had from a senior management position is the key for everybody – “What’s in it for me?” So when I’m talking and negotiating – dealing with people trying to think from their perspective – what’s in it for me? Because everybody thinks in that way. What in it for me, my family, my requirements, my business, for my workforce my team etc. Try and put yourself in a position of what they are looking to achieve and try to support that and take it forward.

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  • We recently sat down with the Directors of Performance Engineered Solutions Ltd for their views on a range of issues relating to the ways in which technology is transforming the manufacturing sector. During the discussion we also engaged their opinion on two of the most important topics manufacturers are concerned about – Brexit and the skills gap – and what solutions can be found to deal with both.

    Performance Engineered Solutions (https://www.pes-performance.com/) in the words of Mike Maddock (Co-Founder) is ‘a solutions business.’ With an impressive pedigree the business is co-owned by Mike and Dan Fleetcroft. Mike’s career includes 13 years as a bomb disposal expert in the Royal Navy; a member of the British Bob Skeleton team for 7 years and a Senior Operations Director on an executive board plc. Dan Fleetcroft – an Aerospace engineer by qualification, starting out working for John Barnard at Ferrari’s Formula 1 team at the young age of 17. He did work experience with John and two weeks after graduating joined him at what was then Prost Grand Prix and then continued to work with John till he retired.

    You can watch a clip below which covers a discussion on technology and the 4th Industrial Revolution.

    Please click here to see the video


    The Interview with the directors of PES Ltd

    Elements of a successful project

    Jim Davison – So think about the projects you get involved in – without going into details – what is it that makes a successful project when an organisation works with you?

    Dan Fleetcroft – Fundamentally it’s understanding the challenge. We are predominately client driven and that usually means someone has a problem that needs fixing. The key aspect is understanding what that problem is and what the best solution is going to be for the client. Sometimes the most successful project comes from educating your client in terms of what is available as a solution and what they actually need - as opposed to what they think they want.

    For us it’s understanding those requirements – it’s documenting them, it’s measuring them. For us the feedback on projects is instantaneous when you deliver a part. It goes on the aircraft, it goes in the race car – it works, or it doesn’t work.
    You must be certain it works. The bit that doesn’t get discussed too much in projects is how the progress of projects are measured, the testing and all the things you need to make sure you are confident that the part or product is going to work when you deliver it.

    To me it’s understanding the problem and scrutinising your solution before you make something, and the success comes from ensuring it is right before you bolt it to something else.

    Mike Maddock – We are a really collaborative model – as Dan said – educating the client, is really difficult. The reason we are based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park is because we almost see it as the Kensington address for advanced manufacturing, and research & development. As a business we just can’t keep pace with technology and that’s the environment we’re in to support our clients. Therefore, we must be immersed in an environment where we can see what’s coming through – what’s coming up. This is not only on the engineering side but looking at the commercial aspect as to what is affordable.

    When we first started we looked at what does performance mean? And we realised it actually means money. The more money you put in to a project the more performance you are going to get out of it. That works well in a Formula One environment, but it doesn’t work in a commercial environment. We look at commercial solutions for our clients and also collaborate with companies looking at research and development in new areas funded by government. It’s quite a broad portfolio.

    Technologies PES Ltd have worked with

    Jim Davison – Can you share with us some of the technologies you have assisted organisations with?

    Dan Fleetcroft – Technology-wise we have a strong in-house understanding of composites – a really growing manufacturing technology, which is increasing being used in the mainstream automotive industry. Another area is additive manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing – that is a fast-paced technology moving with some real opportunities to rethink how you design and make everything.

    So those are probably the two fastest growing areas that we see. But we’re also seeing where traditional manufacturing technologies such as milling and turning are being optimised. Research here on the AMP is developing technologies that will half the time it takes to machine something and also half the production cost. There’s really a whole host of such developments, almost in any area; materials, manufacturing, measurement and design tools – they are all evolving so quickly. Keeping abreast of those is what gives us that advantage to provide our clients with the best solution possible.

    Sector wise – we still work in motor sport, it’s a challenging place to be – the budgets are not what they used to be, or they tend to be more focused on the bottom-line than they are on delivery schedules. There’s also aerospace, medical technologies, green energy and other mainstream high-level technology sectors such as automotive, but we also find clients coming from all over.
    We end up with domestic goods that require optimising through manufacturing techniques. Also, anything with light-weighting or recycling, where you can save material or change materials. We are even doing some bio-composite work now for retail point-of-sale. As legislation changes the requirements for ‘end-of-life use’ of products we can be asked by clients to find a novel solution to improve a production process that has not changed for the last 30-40 years.

    Mike Maddock – We realised early on that we are not a design consultancy – we are a solutions business. When we started we were badged as a design consultancy but with the experience of our team we work much wider than that. We are also in a unique position against other businesses in that we have a holistic view of what’s going on across multiple sectors and therefore we can cross-pollinate technologies. For example, we’re currently working with an aerospace client and have secured a research grant to apply their aerospace technology into the wind energy sector. This is looking at leading edge corrosion on wind turbine blades operating in off-shore environments and takes an existing technology into a completely different industry sector to potentially create advantage.

    It is key that we support our clients, and not just in the environments that they work in. The advantage that we provide to our clients is in a more technically holistic view. Many businesses tend to measure themselves solely against the competition within the sector in which they operate, and so are only influenced by the technologies they see and touch within their industry. Often they don’t see what’s going on in other environments, so therefore we have the advantage of saying ‘did you know about such and such?’ or ‘are you aware of a particular technology?’

    Sometimes companies can realise too late that they are rapidly approaching a technological cliff for their business. It’s like the famous story of Kodak, who believed that digital cameras would never work – until digital virtually wiped out their film sale & processing business within ten years. That’s the debate where we have currently about education and trying to get people to understand what Industry 4.0 means to them as individuals and as businesses.

    Additive Manufacturing

    Jim Davison – You mentioned additive manufacturing – the point you mentioned was that the pitfall is just 3D printing the existing part you already make – how do you help organisations think differently and fundamentally redesign the products or components they are looking to produce?

    Dan Fleetcroft – really it is helping our clients understand the technology, the capabilities of technology – design for manufacturing information, and how you address the challenges. All of these technologies have advantages but also have some challenges linked with them. It’s a case of working our way around how you integrate parts together. For example; 3D printing means that we can now print things inside other things that we couldn’t do before, but is that really a benefit?

    For us, we need to understand the additive manufacturing technologies, their benefits and limitations and how to get the best from them. We also need to steer our clients in their thinking to start with and that’s at a much higher level.

    You may have a client who says that they want to 3D print everything. From calculations it maybe that the 100,000 products they produce annually would require 20,000 3D printing machines to make them. It’s important to step back from getting into the detail of a project straight away from a design point of view, to look at the commercial side and logistics of what will be achieved. May involve saying to the client that actually that 3D printing isn’t quite the solution yet, but there may be an interim step.

    As Mike mentioned we really want to collaborate with our clients and challenge them respectfully but to add value. It’s not just a case of going “yeah we’ll do that”, when that might not be the best solution. Often, we find we’ll work with them to look at a programme which engages them into a particular technology in a low risk, low cost way. At times they may need some hand-holding – supporting them in a way that says “we don’t know everything but we may know a little bit more than you”, and that might be enough to help the client get you where they want to go.

    The 4th Industrial Revolution
    Jim Davison – Thinking about the business environment – is there anything government or organisations like EEF could do to help accelerate the adoption of some of those technologies?

    Mike Maddock – I think it’s about education and creating awareness. The issue – with 4.0 is there’s a lot of businesses that just don’t understand it. Day to day they are just trying to survive and it’s about trying to get organisations into that R&D culture. In simple terms from a business point of view we’re looking at where a client’s particular product may be on the product lifecycle. For example, if it’s coming to the top of the lifecycle you get high volume, low margins, and there comes a point where you need to change and invest to allow your business to move forward. We can then help them with business strategy, R&D investment and then the introduction of automation, robotics or new materials – it’s right across the board. I think the assumption is that 4.0 is just too expensive – and businesses just can’t afford it

    Dan Fleetcroft – It’s important to get the information out there, so people can see real examples of where it has been used, and particularly where it has been used in more mainstream applications. That might give people more confidence.
    I think that often businesses assume that the technology is not ready or the materials they require are not there or the costs will be too high. I think that’s probably half the problem because people just dismiss it and ignore what could be possible, or they will stick with more traditional methods that might not be the best approach.

    What’s needed is to raise awareness – the UK has a massive challenge with its perception of engineering and fundamentally what the British public think engineers do. I think 3D printing has really captured the public’s imagination along with to a lesser extent the use of composite technologies in road cars. All things that get the British public to think of engineering as a professional career/job with high technology.

    Jim Davison – So do you think the digital revolution – going back to the 4th Industrial Revolution and the fact that we are going to be merging technologies will help with this understanding?

    Dan Fleetcroft - Yes you need to understand how to design and make products but overlaid with this are some of these digital requirements. In my mind this opens career options to young people that historically wouldn’t have thought of going anywhere near engineering or manufacturing. But suddenly with driving apps and interfacing with these systems, designs and technology they are interested.

    Mike Maddock – What percentage of advanced engineering is digital? It could be anything; 75-80% of advanced manufacturing if you’re looking at 4.0 and the new types of jobs that are being created through technology that many people haven’t realised about yet.

    This brings things back to the skills factor. We already know that there’s going to be a shortage of skills and we’re not going to be able to fill that gap so therefore productivity, automation, and the digital revolution will become more important. People are going to be forced down that route whether they like it or not, and so they really need to understand this and educate themselves.
    Large organisations are in a unique position because they can afford to create R&D cells within their business and look at new operations to survive. They are also working collaboratively with other large organisations to try and create solutions for the future. Some SMEs are also being supported as the OEMs become more collaborative with SMEs because they are can be more dynamic and fast-moving. Inevitably some businesses will be left behind, and I think the skills shortage will bring this to the fore.

    Celebrating the year of engineering and encouraging the next generation
    Jim Davison – So 2018 is the year of engineering – how do you think we should celebrate that and encourage the next generation of engineers to get on board in a career in engineering?

    Mike Maddock – I believe on the skills side we need to educate the older generation and the current teacher base because often they are influencing the younger generation based on old, outdated perceptions and understanding.
    We need to educate them into understanding that manufacturing is completely different from what they believe it to be. It’s a real future career. When Dan and I go around schools and organisations –– one of the key questions we ask people is to look around the room and show us something that is not engineered. Suddenly the penny drops – everything is engineered. We even had grass suggested once and we spoke about how grass can be genetically engineered to improve performance, yield etc. We believe engineering is what underpins society.

    We moved to the AMP in Yorkshire from the south because this is the place to be and I think there is an awareness of what technology means and what jobs of the future are going to be. Not only those skills but the need for retraining. As Jürgen Maier mentioned in the digital strategy, it’s the retraining of the current population that has to be key.
    As automation increases I don’t believe we are going to lose jobs, we will retrain people to a higher more technical skills base because there’s not a pipeline of younger people coming through.

    Dan Fleetcroft – I think the world we live in today is driven by social networks, especially for younger people. What we don’t appear to have are figure-heads in engineering to inspire that generation. There are some interesting projects – when we look at Elon Musk with Tesla, or maybe James Dyson, but even Dyson’s business – he still has vans going around with engineer on the back – coming to fix your cleaner. The terminology means that many people think engineers are more technicians.

    I wonder whether the scale of modern engineering means that we don’t have those figures. I look back at the start of my career when John Barnard was one of the design geniuses from F1, and you had Patrick Head and Adrian Newey as figureheads of other F1 projects. We can look further afield in car design back to the Mini and Sir Alexander Issigonis, or to engineers like Barnes Wallis & RJ Mitchell who designed the Bouncing Bomb and Spitfire respectively. We don’t seem to have such famous engineers now, so what do we celebrate? We celebrate footballers and reality television stars and they get all the attention.

    Dan Fleetcroft – And what do kids grow up wanting to be? Footballers or singers or movie stars. That’s great but there are probably less of those jobs then there are in engineering.

    How do we get to a position where those engineering figureheads (whoever they are) are seen to be inspirational and show a career you wish to pursue? The other thing is projects. If we look back – the Space Race and Apollo lunar missions inspired a generation of engineers, but they are already close to retiring if not already retired. Currently we have the Bloodhound land speed record project. It is kind of that ethos, but it doesn’t seem to capture the imagination of the press and media.

    The kids love it, but I don’t see it in the press – I don’t see this continual feed of information. Surely that is something that we should be pressing just to inspire all those young minds. We’ve got a skills shortage and manufacturing is the saviour of the economy. The government now seems to understand that manufacturing doesn’t happen without engineering – so the message needs to change to show how engineering is going to save the economy. It feels like it needs some figureheads and as there are people doing amazing things in engineering across all sectors, we should be able to inspire almost anyone.

    Mike Maddock – I think an issue is the way it is currently communicated now. The route to become an engineer just seems too difficult. Dan is Chair of Sheffield’s University Technical College and we are really trying to drive the young generation.
    We are now focusing on EQ and IQ. The apprenticeship route is really adding value, along with advanced apprenticeships. Sometimes its just a matter of timing in terms of a person’s development – in terms of maturity.

    You can see many students that would have traditionally taken the academic university route are now going into the apprenticeships, working with companies on a tailored programme and then moving towards a degree/ professional qualification. The EQ and IQ balance is really key – and coming back to the engineer message we need to communicate that starting as a technician is no barrier and can lead to becoming an engineer if you wish. There are different routes, but you can still end up with the same result.

    It’s great to see where we are going with apprenticeships but again we still need to drive that. The Royal Academy of Engineering’s ‘This is Engineering’ campaign is working with key partners to change the perception of engineering among young people aged 13-18. It shows that only 11% of all engineers are female, and that the UK will need 1.6 million engineers by 2025.
    Not sure that we are going to achieve these figures but if we can increase the interest of young people in engineering and also offset some of that requirement with the introduction of new technology, digitisation and automation, we will have a better opportunity for success.

    Dan Fleetcroft – It does feel that maybe we should follow the German model where the engineer title has the same level of protection and respect as doctors or lawyers.

    The beauty of engineering is that the route to engineering can be so different. If you want to be a doctor or lawyer, you have to go to med school or law school – there’s not really another option. Some of the best engineers I know did a couple of A-Levels or a GSCE and went on to design racing cars, aeroplanes and space rockets.

    This means I’m torn between protecting the qualification, because I think it adds value to it, but not making it elitist or making it something that this generation can’t inspire to be. I don’t know the answer, but it feels like there needs to be something to really show the opportunity there engineering will offer.

    Jim Davison – We held our first hackathon last week which all about addressing this exact challenge – how do you generate the pipeline for future engineers and we got together students, who had no comprehension about an engineering career or what that meant; people from engineering or manufacturing businesses and some technology experts. By pulling those three cohorts together they came up with some really fascinating and innovative ideas as to how we might approach that. Two of the key things that came out of it 1. Degree apprenticeships/advanced apprenticeships – a lot of young people had never heard of and when they heard about it they thought – wow – that’s something I’d really love to get involved in and 2. Branding – however you want to wrap that up – it was how we represent engineering and manufacturing – and the point you make is very good – it’s how we promote ourselves as a sector and an industry is key and we need to do that very differently.

    Dan Fleetcroft – It’s really exciting times and this kind of combination of technologies – the digital era – the smart devices and how that keys into all the other technologies for kids growing up. All the kids are tech savvy – they are building 3D printers in their bedrooms – you can’t imagine that 20 years’ ago.

    Mike Maddock – It’s true what Dan said. We’re working in an environment at the forefront of technology, but even we are still amazed and astounded at some of the things we see and the technologies that are coming through. We focus on how we learn about these technologies, so we can apply them and start pushing them forward. It’s just phenomenal.

    Brexit
    Jim Davison – How is Brexit affecting you as an organisation?

    Mike Maddock – It’s making a difference but in a positive way. There’s a lot of emotion involved with Brexit, whereas from an engineering base we like to deal with facts and see if we can create a solution.

    It is what it is. There’s a lot of uncertainty but we are focusing on how we support our clients to take their business forward? For us, there are real opportunities. We have been looking internationally and we do work with international clients. Recently I went to Canada on a Innovate UK trip – looking and working with Canadian businesses – collaborating and sharing best practice with the UK.

    In terms of our current clients, we can work with them to put a strategy together if they wish us to support them to become more effective. I was at a recent meeting where they were talking about whether there will be a customs union with the EU or not, and what impact is likely from potential delays at the borders.

    Businesses may look to consolidate their operations and become more productive. That way if it takes 5-6 days to get something to the border currently, why not try to get it in two days to adapt for any delays. For many SMEs there’s the ‘just in time’ delivery supporting the OEMs – we don’t know where that is going to go.

    It’s going to be about the implementation of technology; looking at innovative ways to move forward and having those products that are best in class within the market place that people can get. The relationship that UK business has with the rest of the world is still very strong and we are classed as a real innovative nation – so it’s very positive.

    From our perspective we think that business will always face changes. Whether its economic situations like Brexit or recessions, or changes in technology that can come along and take your business out. But these changes generate opportunities. After a slump in the oil & gas sectors many businesses looked at their core skills set to see how they could diversify into other sectors. We have a Canadian client that is currently in aerospace but wants to look at composites due to their potential use in the future as a lightweight material.

    The key question is how do we futureproof our business? It’s about stepping back and understanding the business. In the context of Brexit it just helps you to focus a little bit more. Yes, there will be challenges, but there are always challenges in business. You can continue to complain about Brexit or you can do something about it and be pro-active to get your businesses to a position that it is going to work.

    Jim Davison – Yes – I think whatever the political outcome is – the strength of business – particularly manufacturing and engineering businesses is that they will always find a way to cope with those challenges.

    Mike Maddock – We’re working with companies now that have some interesting challenges, but ultimately people do business with people. Everybody has a relationship with their clients or suppliers and they want to work to take that forward. We have got a client we are working with in the aerospace sector that has just secured two projects, where you’re looking at 22 years – through Europe, despite Brexit – so business goes on. There will be solutions, there will be challenges but again let’s look at it in terms of an innovative way of how we go forward and prove ourselves.

    Dan Fleetcroft – If we put the parallels back to broadcasting the benefits and successes of engineering – we take that and do that for the projects that are successful. But the press are dreadful – anything that is Brexit related or not Brexit related is a negative. What’s the point of watching the news anymore? There’s never any good news. There’s got to be good news out there – our business is flying but nobody wants to talk about it.

    Mike Maddock – EEF are pushing out stories in terms of the positive impact of the manufacturing sector, how we are growing and how we are contributing in terms of GDP and where it is moving forward.

    Dan Fleetcroft – Actually, for me the biggest issue with Brexit was not having the information available to really make a decision. So, you assimilate what you can and make the best decision you can – and we’ve got to get on with it and regardless of where we are at if we don’t get on with it we’ll drag ourselves down.

    There will be some challenging stories and some businesses won’t survive but they may not have survived regardless. We need to get some balance. We don’t have a particularly unbiased broadcasting network anymore – the news in the morning is pretty dire and it’s pretty opinionated.

    There needs to be a balance in terms of stories. We need to have a fair understanding of what the world is doing. If we can at least have some positive stories about the good news in engineering and manufacturing, I think that this will help people. They might just go “you know maybe it isn’t all doom and gloom” and the sky isn’t falling in.

    Mike Maddock –I think it is going to drive more efficiency. At the moment in the automotive sector many parts are taking several trips around Europe before coming back to be fitted to a vehicle. As well as industrial strategy about on-shoring, I think it is going to create clustering as well. Supply chains will increasingly cluster around their customers which will be interesting. I’m not sure how that is going to pan out but I’m sure it is going to drive more efficiency and productivity.

    Jim Davison – As we move away from Europe and there are restrictions with regards to the movement of people again I think those people will not be fundamentally available and that will drive investment in technologies to drive productivity and other benefits within manufacturing and engineering businesses.

    Mike Maddock – Well it’s an interesting. After doing some research about the supply of talent and people across Europe it is predicted that 12 of the 27 European nations are going to experience population decline by 2042. This means we are going to have a larger aging population and less of a working population. Whereas if you look at India – over 50% of their population is below the age of 30, with high levels of education, and many coming through engineering. So firms will need to look globally for skilled staff.

    Jim Davison – Part of the work we are doing is helping businesses to understand the detail because the devil is in the detail. So whatever agreement we come to with Europe eventually we need to make sure that businesses in Britain understand those details and they are in the best possible shape to manage and deal with whatever that outcome is.

    Mike Maddock – Some people are trying to drive a rift between the UK and Europe – it’s just ridiculous. We’re going to have a trading relationship – we trade with people and businesses in Europe and we always will do.

    The best piece of career advice…

    Jim Davison – A question for both of you – think back through your careers – what’s the stand out piece of advice that you have received from somebody along your career journey?

    Dan Fleetcroft – I didn’t get it as a singular piece of advice but from an engineering perspective it would have been from John Barnard and it would have been his attention to detail. His genius, his vision – he could see that solution in his head, but what really stood out for me was how obsessed he was with the details. If you look after those little things, the big things will fall into place.

    Mike Maddock – From my experience in the navy the level of OCD in terms of detail means it’s all in the preparation. It’s the upfront work that tries to eliminate any grey areas it’s all in the preparation so it’s the upfront work The navy used to be 90% training, 5% preparation and 5% fear. If you can keep the fear at 5% rather than 50% then you are doing pretty well with your job. But also risk management is understanding where and when you step back and that’s the same in business in terms of R&D. People aren’t cutting off projects, they are pushing them far too far forwards because they really haven’t analysed and looked at the risks. Probably the best advice I have ever had from a senior management position is the key for everybody – “What’s in it for me?” So when I’m talking and negotiating – dealing with people trying to think from their perspective – what’s in it for me? Because everybody thinks in that way. What in it for me, my family, my requirements, my business, for my workforce my team etc. Try and put yourself in a position of what they are looking to achieve and try to support that and take it forward.

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    Mike Maddock, Jim Davison and Dan Fleetcroft
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