This edition of Hydraulics & Pneumatics includes a Preview of Hannover Messe; 2017’s main event which this year will feature the theme ‘Integrated industry – creating value‘. This theme of course points strongly in the direction of Industry 4.0 – an area of technological innovation that is increasingly transforming the manufacturing and engineering landscape; moving from being a visionary concept embracing many aspirational ideals to becoming a tangible reality in more and more working environments. This is certainly turning into the age of the smart factory. Intelligent manufacturing, for example, is a truly fascinating – some might even go as far as to say awe-inspiring – area of development. Take the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology (IPT) in Aachen, Germany, for example, which is developing workflows in a way that could be a real game-changer. The Institute is currently progressing the idea of a production workflow that could develop flexibly – each part deciding for itself the best route through production.
One thing’s for sure, 2017 certainly flew out of the traps politically, with a new US Government speedily following through on many of its pledges made during the presidential campaign of 2015/16. It seems like never a day goes by without some new executive order being unleashed with the by now well-practiced flourish of President Trump’s nib. At this stage of the proceedings, it may be difficult to predict the true effects and outcomes related to many of these actions and changes in policy; diplomatically, militarily and economically, but on thing’s for sure; the new White House incumbents certainly hit the ground running in earnest.
Over the years engineering – often cited as one of the strongest examples of a male-dominated industry – has shone a particularly strong light in the direction of inspired women who have not only survived but excelled in the profession. Just a few of the many success stories are: Emily Roebling (1803-1903) is a name synonymous with the Brooklyn Bridge, completed in the 1880s; in 1926, Lillian Gilbreth (1878-1972) became the first female member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; during the 1920s Beulah Louise Henry (1887-1973) patented an array of innovations, from a bobbin-free sewing machine to a typewriter that was able to produce multiple copies of script without the need for carbon paper; Mary Anderson (1866-1953) did all drives of vehicles a major favour by inventing the windshield wiper. It is barely worth beginning such a list, as the panoply of female success within the engineering discipline over the years has been impressively extensive.
Engineering in all its guises is a discipline that has a profound impact on all of us every day; the roads we walk on, the bridges we cross, the buildings we live or work in, the vehicles that forward goods to and from shops and factories, the cars we drive, not to mention a host of high-tech business and leisure accoutrements we couldn’t live without in the modern age – the list is almost endless. So, if the next generation isn’t suitably motivated to pursue an engineering-based career, who is going to continue to innovate and maintain something that is so fundamental to the modern world?
Many businesses employ a workforce that spans every feasible working age group. This can result in a varied and highly valuable experience dynamic, whereby the younger employees may on balance be more familiar with high-tech disciplines such as those related to IT (for example online business networking, computer-based remote diagnostics, e-commerce/Internet sales and marketing etc.), while the more mature staff may have a greater grasp of traditional trade skills (although one must of course not over-generalise). The main point is that workers of all ages have an important role to play in the modern workforce, and the more senior members of the team should not only be recognised as important and valued assets within the business, but also be suitably looked after to ensure they can go about their tasks in the most convenient and efficient fashion possible.
In our May/June edition Editor’s Comment, we considered some of the arguments for the UK leaving or remaining in the EU.
Ahead of the EU Referendum on 23 June, a number of insightful points on the topic were discussed during a lively panel discussion at the recently held BFPA AGM. With this in mind, I felt it timely to leave some of these views with you as you make up your minds as to which way you will vote on the day. The Association’s CEO, Chris Buxton, opened the debate by reminding the assembled of David Cameron’s speech to Chatham House in November last year during which the PM said “this is perhaps the most important decision the British people will have to take at the ballot box in our lifetimes”.
Within various manufacturing and engineering disciplines, as with many other professional pursuits, there are situations where the possibility of injury, or even death, increases. When working at height, it is of course important to adhere to a series of measures to ensure as best as possible that an unfortunate incident doesn’t occur. These measures should include, among other things, a general risk assessment based on the precise environment, equipment and circumstances involved, appropriate supervision, ensuring the work is only undertaken by trained personnel, and making sure that only regularly maintained equipment that is fit for the task is used.
Manufacturers are motived by many business drivers. These are likely to include R&D and innovation; seeking to offer customers something that other companies cannot provide – whether that’s just a small but important tweak to something that is already established on the market, or something that is based more on ‘blue-skies’ thinking. A business could also have strong environmental aspirations – keen to set a high standard for other companies to follow in order to help mitigate the deleterious effect industry can have on our planet. But, of course, one of the most non-negotiable drivers has to be competitiveness. This is critical not just from the point of view of simply continuing to survive, but also in order to ensure a company is a strong and established player in its chosen market sector – producing quality goods while also having the ability to scale-up to meet increased demand for its products or services as and when necessary.
As fluid power and motion control equipment becomes more sophisticated one might think that a need for a suitably advanced level of staff training is a non-negotiable. In the case of maintenance, for example, if a company doesn’t have the personnel to keep equipment in tip-top working condition it can hardly be surprised when it suffers costly and inconvenient periods of unpredicted downtime.
Regardless of which profession people work in it is reasonable to assume that they will take the odd sick day off each year – although, as one might expect, figures are likely to vary depending on the sector in question. In the case of engineering, it may or may not come as a surprise to hear that over the past five years this sector has been ranked fifth among 25 different industries for the most days off sick with 21.29, in comparison to the national average UK of 15.27. More than 2 in 10 (21 per cent) engineering workers have sustained injury or become ill because of their job, which resulted in having to take time off work, according to a recent online study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of insurance company ‘There’, which surveyed 2000 employed and self-employed UK workers in different sectors. The engineering sector statistics were also found to be above the national average for sick days over a career (37.19 versus 34.97). Those who had been off for over a month stated that on average they were actually off for over three and a half months in total.
From time to time, forward-thinking companies need to make carefully considered business decisions concerning how to take their enterprise to the next level. Do they plump primarily for an investment in more machinery or other types of technology? Or do they prioritise focusing on improving the workforce’s skillsets? Well, recent research suggests that the latter strategy is currently gaining the upper hand among many medium sized manufacturers (SMEs) – particularly in London and the South East. Investing in the skills of their workforce appears to be a main priority for SMEs in this region, according to the latest Manufacturing Barometer – produced for the Business Growth Service.
I would like to think everyone recognises the importance of doing their bit for the environment. After all, we live on a planet that has during its 4.5 billion or so years of existence come to have developed the delicate eco-system that we all rely on for our survival. Over a relatively miniscule period of time, man has made the transition from a reliance on hand-made tools and artefacts, and, for those that could afford it, the common vehicular benefits of horses and the like, to the post-industrial revolution epoch– with all its modern conveniences that have to sit alongside consequential environmental challenges. It is therefore perfectly understandable that any responsible government should check its nation’s industrial carbon footprint by putting in place a series of measures that help to address the dynamic between pollution levels and environmental vulnerability.
Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Frank Whittle et al may often the first names that come to mind when asked to reference some of history’s most famous engineers and inventors. However, it is important also to remember that woman engineers have been enhancing all our lives with their ingenuity alongside their male counterparts for generations. Sarah Guppy (1770-1852), for example, was instrumental in designing Britain's infrastructure and developed a number of products for domestic use. In 1811 her first patented invention involved a way of making safe piling for bridges. Victoria Drummond (1894-1978) was the first known female marine engineer in Britain and the first woman member of Institute of Marine Engineers. Aeronautical engineer, Beatrice Shilling (1909-1990), corrected a defect in the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine during the Second World War. In the US, Emily Roebling (1803-1903) became the first woman field engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge after husband Washington Roebling could no longer work after becoming paralysed.
Some 40 years ago Great Britain made the decision to remain part of the European Community. Today, as political leaders debate about the potential for referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU, heated debate championing an abundance of ‘In’ and ‘Out’ arguments has understandably become de rigueur daily reading in the National press. So, as a hypothetical exercise, let’s consider how a vote could fall if a referendum were to be held tomorrow? A recent poll by Survation showed that a potential referendum on EU membership is currently balanced on a knife edge, with a referendum tomorrow predicted to be 51 per cent in favour of leaving versus 49 per cent wanting to remain a member – more or less a statistical dead heat. It is possible that the recent debates in Parliament and unrest in the Conservative Party have slightly dampened enthusiasm for leaving, perhaps by drawing attention to the possibility of future renegotiation of membership terms.
Hannover Messe 2017
24 April, 2017, 9:00 - 28 April, 2018, 18:00
Messegelände, D-30521 Hannover
Seawork International 2017
13 - 15 June, 2017
Mayflower Park, Southampton
SPE Offshore Europe 2017
05 September, 2017, 9:30 - 08 September, 2017, 14:00
Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre
10 April, 2018, 9:30 - 12 April, 2018, 16:30
Hall 9, NEC, Birmingham, UK