18 June, 2019

Seeing sense

17 May, 2019

With the need to become and remain successful in today’s highly competitive professional world, the reliance on various forms of information technology has never been greater. This is, of course, all well and good if you have the right IT applications for the jobs at hand and positive results are achieved. However, there are several high-profile concerns related to computer usage – security being one of the bigger ones. There are also certain IT issues that arguably don’t get the profile they deserve. One of these is quite simply the need to take regular screen breaks.


When the focus on digital transformation becomes blurred

21 March, 2019

As Brexit uncertainty continues it is understandable that many manufacturers are finding it difficult to put in place a clear strategy as to what to make and in what quantities over a certain timeline, what levels of stock to keep and what supply chain models to adhere to over the short to medium term. Many are also naturally concerned about ongoing relations with existing customers and suppliers across Europe. Of course, the backbone of most manufacturer’s ability to deliver reliable products and services to customers is its plant & machinery and its ability to keep up to speed with current technology trends.


Safe Brexit

01 February, 2019

One of the fundamental expectations in any workplace is that the workforce is able to about its daily activities without any undue risk of injury. Of course, different professions can potentially pose different levels of bodily risk, but it remains a given that regardless of the job at hand workers should be able to return home at the end of their daily tasks uninjured and fit for another day’s productivity.


Removing the barriers

04 December, 2018

One realm of professional endeavour that could still do with a bit of a nudge in the direction of greater gender parity is that of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. However, perusing the findings of new research by WISE, the campaign for gender balance in STEM subjects, it would appear, encouragingly, that things are moving in the right direction, with the UK set to have 1 million women active in core STEM jobs by 2020. Over 900,000 women are currently working in STEM, according to the research, and an estimated 200,000 women with STEM qualifications will reach working age within the next 2 years. The news was announced at the recent WISE 2018 Awards presented by the Patron of WISE, HRH The Princess Royal.


The price of success

23 October, 2018

Higher education is, of course, of great importance. It’s important for students with career aspirations, and it’s important for any nation keen to protect its economic and knowledge-based standing at home and abroad. All this is of course a given from a philosophical standpoint. However, on a more practical note, some fairly powerful tremors were felt among the student community when the government decided to allow universities to charge up to £9000 a year in tuition fees from the academic year of 2012-13. This left many bright and aspiring students with the prospect of either foregoing a university education or facing a level of accumulating debt they could well do without by the time they took their first steps within their chosen professions.


A shifting gender balance?

26 September, 2018

It’s fair to say that, historically, STEM subjects (including: physics, maths, further maths, chemistry, computing, ICT, design and technology and other sciences) have predominantly been the domain of male students, many of whom went on to enjoy secure and professionally rewarding careers in their chosen fields. However, it is encouraging to see that this gender imbalance would appear to be moving in a direction of greater parity. According to analysis by Leeds based non-profit community interest company, WISE, of the 2018 A level results, the popularity of core STEM subjects at A level is soaring, especially among girls.


Stay safe

22 August, 2018

Naturally, most people go to work in the expectation of doing a productive, fulfilling day’s work and returning home satisfied and, most importantly, free from injury. In this day and age, one might think or expect that injury risk is largely a thing of the past. Well, it would seem that there is still work to be done in light of the recent HSE report showing there were 144 workplace deaths from April 2017 to March 2018 – an increase of 9 on the same period last year (6%). Despite the increase, there has been a long-term reduction in the number of fatalities since 1981 and the number has broadly remained level in recent years. However, the proportion of fatal injuries to older workers has been steadily increasing in recent years, although the increase seen in the most recent year is particularly large (Over 60s 2016/2017 – 35) (Over 60s 2017/2018 – 55).


Knowledge is power in the digital age

20 June, 2018

Discussions around Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution continue apace within industry and Government, and the recently held Engineering & Machinery Alliance (EAMA) evening reception at the House of Commons very much continued this positive momentum. One of the most resonant points made during the evening came from Dr Juergen Maier, chief executive of Siemens plc, who led the Made Smarter review of industrial digitisation for the Government. He commented that while the UK manufacturing community needs to continue to forge ahead in embracing the fourth industrial revolution – projecting its capabilities around the globe as innovators and creators – there has been concern aired that new technologies will increasingly displace humans from the workforce. “I don't subscribe to the argument that the fourth industrial revolution is going to eat up all of our jobs,” he said. “As matter of fact, if you look at what's happening in our factories right here in the UK we are very much using cobotics to work alongside our people in our factories, and we are using virtual reality and augmented reality to support our people in our manufacturing operations.” Dr Maier added that UK companies are also using data analytics to allow people to make better decisions about the manufacturing process. He stressed that it’s really about the augmentation; all these technologies working with and alongside people within businesses. “I think our agility, our innovation and the strength that we have in those fields are going to be pretty good for us if we invest well in the fourth industrial revolution,” he remarked. However, he recognised that one very fundamental and important factor surrounding the issue of humans and the fourth industrial revolution is that of skills. “All of what I've described is only possible if we skill our people to be able to master the fourth industrial revolution,” he said, adding that the upskilling of people who don't fully understand the technology is critical. “They might be scared of the technology and worry about it, and therefore not know how to embrace it,” he said. “This might mean they are blockers to embracing and moving forward with this technology at pace. So, we the industry have a very big job to do in terms of upskilling our people. There are some great initiatives and training schemes available, but I think we need to make sure more of that is focused on digital skills and especially on industrial skills.” The argument for a greater focus on upskilling the workforce marshalled by Dr Maier does indeed make a tremendous amount of sense. Without the right knowledge base within the workforce to utilise the technology available to realise Industry 4.0, companies are in danger of falling at the first hurdle. However, with the right knowledge, the right attitude, the right motivation and a hunger for pushing the innovation envelope, UK industry has everything to gain – leading the world in creating a stronger fourth industrial revolution. Ed Holden Editor


In the AI vanguard

08 May, 2018

Technologies aligned with artificial intelligence (AI) are developing as a rapid pace and are gaining major traction within the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0-related areas such as machine learning, robotics and autonomous vehicles. As a Stanford University paper – ‘Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030’ – neatly pointed out, “there is growing interest in applications that can utilise the complementary strengths of humans and machines – for humans to help AI systems to overcome their limitations, and for agents to augment human abilities and activities.”


Digital platforms high on the agenda for industrial manufacturers

27 March, 2018

When thinking about some of the technological sweet-spots that will increasingly define the future of industrial manufacturing, an increasing number of decision makers within the sector are citing Industry 4.0 (the fourth industrial revolution) as the big theme; one that also embraces other key digital concepts such as Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and smart manufacturing. Indeed, Infosys, provider of research and intelligence about the information technology (IT) and telecommunication sectors, has declared that in a mere two years’ time, digital platforms will support up to 30% of revenue and 60% of the manufacturers worldwide.


To automate or not to automate…

16 February, 2018

Based on the amount of coverage received in the industrial press and beyond, one would expect that the topic of robotics and the wider automation landscape is what most companies are busy talking about and even looking to deploy, if indeed they haven’t done so to some extent. The attraction is easy to see: the potential for greater accuracy, speed and agility, less waste and more profitability. We are even seeing developments in collaborative robots, or cobots, that are able to work alongside human workers to further enhance the whole production process. And within the wider Industry 4.0 concept of end-to-end integration and connectivity, one would think the whole technology area simply cannot be ignored – even if a sizeable initial investment is required before the return on investment and resultant technological benefits really start to kick in.


Celebration and reflection

08 December, 2017

Having probably perused the front cover of this edition of Hydraulics & Pneumatics before making it this far, it is unlikely to have escaped you by now that this is a rather special issue. Some 21 years since its inception, the journal has come of age. Having myself been sitting in the editor’s chair for over 12 years now, I have increasingly come to appreciate the value of the journal as the only publication dedicated to the fluid power industry.


Time to play catch-up

27 October, 2017

There’s no way to escape it; the digital theme in all its guises is going to be one of the most widely debated themes within the fluid power industry and wider manufacturing and engineering space going forward. For example: Industry 4.0 and the greater computer-based connectivity of humans and machines; the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and embedded digital devices within tools, equipment and systems; Big data and the immense sources of data that can be analysed by computer algorithms to plot business patterns etc.; and Digital Transformation (DT) and the manifold changes that can come about through applying computerised/digital technology to things and actions in our daily professional and social lives.


Creativity is the watchword

26 September, 2017

Like any other professions, those concerning engineering and manufacturing are kept alive and vibrant by a regular supply of newcomers, buoyed with enthusiasm as they look forward to what could prove to be a lifelong, fulfilling and prosperous career decision. Encouragingly, there has been an uptake of students studying Maths and Physics subjects, and this move has been hailed “a step in the right direction” and welcome progress by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). However, the IET adds that studying engineering is creative and should not be limited to only those who have taken these subjects.


Treading the right career path

22 August, 2017

As the topic of GCSE and A-Level results becomes a key talking point around the breakfast table in many households across the UK, a group of engineering apprentices is urging young people to be calm and consider the full range of options – whatever their results. With more and more firms offering attractive schemes, young people still considering their career options having decided not to go to university (or not being in a position to do so) could do well to give serious thought to the possibility of serving an apprenticeship in engineering. In many instances, the demand is there, the life-long career opportunities are in place and opportunities to advance through a company – often to the very top level – have been proven. Moreover, many people who have chosen this path have found themselves in a fulfilling and enjoyable profession that is able to sustain them throughout their life. Indeed, according to the latest research by the Industry Apprentice Council (IAC), 98% of engineering apprentices are happy with their career choice – and this finding spans apprentices at all levels, from Level 2 (intermediate level) to Level 6 (degree level).


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