Why manufacturers in Wales should consider R&D

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By Dr Akash Gupta

Research and Development (or R&D as it’s more commonly known) should form the backbone of any thriving organisation. This is because R&D gives a business the edge by either providing an opportunity to do different things or simply to do things differently. It doesn’t matter if you are a multinational corporation (MNC) or a small and medium enterprise (SME), R&D is critical for any organisation to move forward and stay ahead of the competition through the adoption of innovative strategies, processes and products.

According to Akio Morita – “Of course, we have to make a profit, but we have to make a profit over the long haul, not just the short term, and that means we must keep investing in research and development.”

Earlier goods were made through craftmanship, but the dawn of the industrial revolution introduced steam power engines, replacing spinning wheels with mechanical wheels, thus dramatically increasing the overall efficiency of the labourers.

One would think that’s common knowledge. But imagine the change those entire generations had to go through in order to familiarise themselves with these mechanical tools and acknowledge the ‘idea’ of a factory. Similarly, the second wave introduced electricity in the manufacturing processes which created assembly line productions and a massive expansion in telegraph lines. Thus, allowing unprecedented movement of people and ideas. In fact, according to most historians, no period introduced more changes than the second industrial revolution. The demand of labour was such that no household good was homemade.

Then came computers, which revolutionised the world through partial automation. It is because of computers that we are now able to automate an entire production process with minimal human intervention. This period of time doesn’t need much explanation as we are still reaping the fruits of this era. However, there is a small fraction of the current generation who are still trying to cope with this technology. Like using near-field communication (NFC) in smartphones for transactions, paying an online bill or simply ordering a pint through an app whilst in a bar.

On one hand we have a generation of digital adaptors still trying to catch-up and on the other, the fourth wave (or commonly referred as Industry 4.0 or I4.0) has already started to engulf conventional manufacturing techniques with smart technologies. And Covid-19 has accelerated this narrative by about a decade. For example, the use of Artificial Intelligence driven by supervised and unsupervised Machine Learning algorithms for automation of complex tasks in the field of medicine and biotechnology. Reverse Engineering in conjunction with Additive Manufacturing is enabling fabrication of complex parts that are bespoke, cheap, sustainable, efficient, and delivered with lower lead times compared to their off-the-shelf counterparts. Engineering designs are now planned and presented through Virtual/Augmented Reality that immerses the customer in a real-world experience. Cobots are taking over monotonous tasks alongside maintaining synergy by training workforces. Digital-Twins are enabling factories to envision, plan and organise their future selves and Quantum computers are being employed for interpretation of big data that was impossible for human beings to contemplate.

As mentioned previously, changes from I4.0 are imminent, and every industry will have to adapt to this sooner or later. The question is when do you want to do it?

At this stage I believe you will have several questions such as:

  • These technologies are too advanced, I don’t understand how they can help me?
  • How can I take advantages of R&D in growing my business?
  • How can I integrate I4.0 techniques in my current business plan?

The answers to all these questions, is way simpler than you think. Our team at MADE Cymru is actively educating enterprises on I4.0 technologies and converting their research ideas into reality through advanced technologies encapsulated under the umbrella of I4.0. It’s not just about adopting these technologies; it is about educating businesses on which of the new technologies are most appropriate to realise their future plans and growth. Our team of researchers and industry experts will work alongside your team to support this process.

If you are a visionary who has a research idea but do not know where to start, all you need to do is ask.

Dr Akash Gupta is a Research Officer at MADE Cymru, University of Wales Trinity Saint David. An aerospace engineer with a dual specialisation in computational numerical analysis and Rocket & Space technology, he provides smart engineering solutions to SMEs.

Open the door to industry expertise in universities, the MADE Cymru team would love to meet you to comment, discuss, signpost and support manufacturers in Wales in any way they can. Whether that be to discuss upskilling, R&D, look over new product designs/ideas, share advice or just have an informal chat.

Please call 01792 481199, email [email protected] or visit www.madecymru.co.uk

MADE Cymru is a suite of programmes designed to navigate organisations through Industry 4.0 via collaborative research & development and upskilling. Funded by the European Social Fund/European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government. Delivered by University of Wales Trinity Saint David.