The very first Manufacturing & Engineering Week got off to a flying start at Birmingham’s NEC with 5221 visitors attending over the two-day live event to celebrate the very best of British innovation, creativity and best practice.
The four collocated exhibitions - Design Engineering Expo, Engineering Expo, Manufacturing Expo and Maintec – attracted 209 exhibitors from across the breadth of UK manufacturing and engineering. A wealth of solutions were on offer, from design and development to processes, assembly, control, robotics, maintenance, skills development, sustainability and many more.
At one of the first live shows since Covid, exhibitors were keen to show their wares, with many reporting a large number of good leads during the event as well as some sales.
Major show sponsors igus, Farnell and Wurth Electronics gave the event a definite thumbs up, emphasising how valuable it was to meet so many high-quality visitors.
Matthew Aldridge, managing director of igus, said: “It’s been a great event. We’ve met the right people and we’re definitely going to be here next year,” while Simon Meadmore, vice-president Product & Supplier Management, Farnell, was equally enthusiastic: “It’s exceeded our expectations. It’s definitely something we will do again. We’ve had really engaging conversations and it’s great to be back in this kind of format and seeing so many people attending the event.”
James East, managing director UK & Ireland, Wurth Electronics, also emphasised the value of attending: “It’s been a really good event. We’ve had loads of face-to-face interactions in the last couple of days - we’re definitely going to be signed next year and we can’t wait.”
“We were excited to see that so many exhibitors and visitors chose to join us to celebrate the very best of UK engineering talent,” stated Natig Asadullaev, exhibition director of organisers Nineteen Group. “Bringing so many innovative ideas and creative people together made the entire event a great success and the ideas and solutions that Manufacturing and Engineering Week produced will help the UK meet its challenges and make the most of its opportunities.”
Bringing people together was the aim of CONNECT+ Live. This was a concierge service that pre-qualified engineering, manufacturing process and management professionals and buyers from buildings, supply chain & industrial maintenance sectors and matched them with a selected number of exhibitors for face-to-face meetings at the event. Newbridge Events, an expert agency specialising in business matchmaking, matched buyers’ needs with the connect+ suppliers, ensuring they found the solutions to meet their requirements.
Twenty exhibitors were involved, and 142 meetings and introductions were made. Key buyers to benefit from the meetings included Jaguar Land Rover, British Sugar, Draexlmaier, National Grid Gas Ltd, BT and DuPont.
Even before the event opened its doors, a day of digital sessions whetted the appetite for more, with some of the UK industry’s leading lights, such as Prof. Juergen Maier CBE, Chair of the Digital Catapult, Co-founder of vocL and former chief executive of Siemens UK, giving their expert views on the issues and opportunities facing engineering and manufacturing today. Lessons learned and questions raised throughout the week were also addressed in an online round up session with industry experts after the event, featuring Ben Fletcher, chief operating Officer of Make UK.
With innovation being a key focus, one of the most popular attractions for visitors was the Innovation Zone. As well as an AI enabled car, a vertical take-off biplane and an F1 simulator, visitors could also take an early peek at the New Holland T6 Methane Power, the world’s first 100% methane powered production tractor. A first for the UK market was also the first bike made from recycled plastics. Motion plastics specialist igus has designed a robust, durable urban bike made entirely of plastic, from the frame to its bearings and even the toothed belt.
Another focus of innovation and a popular highlight of the show was a challenge built around the famous 1980s Great Egg Race television show. Both days saw engineers eager to show their skills by getting a raw egg safely over a wall and into a bucket. Winners on the first day were Expert Technology Group, while Hunter Selection came out top on day 2.
Education was a major theme of the week and conference theatres in each of the four events featured CPD accredited high-level keynote presentations, panel discussions and case studies. Opened by the Secretary of State, these sessions filled all available seats with something for everyone across UK industry, covering sectors including aerospace, automotive, food and beverage, motorsport, energy & renewables, pharmaceutical, space and FMCG, with a particular focus on SMEs’ and OEMs’ strategies.
Topics under the spotlight included the future of the sector, digital transformation, incorporating AI, Net Zero, diversity and skills gap, Brexit and beyond, cyber security, navigating changing laws and more.
Companies large and small also brought their experience to the event in the form of workshop sessions that showed how they solved challenges for customers with the latest innovative technology.
With so many exhibitors rebooking onsite, plus a large number of visitors also expressing interest in taking stand space next year, the live shows will be held in the larger Hall 4 in 2023 on the 7-8 June at the NEC, Birmingham. The collaboration with Rapid News Group will continue for 2023, giving visitors free access once again to the collocated Med-Tech Innovation and TCT 3Sixty events taking place in adjacent halls. In addition, Automechanika Birmingham, the leading trade show for the UK automotive supply chain sector, run by Messe Frankfurt, will also take place the same week. Access to all shows is free of charge.
During the event, Nineteen Group also announced its acquisition of Hennik Group, organisers of Digital Manufacturing Week and the publishers of The Manufacturer. Hennik brings excellent connections with a large number of industry professionals, as well as digital expertise that will help Nineteen Group offer additional opportunities for the sector.
The next chance to showcase UK industry is on 7 July with National Manufacturing Day, a UK-wide Open House that lets local communities see first-hand the potential careers and jobs on offer in this exciting sector. The day will encourage all age groups from school leavers to more experienced workers looking at reskilling to consider the possibilities of a career in manufacturing.