STEM talent: The future of the UK manufacturing industry

Damian Hennessey, Commercial Director at Proto Labs explores the myths of what a job in manufacturing entails and offers advice on how the UK manufacturing industry can up its game in harnessing next-generation STEM talent.

Fast-paced, high-tech and revolutionary: These are just some of the terms that can be used to describe UK manufacturing in the 21st century.

Advancements in analytics software and automation technology, for example, ensures that designing 3D CAD models and manufacturing on-demand parts can be completed faster than ever before.

The modern-day industrial revolution is here and we need a greater pool of skilled STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) candidates to accelerate manufacturing in the digital age.

What part can IT play?

In order to stay relevant and ahead of the curve, UK manufacturing firms must harness the latest technological innovations. This is especially important, as according to a recent Government Department for Science Report, the UK manufacturing industry is set to be one of the sectors that will change drastically in the age of Internet of Things (IoT).

Factories across the country must consider embracing IoT to gain smarter, ‘real-time’ analytics over the competition, whether at home or abroad. Moreover, developments in big data for example, will make products more tailored and personal to the individual than ever before. Manufacturers have to adapt and embrace new digital business models that focus on speed and customer demand. This type of business model will require the best STEM talent.

The demand for STEM talent in manufacturing goes beyond streamlined production processes and automation software. Programmers with a keen interest for sustainability can also help make UK factories more energy efficient by using data to optimise energy usage, improve overall efficiency and reduce material waste.

Furthermore, creative web designers can leverage their user-experience expertise to lead the way in making the ordering of parts and prototypes as easy as possible.

The rise and rise of 3D

Stories on 3D printing seem to be hitting our headlines regularly. Whether it’s a piece on 3D printed bones, limbs or skin- additive manufacturing has never been so high on the press agenda.

Anyone out there with an entrepreneurial spirit can take advantage of these strides in bespoke manufacturing. Moreover, advances in technology have made 3D design software more affordable, easier to learn and more accessible and readily available to the wider public.

Product designers and engineers can now upload 3D CAD models of their custom prototypes or low-volume production parts and receive an automated quote with real-time pricing and design for manufacturability analysis within hours. Once approved, they can have their parts produced and shipped in a matter of days. The myth of a tedious, grease-stained manufacturing image can be well and truly debunked.

The product design economy

Advances in IT are powering the product design economy. The demand for digitally enabled prototyping is only set for growth the ongoing convergence of hardware and software. These terms are not mutually exclusive in today’s day and age.

The manufacturing industry in the UK is in an advantageous position to benefit from the IoT "explosion." The next generation of talent has the potential to connect ”the digital dots” of the 21st century factory floor in innovative ways that will make British manufacturing competitive on a global platform once again.

Advancing technology cannot be ignored by businesses in any sector. There has never been more opportunity for young STEM talent to break through the ranks and find a job that leverages their innovative skills and knowledge.

The digital revolution is happening, and manufacturing is one of the industries that is best placed to be guided and shaped by IoT technology in the years ahead.

Image source: Shutterstock/SFC