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Will new technologies lead to a resurgence in manufacturing?

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If you’ve been reading the headlines lately, you might think that the future of UK manufacturing hangs in the balance, following several high-profile redundancy announcements. From Honda’s decision to close its Swindon car plant to Rolls Royce cutting 3,000 jobs, there’s no doubt that it’s a tough time for some in the engineering sector. However, our belief is that the engineering industry is constantly evolving, and with many new innovative technologies on the rise, new jobs are being created all the time. In fact, there’s a real demand for these skills in a number of areas. Here are just a couple of examples we’d like to share:

Additive manufacturing (3D printing)

Many sectors are making use of this innovative new technology. One of the benefits for designers is a quick, flexible and cost-effective process, which allows them to test prototypes before commissioning custom-built products. Last year’s Wohlers Report showed that, globally, the 3D printing industry grew by $1.25 billion in 2017. According to Principal author Terry Wohlers, “it’s not an exaggeration to say we’re seeing explosive growth” within this area. It’s an area that big names like the American software company HP are investing in. Closer to home, the UK government is investing in a project to develop 3D printing techniques which could create new light-weight materials for weather satellites. Whether your background is in mechanical engineering, material science or as a service engineer, there are multiple opportunities for you to take advantage of.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

We all use devices which rely on connectivity to the internet, and the principle behind IoT is to integrate each of these apps, mobile or wearable devices so that we get an individual, personalised service. The tech company Samsung has used this to create a fridge which can tell you when your milk is running out and order more – and that’s just one example within the consumer market. For engineers, there are so many possibilities. Another example is Smart Manufacturing (SM), which uses internet-connected machinery to monitor production processes. By doing this, and analysing real-time data, critical business decisions can be made in response to changing demands and conditions on the production line. It’s estimated that the SM market will be worth $10.8 billion by 2024. Research shows that 47 per cent of organisations lack the skills needed for IoT projects and as result, software and electrical engineers, as well as big data engineers, are in high demand.

AI and Robotic Engineering

Whether you’re thinking of intelligent machines or physical robots, we’ll see an increase in both of these in the workplace in the future. A study from McKinsey suggests that, by 2030, 20 per cent of jobs in the UK will become automated. However, the report authors also say that this will lead to new types of jobs. In the field of engineering, those who can programme and teach robots -from machine learning and algorithm engineers to data scientists – are unlikely to be out of a job anytime soon. In the future, many new products and services will have these capabilities in-built within them, therefore, to quote a recent article from the IEEE, there is a real need for new graduates who can ‘understand how artificial intelligence, robotics, software and other technologies interact with one another’.

Green engineering

The field of engineering is no stranger to the drive for sustainability. And on the flip side of the coin, some experts believe engineers will need to problem solve in new ways to combat the effects of climate change. Already this year, there have been some interesting breakthroughs. In Belfast, engineers working for the Canadian aerospace company Bombardier have just won an award for creating a composite wing able to reduce CO2 emissions. While in Scotland, the government has announced funding for an underwater engineering hub to help the oil industry diversity into green energy. It’s clear that this is a growing field, which is attracting investment as part of the wider debate surrounding the need for industries globally to minimise their carbon footprint.

Among the engineering industry, there’s a growing demand for those who are able to demonstrate digital skills, as well as people who can adapt and respond to the needs of the sector. To find out about the many exciting opportunities available, contact our expert team of advisers who have an extensive network of contacts and are committed to placing candidates into exciting, challenging roles within growing businesses.

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