MACH 2024: A celebration of all things manufacturing

27 March 2024

James Selka, who heads up the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA), talks to us about MACH 2024, a  flagship event for innovation, sustainability and collaboration in the UK's manufacturing sector, and what to expect at this year’s show.

With a legacy that stretches back to 1912, MACH is the UK's most prominent manufacturing exhibition – owned and organised by the MTA every two years. Attracting more than 26,000 visitors and hosting 500 exhibitors, it is a key event in the manufacturing calendar that prides itself on fostering an environment for learning and collaboration.

The event’s core purpose, Selka says, is to be a celebration of all things engineering and manufacturing in the UK.

“We've got about 30,000 people from our community onsite during that week, most of them looking to improve their productivity or manufacturing approach,” said Selka. "It's a celebration but it's also a massive opportunity every two years for us to come together and exchange best practices. People can learn from very simple, low-cost improvements to their processes.”

The 2024 event, held at the NEC Birmingham from April 15-19, will be the third outing for the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) since it first exhibited in 2018 – with an aim to turn world-leading research into practical improvements for industry, helping to boost businesses productivity and sharpen their competitive edge, while saving time, money and energy. 

On having the AMRC involved, Selka said: “This drive for improvement at MACH is precisely why the AMRC and other members of the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult are so crucial to the event, to help us support the growth of the wider manufacturing industry."

Selka said knowledge sharing at MACH is incredibly important, which is why the MTA will be launching five new Knowledge Hubs at this year’s event, which will cater to those visitors who are seeking to enhance their productivity. The hubs have been developed in collaboration with members of the national HVM Catapult network, like the AMRC and Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), along with other key partners. 

“These hubs are key locations that visitors can go to for impartial advice on key technology areas before being signposted to companies at the show who are providing those technologies," said Selka. 

Selka says the exhibition attracts not only UK participants but also international exhibitors and visitors seeking to integrate into the UK supply chain.  “We estimate that the business directly attributed to MACH in 2022 was over £180 million,” said Selka. “Which is nine per cent of the estimated annual sales of the manufacturing technologies market– that's enormous." However, he also stressed that the true value of MACH lies in the connections made and knowledge gained by attendees.

While MACH's roots lie in machining, Selka explained that it has transformed into a comprehensive manufacturing showcase encompassing all aspects of the industry. He said: "For years, the exhibition has served as a platform for showcasing live, working technologies. We believe we owe it to our members to constantly reflect the technologies and the industry at the time, and evolve accordingly.” 

This commitment to staying current is evident in the focus on digital technologies and emerging concepts like digital thread that will be showcased by the AMRC at this year’s stand. 

"The AMRC has been a key contributor to MACH, showcasing live demonstrations of cutting-edge technologies over years,” said Selka, underscoring the AMRC's role in guiding the future of UK manufacturing. “It can see the demand coming in ten years' time. The foresight it has helps us guide investment to make sure the supply chain is competitive.”

Over the years, the AMRC has pioneered various cutting-edge technologies in Industry 4.0, from 5G Factory of the Future to untangling the requirements of the digital twin – putting groundbreaking innovation at the heart of UK manufacturing. 

The AMRC’s contributions to MACH and the wider industry extend beyond thought leadership and demonstrations of capability and technologies. Selka said it is the trust which manufacturers place in the AMRC's expertise.

“Manufacturers know they need to go on a journey to improve their business but more often than not, they don’t know how or where to begin. This is where the AMRC comes in,” he said. “The AMRC has skills and expertise in a lot of areas in manufacturing technology. It is not trying to sell anything, but is aiming to help and provide support to the manufacturing community to make their business more efficient and profitable." 

He highlighted the AMRC’s previous contributions to MACH, such as the Industry 4.0 exhibit in 2018 and Project ELLE in 2022; and is excited for its upcoming showcase of the digital thread shown through an uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) concept. This year, the AMRC will unveil a UAV demonstrator that serves as a testbed for the digital thread, an emerging technology area that connects a product's entire lifecycle and offers a single source of truth for information exchange.

Selka sees the digital thread as a transformative force and is in full support of the AMRC's plans for a stand showcasing the transformative technology being developed and demonstrated over the next couple iterations of the event, adding: "This will demonstrate the potential of connecting everything from design to end-of-life, shortening lead times and validating manufacturing processes." 

There is a shift happening from integrated software and hardware in older machines to the need for independent software to drive entire factories, and Selka pointed to the potential of the digital thread to achieve that. 

"This idea of connecting machines and connecting organisations is still very much new, but it's really exciting to see the opportunities it will unlock,” he said. "You can't control any process unless you can measure it. And the work that is being done at the AMRC, such as on digital thread, at being able to illuminate processes and control them far better to reduce the resources required is very special."  

Beyond efficiency and supply chain connectivity, Selka says the strongest benefit of digital thread adoption is accurate carbon accounting, a critical factor in today's sustainability-focused environment. 

"We're impressed with how the AMRC has invested time and knowledge to help businesses measure their carbon footprint," he said. "Like the AMRC, we want to present sustainable manufacturing as an opportunity, instead of a challenge, to improve business and reduce carbon footprint and energy at the same time."

Selka outlined two pillars of sustainable manufacturing. "One, of course, is to run our factories more sustainably using less energy, materials and resources,” he says. “And the other half, is the fact that we rely on our engineers and our manufacturing base to make the solutions to allow the country and, indeed, the world to move toward net zero.

“MACH brings the two together and serves as a platform for showcasing emerging technologies and solutions, accelerating their adoption – not just for environmental reasons, but also for business competitiveness.”

By providing a platform for knowledge sharing, cutting-edge technology demonstrations and a focus on sustainability, MACH 2024 promises to be a landmark event for the UK manufacturing industry. So what does the team behind the show want attendees to take away from it? 

"I want them to feel like they've learned a lot, gotten valuable ideas and found ways to improve their companies. But overall, I want them to enjoy being part of an ambitious, innovative and thriving manufacturing community.”

Visit the AMRC stand 6-160 at MACH 2024. Register here

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