NextGen hack explores data-driven solutions in manufacturing

29 March 2023

A full-day hackathon event held by the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and Barnsley Digital Media Centre (DMC), focused on exploring solutions to real-life problems faced by companies in the advanced manufacturing sector. 

Hosted at the AMRC’s Factory 2050 facility, about 30 young apprentices and engineers representing the 14 companies involved in the NextGen project from across South Yorkshire and Wales, attended the hack event. Students from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Computer Science and the Information School also attended the event. 

All participants were split into teams to find ideas, create prototypes and mock-up how things might work in practice. They looked at the challenges around data analysis and visualisation solutions, turning data into useful insights and making them accessible; data collection tools, making use of existing or new tools to create data capture and storage solutions; as well as combining data sets from various sources to enable operational and planning decisions. 

Project companies including  Magellan, Cooper and Turner, as well as ARMEG, attended the hackathon to provide additional industry expertise and support.  

Jon Stammers, theme lead for data, connectivity and artificial intelligence (AI) at the AMRC, said: “This hackathon was an ideal platform for the young apprentices and engineers to be involved in the final parts of the NextGen project. 

“It was a fantastic opportunity for them to get first-hand experience of real-time problems and gave them the chance to think of ideas that could help to solve them. Engagement with university students is an important part of NextGen. It was great to see such a good turnout and we’re looking forward to hearing more about their ideas at the next event.” 

Ben Hawley, programmes and contracts manager at the DMC, added: “It was fantastic to be involved in this part of the NextGen project. We’ve worked with businesses on the project to understand the specific problems they’re facing and the AMRC’s Factory 2050 provided an inspiring backdrop for the hackathon event.

“Following on from the learning of the hackathon, we’re looking forward to hosting the wider-industry event at DMC in April, which will cover how data can be used in manufacturing."

The upcoming NextGen event will be held on April 13 at the Barnsley Digital Media Centre and follows on from the first hackathon, with a panel of industry experts exploring the best ideas that came from the day.  

Attendees will also hear about how NextGen has helped to embed low-cost digital technologies in the 14 participating companies, as well as explore the current skills shortage in the manufacturing sector and how adopting a digitally-focused culture can help productivity, save energy and reduce waste. 

Further details about the next event is available via: https://www.amrc.co.uk/events/nextgen-showcase-data-driven-solutions-in-manufacturing

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