Transforming the future of manufacturing with Calderdale’s first Industry 4.0 hub

The opening of the innovative Industry 4.0 facility in Brighouse is set to transform the engineering and manufacturing sector across West Yorkshire, one of the Brighouse Town Deal projects.

At a launch event on Friday 14 June, representatives from 19 businesses from the region visited the brand-new i4.0 Hub based at Calderdale College’s Engineering Centre in Brighouse, to discover how the centre can upskill their current workforce using advanced manufacturing technologies.

The Hub, which is part of the Brighouse Town Deal programme led by Calderdale Council and the Brighouse Town Board and delivered by a partnership between Calderdale College, West Yorkshire Manufacturing Services and the Textile Centre of Excellence. The facility houses high-tech equipment and specialist design software focused on simulated production, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Additive Manufacturing and robotics.

The engineering and manufacturing industry is the second largest sector in West Yorkshire, with 30 per cent of businesses in this sector being SMEs. As of 2023, 68 per cent of these organisations reported having skills gaps, highlighting the need for a shift in the way manufacturing processes are carried out to bridge the sector’s skills demands.

The creation of the new i4.0 Hub aims to support businesses with driving efficiency and productivity, and being competitive in a global marketplace, through the introduction of technologies such as robotics and automation to streamline processes and techniques.

Representatives from local employers heard from a range of industry experts, including Bill Macbeth OBE at the Textile Centre of Excellence and Jeremy Boye at Made Smarter, on how this cutting-edge industry training can revolutionise their business.

Throughout the event, demonstrations and activities from Siemens UK, 3DGBIRE, and Fanuc UK Ltd showcased how design software and plant simulation, robotics and automation, 3D scanning and printing, and virtual reality could be adopted with the help of freshly trained Industry 4.0 Champions.

A new five-route training offer for businesses, including the i4.0 Champions Programme, was launched at the event, and will support employers to upskill their workforce by giving them access to a suite of specialist workshops. The offer will enable employers to implement these ground-breaking technologies and principles within their organisations through apprenticeships, training packages and bespoke workshops. 

On behalf of the partnership, David Malone, Principal and Chief Executive at Calderdale College, said: “The College, and project partners, are committed to developing the workforce of the engineering and manufacturing sector within our region and our new training facility will ensure SMEs are exposed to specialist technologies to unlock their capabilities.

“This facility will open up many doors for businesses who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access high-tech Industry 4.0 equipment and software. It will transform the way they work and give them a competitive edge by boosting productivity and efficiency, and upgrading their operations.

“It also provides an opportunity for current apprentices to be introduced to new technologies and become digital ambassadors for their organisations, sharing the knowledge and skills with their colleagues to enable company-wide transformations.”

Calderdale Council’s Assistant Director – Economy, Housing and Investment, Kate McNicholas, said:

“I was pleased to attend the launch event to celebrate the opening of the Industry 4.0 hub in Brighouse. The impressive, state-of-the-art centre showcases the latest technology to teach the manufacturers of the future and support the growth of digital and manufacturing skills.

Through apprenticeships and training courses, the hub will support people to upskill and provide opportunities to benefit local businesses, demonstrating how digital productivity can increase innovation and improve productivity.

“We want Calderdale to be a place where people and businesses thrive and the new hub facility supports objectives from our Inclusive Economy strategy, increasing business innovation, enterprise and investment and ensuring people have skills to secure and progress in quality jobs.”

David Whitehead, co-chair of the Brighouse Town Deal Board and managing director of Brighouse-based specialist textile finishers H & C Whitehead, said:

“Brighouse has a proud and strong manufacturing heritage, so it is exciting to see a key part of the Deal ensuring it has an equally proud and strong future in the town, with a particular focus on the small and growing businesses who are the engine room of our economy.

“By funding training for young people, and providing facilities for growth, sharing skills and collaboration across Brighouse, there will be more opportunities available making our town an even more attractive place to work, stay and progress. I am excited to see the potential it can unlock.”

For more information on the i4.0 Hub, click here.

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