Debut event reflects strength in the North East's engineering sector

Written by: Tim Fryer | Published:

By the end of Manufacturing & Engineering North East (MENE), held in July, over 1300 visitors from the manufacturing and engineering community had assembled at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, exceeding target visitor numbers by 30%.

Ed Tranter, executive director for organiser Findlay Media, commented: "We have taken our proven events format to a region that can be slightly geographically isolated from mainstream exhibitions and conferences, yet it is one of our country's engineering heartlands."

The format Tranter referred to is the now well established Engineering Design Show (EDS) – an annual event held in Coventry. "Just putting on an exhibition in isolation is no longer enough to encourage engineers to leave their workplaces," explained Tranter. "What we have done with EDS, and successfully replicated at MENE, is to combine a packed exhibition hall with a conference and workshop programme that will interest, educate and entertain the audience."

The conference programme at MENE did just that. It highlighted the national and sometimes global significance of the new generation of engineering that has replaced the heavy industries of old. Prime examples of this were Lucy Prior of the Rail Alliance, talking about, 'Britain's second railway boom', with the backdrop of the new Hitachi train manufacturing plant in nearby Newton Aycliffe; and Paul Butler of the North East Automotive Alliance, describing how having the UK's largest car plant (Nissan in Sunderland) in the region is stimulating the whole automotive supply chain.

In another fascinating session, Pamela Petty, MD of Ebac, described how her company was at the point of introducing a range of washing machines that have been designed and manufactured in the North East. With perceived wisdom that household appliances can no longer be successfully manufactured on these shores, the Ebac story will offer encouragement to any design engineer looking for proof that even consumer goods can be successfully made in the UK.

There was plenty more in the conference programme that covered the renewable energy sector (another of the North East's success stories), additive manufacturing, design protection, Government investment through Innovate UK and the 'Catapults', and a look at such sectors as food and pharmaceuticals.

The crucial subject of encouraging the next generation of engineers was also covered through sessions on apprenticeships given by Alan Metcalfe of the Advanced Manufacturing Forum and also an innovative scheme to get children interested in engineering at a very early age. The Primary Engineer scheme introduced by founder Susan Scurlock highlighted the role engineering companies need to play in the process.

"The conferences were a huge success, but we were equally delighted by the workshops which were designed to provide content of a more practical, technical nature," explained Tranter.

Rather than look at industry sectors, these were more focussed on particular technologies including robotics, lightweighting, linear motion, 3D printing, vibration monitoring and EMC regulations. Like the conference, the workshop theatres' attracted good audiences with lively Q&A sessions after each one.

Tranter concluded: "The North East is a hotbed of creativity, it has manufacturing and engineering in its genes. We worked with local companies and professional bodies to bring the industry together – to provide the platform that this region has been crying out for. It is only because so many turned this event into a partnership that it worked so successfully. By the time the doors had closed, 70% of exhibitors had already committed to the event next year, a true measure that this collaborative approach has worked."

Manufacturing & Engineering North East will return on 6 – 7 July 2016, again at the Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle. More information will be posted on the website as it becomes available.

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