AMRC Gets £2.5m to Slash Carbon Emissions
AMRC North West is leading Lancashire's transition to a low-carbon economy. They got £2.5 million to do a first-of-its-kind project in the UK that will help manufacturers cut emissions by adding digital technologies to legacy shop floors.
The Low Carbon Smart Building Demonstrator project, which is being backed by the government's Getting Building Fund (GBF) and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP), will create a plan for manufacturers of all sizes to reduce the carbon footprint of older buildings and reach net zero by 2050.
Ben Smith, the low-carbon building specialist at AMRC North West, said:
"There is nothing like this available in the UK. I have yet to see a facility that has such a broad spectrum of digital technologies on display at one time and all of it being aligned to reducing a facility’s carbon footprint.
"It's not about telling manufacturers to buy the latest equipment to cut their emissions. Instead, it's about showing them how they can make their existing infrastructure greener and more efficient by adding digital technologies."
AMRC North West is in Preston's Samlesbury Enterprise Zone. It was made possible by the LEP Growth Deal, which gave £20 million. It is the newest facility of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre's network of research and development innovation centres that are among the best in the world.
According to Melissa Conlon, commercial director, the £2.5 million grant will turn AMRC North West into a "living and breathing" demonstrator, and the project will be a flagship programme of interest to anyone with a building who wants to cut their cost of ownership and reduce carbon emissions.
The building will have a set of smart factory technologies, such as building management systems (BMS) that work with machines, occupancy and asset tracking to make sure shop floor space is being used well, manufacturing execution systems to improve productivity, environmental sensors to learn how temperature changes can affect efficiency, digital work instructions using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets, and new materials that can be used to make products.
Debbie Francis OBE, chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, said:
''I am delighted the AMRC has secured funding for this project. By working closely with our partners, we were able to get a total of £34.1 million from the Getting Building Fund to invest in high-quality projects that will help the economy get back on its feet and create jobs.
“This scheme will enable Lancashire manufacturing businesses to adopt more energy-efficient operations through the use of new low-carbon technologies, which will reduce costs and improve their competitiveness. The project will enhance the existing AMRC offer on the Samlesbury Enterprise Zone and will have a significant impact on the capabilities of our manufacturers, ensuring they are positioned to drive growth, increase productivity and remain at the forefront of innovative and cutting-edge technologies.''
Ben says the project has funding to work with 120 SMEs and 20 large companies in the region over the next three years.
He said: “The first stage is educating manufacturers about why carbon footprint matters and why they need to care about sustainability. Then, we want to support them through lean manufacturing processes and principles; we recognise that a lot of smart factory technologies will be outside the reach of many companies, so we’re creating that profit margin by helping them embed lean methodologies.
“The proviso is that the bottom line is used to invest in low-carbon technologies because that is what will give manufacturers a sustainable business model going forward.
“The final step is throwing open the doors to AMRC North West as an open-access demonstrator with a full range of smart factory technologies so we can showcase different solutions. The smart factory will give us an incredible amount of data to measure and analyse; that means we can make informed decisions on how to cut AMRC North West’s own carbon footprint and provide our customers with detailed recommendations for their specific use case.”
Four companies—Vodafone, PTC, Control 2K, and IoT Horizon—are providing the technologies. Vodafone is the market leader in the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart factory technologies and provides the most cutting-edge solutions. Control 2K provides similar solutions on a smaller budget, IoT Horizon provides affordable versions of occupancy and asset tracking technology, and PTC will use its Vuforia augmented reality software and industrial IoT software platform, ThingWorx, to share best practices and connect more than 35 machines at the facility.
“We intentionally approached this in a holistic, almost scattergun, way,” said Ben. “We are installing both the highest-performing solutions on the market alongside solutions that could be 20 per cent of the cost. That means we can demonstrate the entire range of technologies available to manufacturers, help them choose which one is right for them and then support the implementation.”
Vodafone is on the cutting edge of 5G technology, and it wants to connect its technologies to the 5G network that AMRC North West already has. The facility is also the main site for the 5G Factory of the Future programme, which is funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS). This gives Lancashire manufacturers a great chance to use 5G to help them reduce their carbon footprint.
The Getting Building Fund (GBF) is a £900 million investment to deliver jobs, skills and infrastructure across the country, targeted in areas facing the biggest economic challenges as a result of the pandemic. It is helping to get infrastructure projects ready to go that have been agreed upon with mayors and Local Enterprise Partnerships. These projects are meant to boost economic growth, help the local economy recover, and create jobs.