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A new centre in Fort William is to offer businesses free resources to improve the way they manufacture products.
Small and medium-sized companies in Lochaber will soon have access to advanced manufacturing technology and expertise thanks to the new West Highland College UHI development.
The college recently took over the lease on the Ocean Frontier building in Fort William which it has refurbished.
The new Advancing Manufacturing Centre (AMC) will boast state-of-the-art computerised numerical control (CNC) equipment, which has been bought by the college and will be installed over the next few months.
The college says the new centre will provide ‘fantastic’ resources to businesses looking to improve the way they manufacture products and those moving towards Industry 4.0.
Wiki defines Industry 4.0 – the Fourth Industrial Revolution – as ‘the ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices, using modern smart technology. Large-scale machine to machine communication and the Internet of Things are integrated for increased automation, improved communication and self-monitoring and production of smart machines that can analyse and diagnose issues without the need for human intervention.’
All businesses will be eligible to use the centre and its resources, from a one-person operation seeking to perfect a prototype, to an organisation looking to redesign an entire assembly line involving 200 employees.
It will provide access to manufacturing equipment including 3D printing, 3D scanning, computer-aided design, computer-aided manufacturing, machining and an Industry 4.0 suite.
Items can be manufactured to order or portable equipment can be delivered to businesses along with the appropriate training and support from an experienced team across a range of research, design and project management and technical advice.
It will also provide a risk-free ‘sandpit environment’ where businesses can delve into problems and uncover innovative solutions without needing to invest in equipment, as well as being a unique base for businesses operating in remote communities away from the Central Belt.
David Campbell, Project Director STEM, was appointed by the college nine months ago from his post as National Apprenticeship Development Manager with Rolls Royce.
He brings more than 30 years’ industrial training experience from one of the UK’s biggest engineering companies with him to assist the college and businesses in
moving skills and workforce development in STEM sectors to a new level.
Mr Campbell explained: ‘Having won the bid for the £1.6 million Advancing Manufacturing Challenge in 2020, it’s been a massive task to put the right people and resources in place.
‘We are nearly there and can now offer amazing opportunities for access to specialist equipment and expertise to the business community of the West Highlands. We are looking forward to making new links between West Highland College and businesses in the area to create an innovative environment which can help bring prosperity to our communities.
‘We have been given a significant amount of funding that we aim to pass on in the form of free advice and access to specialist equipment to businesses within the next 18 months.
‘There are no catches. If you’re a one-person business or a factory of 150 people come and talk to us.’
The centre team will be holding a seminar on August 25, hosted by Lochaber Chamber of Commerce, to give more detail about what the centre is offering and how it can be applied to any size of business and any size of problem at no cost.
Project manager and engineer Margaret Weir and technician Andrew Harpur will give a presentation, answer questions and take notes of interest from businesses wishing to get involved. They are also happy to speak to businesses at any time.
You can contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org or find out more at whc.uhi.ac.uk/amc
Details of how to register for the seminar are on the college website and the Lochaber Chamber of Commerce website.
The Advanced Manufacturing Centre’s team of Margaret Weir and Andy Harpur outside the refurbished premises in Fort William.
NO F34 AMC team Margaret Weir and Andy Harpur
Advanced Manufacturing Centre’s team of Margaret Weir and Andy Harpur with Industry 4.0 equipment.
NO F34 AMC Industry 4.0 equipment