A system is resilient if it can adjust its functioning prior to, during, or following events, and thereby sustain required operations under both expected and unexpected conditions. The pandemic has shown the need for resilience (jobs lost, reduce production, businesses folding). Future pandemics, Brexit, resource depletion, lost workforce and climate change means our manufacturing processes will be subject to a greater number and frequency of unexpected disruptions. The manufacturing sector is, directly and indirectly, responsible for over 7 million UK jobs and increasing its resilience is vital to ensure economic and social sustainability.   

For a system to be resilient against disruptive events there are two essential properties that a system should possess. The first is the ability of the system to maintain function without failures, or generally referred to as “reliability.” The second is the ability of the system to recover from misfortunes, or the ability to “recovery” or “recoverability”. Digital manufacturing presents opportunities not only increase reliability and recoverability of manufacturing systems, but also the potential to avoid events all together through predictive resilience. For example, predicting the failure of factory equipment and scheduling maintenance before occurrence. Predictive maintenance is already becoming established within factories. However, as digital technologies (IIoT, cyber-physical production systems, digital twin, cloud manufacturing etc.) make supply lines more connected, resilience will increase as manufacturers can predict and take action against a wider range of disruptive events within and outside of their factories.

In addition, digital manufacturing technologies, such as Additive Manufacturing, Automation and Robots, are transforming manufacturing to become reconfigurable, agile, and flexible. Meaning manufacturing processes can respond faster to events to maintain functionality. This theme will focus on exploring new applications of these technologies to increase the resilience of the UK manufacturing industries.