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New centre to put Irish manufacturing light years ahead

Irish Manufacturing Research will work with academic, Government and industry partners to make Ireland a global leader, says one of its directors, Donal Óg Cusack

The fourth industrial revolution, 3D printing, the Internet of Things (IoT), workplace knowledge systems – these are just of few of the areas of focus for Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR), the Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland-backed technology centre tasked with helping to make Ireland a world leader in advanced manufacturing operations.

The centre, which has its official launch tomorrow, is an independent not-for-profit research organisation which works closely with academic, Government and industry partners. Those partners include Irish and multinational companies in the semiconductor, ICT, pharmaceutical, medical devices, food, energy, aerospace and other sectors, universities in both parts of the island and overseas, and a number of Institutes of Technology.

Donal Óg Cusack, when not coaching the Clare senior inter-county hurling team, leads a global engineering team for DePuy Synthes Johnson & Johnson in Cork, and is also a director of IMR.

“From my own point of view, it’s about promoting manufacturing excellence in this country,” he says. “IMR is an independent, industry-led research community which represents a coming-together of large multinational companies and some fantastic indigenous manufacturing organisations.”

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‘Committed to contributing’

The involvement of the multinational companies is particularly important.

“We are very fortunate to have these companies in the country,” he says. “We are very lucky to have people in those companies who are committed to contributing to the country.”

IMR brings manufacturers and researchers together to work on areas of mutual interest, according to Cusack.

“These include things like augmented reality and even the use of drones in manufacturing plants. We are also looking at practical applications for 3D printing and the implications for Ireland of Industry 4.0 – the fourth industrial revolution. IMR is the perfect vehicle for industrialists, academics and SMEs to collaborate on the challenges facing manufacturing in Ireland. This is vitally important as manufacturing represents 24 per cent of GDP. And it’s even more important against the backdrop of recent geopolitical events such as Brexit.”

The aim is for companies and researchers to come together to learn from each other, share experiences, and research, develop, and commercialise new technologies which will aid the competitiveness of the Irish manufacturing base. The research is carried out both at IMR's premises in Rathcoole in west Dublin and within member companies.

“Multinational companies are very willing to open their doors to allow embedded research take place on their premises,” Cusack points out. “This research benefits everyone.”

Productivity improvements

These embedded research projects have achieved productivity improvements and efficiency savings opportunities in a variety of areas, including schedule optimisation, operations simulation, metrology, heating and air conditioning commissioning, and energy-efficient production.

The commercial focus of the centre should not be understated.

“Blue skies research needs to take place, of course,” Cusack notes. “But we need to focus on the commercialisation stage and have an impact.”

One example of this commercial focus is the development of GreenMode Methods, a proven solution that allows companies to reduce energy consumption associated with production processes by identifying non-value-added energy, and reducing it through a structured risk-based methodology.

Another is Greybox, an interactive scheduling system that can optimise a manufacturing system in a very complex environment, dynamically and in real time. It allows the operator to scenario plan and model the effect of changes under consideration, allowing visibility of what’s changed and its impact, not just on the local part of the line, but also at the end of the line.

Collaborative culture

The collaborative culture is key to IMR’s success to date, says Cusack.

"This is a fantastic country. We have so much going for us here in terms of our people and our culture. We are naturally good at collaborating. But we need to realise that we are a small island at the edge of another small island which is at the edge of Europe. We have to capitalise on what we are good at and we can't operate in silos.

“I have first-hand experience of the benefits that industry-led research like this can bring to manufacturing industry in Ireland,” he adds. “IMR is open to all levels of collaboration with Irish-based SMEs and large multinational manufacturers. It is a perfect vehicle for the merging of industry, academia and the wider research community, with everyone involved working towards the same goal – to ensure the continued competitiveness of Ireland’s manufacturing industry.”