Shrewsbury College is first in the world to install advanced engineering ‘factory of the future’.

Engineers of the future now have the chance to train on FESTO’s newest FMS Industry 4.0 system at Shrewsbury Colleges Group – the first place in the world where this training equipment can be found in an education setting.

The equipment is being installed thanks largely to £500k in funding from the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), via its Growth deal with Government to develop one of three advanced manufacturing training hubs in the region.

The College added a further £250k investment and with gifts from a number of other companies, including Status Metrology, who put £100k towards metrology equipment and software for the College. The total value of new equipment and software for the department totals around £1m.

The latest addition, the FESTO FMS ‘product manufacturing factory’, worth over £125k alone, was shipped over from Germany and installed this week. It means the College is now the first training provider in the country and world with what is known as equipment from ‘the fourth industrial revolution’ or Industry 4.0 Technology. The system, which is a "smart factory that fits within a classroom setting" has wireless connectivity and includes nine stations for distribution and testing, product handling and processing, robotic assembly and automatic warehousing.

Andrew Lee, Head of Engineering, said: “We took the decision to wait nearly 12 months to have this equipment in place, as it was imperative to us that we are training our students and apprentices on the latest technological advancements within the industry. The FMS system will offer enhanced training for engineers of the future in engineering technologies and industrial centre processes, including areas such as hydraulics, pneumatics, PLCs, process improvement, quality systems, robotics and automation, to name but a few.

“The fact we have been able to secure such advanced technologies here at Shrewsbury Colleges Group is an enormous coup. We are the first training provider to secure this equipment outside of Germany. We have an established relationship with FESTO through the WorldSkills competitions and it’s also thanks to our partnership with the LEP and the fact that we are now one of the largest and best-equipped engineering and automotive centres in the region.

“Students from Level 3 (A Level equivalent) up to Level 6 (degree level), as well as apprentices, will be able to train on technologies so innovative they are not commonly used in industry yet. The processes are just starting to be used, but we will now be providing a level of training so that students leaving us will have an edge to be able to go to any engineering processing or manufacturing company in the region, confident they will have the latest and most employable training and skills. We even have a large multi-national manufacturing company waiting for a bespoke training programme on some of the processes and software used within the system as they can’t source it anywhere else.”

Principal of Shrewsbury Colleges Group, James Staniforth, said: “The investment has already had a big impact on the department. Several students who have been training on the new equipment we have already installed have made it into the final of WorldSkills UK next month. Our relationships and partnerships with local businesses have strengthened and we have increased the number and type of Apprenticeships we are offering both local and multi-national companies, to enable them to train engineers with advanced skills to best suit their developing business needs.

“We were willing to wait to have this final piece of kit installed – which completes a significant amount of investment and our staff and students will receive the first initial training on it this Thursday and Friday.”

LEP Director, Gill Hamer, comments on the importance of engineering to the Marches' region: "The engineering sector plays a vital role in the overall economic success of the Marches but to ensure this continues and strengthens, we must provide local employers with the very best trained employees both now and in the future.

"World-leading technology such as this 'factory of the future' is a huge step forward in addressing the skills needs of those in engineering sector and the Marches LEP is delighted to have been able to support this through funding from our Growth Deal with Government." 

To celebrate the investment the College’s Engineering and Motor Vehicle Centre, was officially relaunched on 18 May with specially invited guests from the region’s industry, the latest equipment installation marks the last of this investment spend in the department.

The Engineering Centre will be open to the public as part of the last of three Open Evenings across the Colleges Group on 2 November from 5-8pm at the London Road Campus. James Staniforth will be presenting at 5.45pm and 7pm in Clayton Hall at the College.

To book onto one of the Open Evenings, please visit www.shrewsbury.ac.uk/i/open_evenings

For more information on Shrewsbury College visit: shrewsbury.ac.uk or call 01743 342 332 For Shrewsbury Sixth Form College visit: ssfc.ac.uk or call 01743 235491.

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