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Apprentices at Siemens played ‘major role’ in ventilator challenge

Siemens has revealed that apprentices and young engineers in Manchester and Congleton played a vital role in helping to achieve VentilatorChallengeUK’s goal of producing 13,500 units in 12 weeks. 

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The VentilatorChallengeUK initiative came to an end in July after more than doubling the UK’s stock of ventilators for the NHS. 

A team of 100 staff from Siemens UK, Digital Industries, Industry Software, Siemens Healthineers and Siemens Energy took part in the challenge, along with several other industry heavyweights.

The team included apprentices and young engineers at the very start of their careers with Siemens Digital Industries in Manchester and Congleton, who, from their kitchens and bedrooms, helped design and build a factory from scratch and scale production from 10 ventilators to 1,500 per week.

The first major achievement was to create a ‘digital twin’ of the Airbus AMRC Cymru site in Broughton - one of seven large-scale manufacturing facilities built specifically for ventilator production.

Siemens used its software to optimise the layout of the factory, managing to reduce the physical footprint of the production lines and workstations by 66 per cent while ensuring social distancing, and determine the fastest and most efficient build sequence.

Ben Apps, 28, a Plant Layout and Virtualisation Engineer, explained:

“By creating a digital twin of the AMRC, mapping every inch of the available space, calculating all throughput, and using 3D design tools, we were able to maximise production massively. What was also remarkable was that digital tools enabled us to design the production line virtually in six days, saving thousands of pounds and hours in the real world.”

Digital tools also enabled Siemens to visualise the product and process online, enabling the rapid training of 550 Airbus volunteer operators within two weeks.

Production Engineer Matt Danby, 24, said:

“The ventilator is a complicated product with 400 individual parts. To design a brand-new build sequence would normally take anywhere between 6-12 months. We managed it in two weeks which is staggering.

“We were also able to incorporate digital work instructions that played an animated work sequence which allowed the operator to change the viewing angle, pause and see the products virtually in snapshots. It helped speed up the training process.”

After manufacturing had started, 11 of Siemens’ young engineers were drafted in to solve a problem which was slowing up assembly of a key component. Over the course of a four-day hackathon, the engineers designed and built a solution to reduce the calibration time from 40 minutes to two.

Brian Holliday, Managing Director, Digital Industries, Siemens UK and Ireland, concluded:

“I feel incredibly proud to be part of a team which went above and beyond to make what seemed impossible possible. Our engineers, including many apprentices at the very start of their careers, have absolutely demonstrated the power of teamwork and digital enterprise tools.”


To find out how the latest digital technologies can be utilised in your business, visit Made Smarter.

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