Open Forum and Talks: “Digital in manufacturing and making — what’s coming next?”


Today I went to see “Digital in manufacturing and making — what’s coming next?” open forum which kicked off Leeds Digital Festival - a two week long multi-venue city-wide celebration of all things digital.



Despite it being Monday morning, the open forum did not let the attendees to snooze — the topics for the day ranged from the IIoT/4IR industrial automation, bridging the digital skills gap, industry collaboration opportunities to insights from large-scale software delivery — there was something to suit all the attendees despite the wide variety of backgrounds.

We were fortunate to be able to try our hand at coding: Claire Garside of Foundation for Digital Creativity brought over a few Raspberry Pi computers, already assembled and wired up to digital sensors to show the available capabilities and let the attendees have a go.

The open forum was organised by the team from Assembly Conference: an upcoming conference for people in manufacturing, making, and software (the next Assembly Conference event is on Tues 02 October 2018 in Leeds).

The event consisted of three short talks — with speakers from Conflux, Foundation for Digital Creativity, and Thingtrax — followed by discussions during lunch and a Raspberry Pi demo. The opening slides give a bit of context:

Here are the key points from the talks:

Matthew Skelton (Conflux Digital)— “20 Years of Digital: what lessons can we learn for manufacturing and making?”

Matthew Skelton of Conflux

Matthew Skelton of Conflux

Matthew talked about his experience in how software engineering changed in the past 20 years and how it is applicable to manufacturing industry.

Key points:

  • Design for change and failure

  • Iterative delivery works

  • Design for version control

  • the system is socio-technical

The Yorkshire Post featured an interview with Matthew about digital in manufacturing, covering the open forum and industry trends.

Slides from Matthew’s talk:

Claire Garside (Foundation for Digital Creativity)— “Bridging the Digital Skills Gap”

Claire Garside of Foundation for Digital Creativity

Claire Garside of Foundation for Digital Creativity

Claire introduced us to a few Raspberry Pi projects she is involved in and how they are trying to solve the skills gap problem in UK.

Key Points:

  • Remove barriers

  • Offer open access to cutting edge infrastructure

  • Focus on education

  • Build on partnerships


Imran Shafqat (Thingtrax) — “How Digitalisation Saves Money for Plastic Industry”

Imran Shafqat of Thingtrax

Imran Shafqat of Thingtrax

Imran shared some case studies from his personal experience and gave a few ideas how to use the new technologies in industry that were not previously available due to large cost.

Key Points:

  • Industry 4IR are notjust for the “big guys”.

  • Those who dismiss the 4IR are at risk of competitive advantage.

  • Start with small and simple projects.


Hands-on experience with devices and sensors

Several people said how impressed they were at how simple they found it to write code with the PiTop computers using the block editors:


Overall, it was an informative event that give a lot of food for thought and started a few discussions, we will see in the next few years if the current tendencies prove to be right.

You can see other Leeds Digital Festival (16th — 27th April) events here.

The next Assembly Conference — the event for people in manufacturing, making, and software — will be held in October 2018 in Leeds.