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Thales in the UK wins Made in Northern Ireland Award for the Connected Re-configurable Factory

Our team at our Thales Northern Ireland site have won the Manufacturing Innovation Award at the Made in Northern Ireland Awards 2024, a recognition of their outstanding work in developing the Connected Re-configurable Factory (COREF). 

COREF is a multi-million pound initiative funded by Innovate UK and led by Thales in the UK alongside key technology partners. Two open-access digitally connected Demonstrator labs have been established between our Crawley and Belfast sites. 

Standardising and simplifying the integration of digital tools and the management of data, COREF is enabling SME manufacturers to maximise their potential productivity. The scope and impact of this made Thales the outstanding company according to the judges. The team will now go through to the Made in UK finals later this month.

Through the labs, Thales is revolutionising smart manufacturing and accelerating the development and deployment of cutting-edge digital skills in the UK.

Opening doors to SMEs

Digital technology and automation are boosting industrial productivity across the UK, yet many small and medium enterprises find themselves left behind due to the cost and risk associated with developing and deploying new technologies.

COREF removes these barriers to innovation. The open-access labs provide an accessible environment for companies to develop and test business cases for innovative technologies to meet their production needs.

Focusing on Industry 4.0 ‘smart’ tools, the labs allow SMEs to understand and embrace automation and digital technologies, revolutionising their manufacturing processes. The benefits to productivity, quality control, manufacturing agility and cost-efficiency are substantial. 

Connected technology

Showcasing the power of integrated technologies is the primary aim of COREF. The industrial benefits of key technologies such as machine learning, digital twins, and augmented reality are greatly accelerated when they work in collaboration. 

Through the opportunity to test and observe how key Industry 4.0 technologies work in combination, the labs allow users to determine the most effective systems. Supply chain and partner organisations can confidently invest in and deploy cutting-edge solutions, knowing that they have been tested and optimised in a real-world setting.  

Achieving this integration requires overcoming enduring barriers around inter-operability and data standardisation that prevent data from being passed between systems.  

This has been achieved as part of the COREF project, which has seen ground-breaking two way communication between the IT and OT layers of the Demonstrator labs. 

To our knowledge, this bi-directional command and control architecture has never been achieved in the same manner, and the ease with which it achieves such a level of integration cannot be found elsewhere. Scalable, reliable and accessible by design, the impacts of COREF will be much wider impact than just Thales in the UK. 

Driving Innovation

COREF is a significant extension to the innovation and technology eco-system that Thales is creating across the UK. There is now a network of COREF Demonstrator Cells in all 4 nations of the UK and several PhD research projects have also been launched as a result of work on COREF. We are delighted to be driving knowledge and unlocking potential throughout our supplier and partner community.