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Shaping the future SHAPA addresses the skills shortage

Manufacturing industries in most sectors make use of or actually process materials in powder or granulate form. The Solids Handling & Processing Association strives to enable such manufacturers and suppliers to achieve and maintain excellence. However, one has only to attend solids handling industry gatherings to realise that the average age of our engineers and entrepreneurs is gradually increasing, so succession and continuity are key issues. SHAPA already holds annual seminars for up and coming leaders within the membership and supports initiatives aimed at attracting new blood to our essential industries. Skill shortage may not seem immediately apparent when viewed in the light of national unemployment statistics, but it is nonetheless difficult to recruit qualified, experienced and committed engineers. SHAPA member the Wolfson Centre for Bulk Solids Handling Technology at The University of Greenwich is working to redress this issue and has been chosen to help solve a shortage of skilled young people entering the manufacturing industry in Europe; indeed they are taking a significant role in an EU funded project to address the problem. The Centre, which is based at the Medway Campus, will recruit one of 15 researchers who will working towards their PhDs and are at the early stage of their careers. The Greenwich researcher will seek to improve the flow rate of very fine powders, the quantities of which are difficult to accurately maintain with standard industrial equipment. The overall EU project is entitled “Integrating research in particle and powder technology to deliver efficient products with high functionality”. The lead partner for the project, which is funded by Seventh Framework Programme, is the Swedish Institute for Food & Biotechnology. Other universities taking part are from the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Hungary, Ireland and Belgium, together with industrial partners including GlaxoSmithKline. Many SHAPA member companies have worked closely with the Wolfson Centre to solve material flow problems and to test properties before processing and handling equipment is installed on site. In this way it is

22 Solids & Bulk Handling • October 2011

possible for proper science to remove some of the approximations of the past that led to unpredictable and unreliable machinery together with inconsistent product quality. The Wolfson Centre is currently undertaking research into all types of handling and storage for around 30 clients, including energy companies and food and drink manufacturers. Typical problems include the build-up of materials at bends in pipes, which cause expensive delays to production when they have to be removed.

Attracting young people into solids handling and processing industries – as well as into manufacturing in general – will require continuous effort and ingenuity. The results for those who join, however, can include a very fulfilling career associated with the manufacture of attractive and useful products offering a genuine contribution to the national economy.

Whether you are an industry supplier, considering joining the SHAPA family, or you are looking for a new competent supplier or installer - check out the website:

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