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2020 may not have been quite the year anyone expected, but there have been causes for celebration amid it all. These include our own here at Made Smarter: we’ve now funded 104 manufacturers across the North West.

It’s fantastic that these businesses are now able to use the digital technologies they’ve implemented to drive efficiencies and, ultimately, growth. Here, Made Smarter Programme Director, Donna Edwards, outlines what makers have been empowered to do with just a little help…

Made Better. Made Stronger. Made Smarter.
  • The support

    These businesses have received £2.5m match-funding in total, covering 115 projects. This will lead to a projected additional £100m in gross value added for the North West economy within the next three years.
    Yet financial assistance is just one aspect of our support. Whilst more than 100 manufacturing SMEs have received funding, the actual number of organisations we’ve helped is close to 1,000. Whether by taking advantage of specialised technology advice or taking part in digital strategy workshops, many more makers have been able to identify which technologies could solve their business challenges – and how best to start using them.
    A digital native can often help to develop this roadmap. Where we believe them to be most beneficial, manufacturers have brought on board a fully-funded digital technology intern for 480-hours, gaining a fresh perspective on emerging technologies and how they can support their business. 
    Then there is our Leadership Programme, run in partnership with Lancaster University. This helps business owners lead their own digital revolution and ensure their team embraces the tools too

  • The technologies

    These North West manufacturers use a wide range of digital tools, but we’ve noticed that many are working on digital projects that enable them to integrate systems and capture and analyse data. In fact, 75% of them have taken advantage of the data element of Industry 4.0, which highlights just how important it is to tech-first manufacturing businesses.
    Others are opting to produce simulations of their plants and processes. And then there are those who are implementing the likes of 3D printing, automation and robotics so that they can solve business challenges whilst simultaneously fulfilling an increasing number of orders.
    For instance, Carnforth-based agricultural machine manufacturer Storth have implemented a robot welder that operates twice as fast as a human does. Their welding staff have been moved to higher value, more rewarding roles which benefit both them and the business. It’s led to a cultural shift that will combat historical production delays.
    “The robot has helped us overcome [bottlenecks within our welding process] and has also helped us to continue operations at a time when some of our welders have been self-isolating, which has caused staff shortages. In order to keep up with supply, we are now keen to upgrade our cutting equipment to enable us to operate unsupervised automatic cutting and feeding.” – Julian Lopez, Export Manager at Storth Limited.

  • The benefits

    For the 104 makers, two of the biggest benefits of technology have been boosted productivity and growth. Made Smarter-supported businesses have reported an increase in their revenue, exports and the number of jobs created. Digital tools have given them the opportunity to upskill their workforce too, as well as reduce their energy bills and their carbon footprint. 
    Additionally, thanks to emerging technologies, many businesses have been able to be incredibly agile in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Everyone has been impacted in different ways and has faced different situations. Some have had to close their factory doors temporarily – others, remotely control their factory floors. And some have experienced a surge in demand…
    NutreeLife, a Preston-based food manufacturer, had already adopted their state-of-the-art automation and control technologies prior to the pandemic. It has been critical to their recent success. When their demand suddenly soared during lockdown, they were able to meet it – and they’ve almost quadrupled their turnover as a result. Now, they’re looking to fast-track the second phase of their digitalisation strategy with Made Smarter.
    “With other food producers cutting ranges to focus on volume, customers are looking for alternatives, which has created an opportunity for us. Orders from all areas of the business have increased, which means we are producing more. There is no doubt that without investing when we did, in the way that we did, with the help from Made Smarter, we would not be able to cope with this unprecedented increase in demand.” – Patrick Mroczak, Co-Founder and CEO of NutreeLife

  • Be one of the next 100

    We can support your business too. Whether this is to build your skills, seek advice at the start of your digital journey or some financial support with a project, we can help. 
    Take the very first step by getting in touch with our team of independent, expert advisers. They’ll get to know your business and its requirements, and identify the right digital tools to enable you to reach your goals. Register today for a free, personalised business assessment. 

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