Automation helping create Lancashire jobs

The adoption of robotics and automation has safeguarded and created jobs while making a significant positive impact on the county's economy, says Made Smarter.

Made Smarter is the government-backed programme created to inspire industrial businesses to embrace digitalisation in a bid to drive productivity and growth.

The North West Adoption Programme has supported 12 Lancashire businesses with technology projects focused on robotics and automation machinery since it launched in 2019.

The £471,000 investment, which combines £198,000 of grant funding and leverages £273,000 of private finance, is forecast to create 47 new jobs, upskill 51 workers, and boost the county’s GVA by £42.7m.

Examples include ELE Advanced Technologies (ELE), a manufacturer of specialist components for aerospace, power and automotive sectors, based in Colne, which has introduced a bespoke machine condition monitoring solution which automatically notifies the supervisor or maintenance team in advance of any major machine malfunction and lost production. 

ELE is forecasting a 10 per cent productivity boost, reduced maintenance spend of 10 per cent, and improved accuracy and reliability by 10 per cent.  It has also created an additional new role in the maintenance team and upskilled four members of the current workforce.

Dave Dudley, technical director, said: “This investment is a huge step forward for our business. It will ensure ELE remains competitive and continues with its growth strategy to double revenue and increase its manufacturing footprint."

Bloom-In-Box, an innovative eco-friendly plastics manufacturer, based in Burscough, adopted state-of-the art robotics and process control technology to increase productivity by at least 25 per cent.

David Reardon, director, said: “We believe that investing in the next generation of moulding machines will develop a more digitalised manufacturing environment aimed at improving efficiency, expanding production capacity, and generating more revenue. This will allow us to expand and invest in new ideas, create jobs and develop more environmental products.

“Made Smarter has accelerated our ambitions by years. Its support has really driven forward our plans to design and manufacture plastic products with more than just one life.”

Empire Cartridges, the Preston-based ammunition manufacturer, invested in a six-axis cobot and process control technology which increased manufacturing output of shotgun cartridge shells by at least 50 per cent.

Andrew Bond, CEO, said: “By adopting Industry 4.0 automation we have been able to increase quality control, reduce manual handling and upskill our workforce from simple box fillers to cobot programmers.”

Alain Dilworth, North West Adoption programme manager at Made Smarter, said: “These figures are further evidence that robots, cobots, and process control automation technologies are creating more jobs than they displace, as well as a host of other benefits. 

“Manufacturers who have adopted these digital technologies are experiencing increased productivity and efficiency, more consistent and improved part production and quality, lower operating costs, reduced lead times, the ability to be more competitive, and improved worker safety."