Made Smarter’s pioneering technology adoption programme has marked its fourth anniversary by helping its 250th SME manufacturer invest in new technology.
Among the latest Lancashire businesses to secure support from the government-funded and industry-led initiative are Airframe Designs, specialist engineers based in Blackpool, Cornvale Fine Foods, butchers and fine foods suppliers in Melling, Derek Fox & Sons, a timber manufacturer in Chorley, Honeywell Meats, family butchers in Preston, Mitchell Interflex, fabric manufacturers in Colne, and Northern Joinery, a bespoke staircase manufacturer in Whitworth.
Meanwhile, some manufacturers who have already experienced the benefits of Made Smarter support, are taking the next step in their digitalisation journey including Fylde Fresh & Fabulous, a potato manufacturer in Greenhalgh, and Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses, a cheesemaker in Preston.
Launched in 2019 to help businesses digitalise, decarbonise and drive growth, the government-funded and industry-led initiative has helped 70 Lancashire-based businesses with £1.5m towards 82 technology projects, worth £6.1m after £4.6m in private sector investment.
These manufacturers are forecasting their investments will create more than 450 new jobs, upskill almost 1,000 existing roles, and deliver an additional £71.6m in gross value added (GVA) for the Lancashire economy over the next three years.
Made Smarter has helped manufacturers adopt technologies which enable them to integrate systems, capture and analyse data, and even create simulations of their plants and processes, others are now using 3D-printing, automation and robotics to solve business challenges and meet increased demand.
By adopting cutting-edge technologies, these businesses are benefitting from improved productivity and revenue, increased exports and job creation, an upskilled workforce, lower energy bills, and a reduced carbon footprint.
By supporting many of these businesses to take their first steps towards digitalisation, Made Smarter is also paving the way for more advanced technologies coming quickly down the track such as the industrial metaverse.
Airframe Designs, specialist engineers in Blackpool, are investing in 3D scanning technology to support the launch of their new AFD-3D division which will supply 3D engineering and manufacturing services to the aviation, defence, space, marine, nuclear, rail and automotive industries.
The business is forecast to manufacture an additional 1,500 parts over the next five years, create a new job, upskill four existing staff, and save over five tonnes of CO2 over the next three years.
Garry Sellick, manufacturing manager, said: “The technology and innovation that the scanner brings is game-changing, enabling an efficient seamless integration of geometrical point data between our design, analysis and manufacturing teams and with our customers.
“The support from Made Smarter has been fantastic and accelerated our ambitious plans.”
Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses, based in Preston, became more flexible and agile after investing in software systems and is now looking at improving other areas of the business.
Daniel Hall, owner, said: “We’re driving innovation across the market to meet the needs of our customers, and with a growing team, we’re always looking for more ways to optimise our efficiency and support and motivate our people to be their best.
"Digitising key areas of our production has enabled us to visualise key trends and insights on screens in real-time, helping the team to make quick decisions through transparency of data. The investment has had a really positive impact."
Across the North West, Made Smarter has supported more than 2,500 businesses on their digitalisation journeys, offering fully funded support including expert, impartial technology advice, digital roadmapping workshops to help manufacturers take their first steps to transform their business, and skills development.
250 manufacturers have secured funding for 275 projects worth £18m, including £5m funded by Made Smarter and £13m from the businesses themselves.
Almost 1,300 new jobs are forecast to be created, 2,400 existing roles upskilled, and an additional £209m in GVA for the North West economy over the next three years.
Commenting on the programme’s achievement, Donna Edwards, director of the North West adoption programme, said: “When we launched the Made Smarter adoption programme four years ago our ambition was to boost growth, productivity, efficiency and create high value, well paid jobs of the future, as well as play a vital role to help accomplish the UK's aim of reaching net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050.
"Digital adoption is still rife and robust in the SME sector. It’s been great to see that so many firms have tapped into our expertise to help them select the right approach for their business, how much to invest and which technologies will bring the greatest benefits. 2023 promises to be another busy year for Made Smarter.
"As trailblazers, we are tremendously proud of our achievements working together with the manufacturers we have supported, but now is not the time to rest on our laurels. More challenges lie ahead for manufacturers as they navigate a multitude of demands on their businesses, whilst also trying to keep up with the rapid pace of change.
"So, I would encourage any NW manufacturers who are wondering where to go next with technology to help manage their business more efficiently and sustainably to get in touch with the Made Smarter team.”
For more information, visit www.madesmarter.uk