Lancashire manufacturers invest £7.6m in tech with Made Smarter

By Antao Greer Communications

25 Jan 2024

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SME manufacturers across Lancashire have invested £7.6m in technology, supported by Made Smarter’s trailblazing adoption programme in the North West.

Ninety-five businesses in the county have now secured £2m matched funding from the government-funded, industry-backed initiative, adopting technologies as diverse as sensors, robotics, 3D printing and artificial intelligence (AI).

Backed by £5.6m of private investment, these manufacturers are forecasting the creation of 522 jobs and 1,151 upskilled roles, boosting the county’s economy by £80m.

Twelve Lancashire manufacturers are among the latest wave to join Made Smarter, taking to 300 the number of businesses the programme has supported with tech investment. They include: Agenda Boxes & Packaging, manufacturers of packaging products, based in Nelson; Beagle Orthopaedic, manufacturers of orthopaedic equipment, based in Blackburn; Evertaut, manufacturers of stadium and auditorium seating, based in Blackburn; Studio Bakery, an artisan bakery specialising in traybakes and cakes, based in Clitheroe; and N & J Aluminium Linings, manufacturers of aluminium linings and accessories for 4x4 vehicles, based in Clitheroe.

Agenda Boxes & Packaging is investing in 3D design software with Made Smarter.

Gary Barker, managing director, said: “Thanks to Made Smarter we can now offer a full design service. This will help increase productivity, reduce our carbon footprint, create more jobs and upskill our workforce.

“The software has been a key element in our growth, and we look forward to the years ahead.”

Evertaut is targeting significant growth in global markets by investing in new software which connects disparate systems and enables real-time visibility of all operations.

Chris Smalley, co-owner, said: “The gains of this new technology are quite staggering. We are going to have real-time access to production data for the first time. This will undoubtedly contribute to the growth of the business. 

“We couldn’t grow at the rate we are predicting without investing in new technology, and we have Made Smarter to thank for that.”

Allison Metcalf, managing director of Studio Bakery, used Made Smarter support to create a digital roadmap and then invest in a new cutting machine.

She said: "Working with Made Smarter has been transformational for our bakery business.  At a time where we were rapidly expanding, they were there to support us. New technology has increased our productivity and made us more efficient. We're now able to meet our increased orders and we're ready for the next stage of our expansion.”

Julia Buchanan, director of N & J Aluminium Linings, said: “Made Smarter has guided, supported, and nurtured our business to be able to invest in new technology and skills. "Through the purchase of CAD drawing software we have been able to enhance our manufacturing and unlock potential for innovation. We have even recruited a CAD design apprentice so that we can take full advantage of our new technology and advancements. 

"Made Smarter has also opened up access to a new network of SME manufacturing leaders.

“There is no doubt our business has benefited from Made Smarter’s knowledge and support, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the programme to any SME looking to grow.”

Chris Williams, design manager for Beagle Orthopaedic, said: “Beagle Orthopaedic has cemented itself as one of the UK's leading manufacturers and providers of orthopaedic products and have achieved this through a commitment to innovation and a loyal and talented workforce. 

“Technology offers us an opportunity to make more of our quality products, with the aim of improving patient outcomes, creating a skilled workforce fit for the future, and driving our sustainability goals.”

“Made Smarter helped in supporting us with a grant towards the first of our digital machines which allows the high-volume product parts to be sewn in the most efficient and consistent way possible.  The new technology which will have a huge impact on the business and is the start of Beagle creating a digital strategy and roadmap for future investment.”

Meanwhile, other manufacturers taking on new tech with Made Smarter guidance include: Bailprint Labels, manufacturers of self-adhesive labels, based in Chorley; Carvansons, a fragrance manufacturer, based in Haslingden, Rossendale; Crozier Campers, a campervan converter, based in Poulton-le-Fylde; English Trading Company, a manufacturer of contract textiles and soft furnishings, based in Chorley; Neal Jones Furniture, manufacturers of super yacht and residential furniture, based in Lancaster; Northern Hi-Tec, trading as NHT Electronics, an electronics manufacturer, based in Lancaster; and Polycover, a flexible packaging materials manufacturer, based in Blackpool.

Since 2019, SME manufacturers across the North West have invested £22m in new technologies, forecasting the creation of almost 1,600 new jobs, over 2,850 upskilled roles, and adding £242m to the economy over the next three years.

With the government committing to continue the North West adoption programme as part of a UK roll out, manufacturers are being urged to connect with Made Smarter to access the funded support on offer. This includes digital transformation workshops to create a digital roadmap, impartial and expert technology advice, leadership and skills training, as well as grant funding for digital internships and technology projects.

Donna Edwards, director of the Made Smarter Adoption Programme in the North West, said:  "I am incredibly proud of what the Made Smarter team has achieved over the last five years. These milestones are simultaneously a moment to celebrate, as well as a reminder that our work is by no means done. 

“Our mission is to engage with the thousands of manufacturers out there who we are certain could benefit from our support. As such we are redoubling our efforts to reach more businesses, and to inspire and inform them about the benefits of technology adoption.

"For many this may be helping them take the first step to digitise manual and paper-based systems or using sensors to capture vital production data. But for others with a digital infrastructure in place, they may be ready for more sophisticated, boundary-pushing technologies such as analytics, machine learning and AI, which are evolving at unprecedented speed.

"Digital isn’t coming – it’s arrived. Adopting technologies at the right time and in the right way is the key to unlocking real benefits for industry, society and the planet."

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