Made Smarter prepares SME manufacturer for digital future

By Antao Greer Communications

14 Mar 2024

LtoR - Julia Buchanan, Director of N & J Aluminium Linings, and Ruth Hailwood, Made Smarter's Organisational Development Specialist Adviser.JPEG.jpg

A digital leader in Lancashire is among 125 now armed with the vision, skills and drive to pursue smarter manufacturing through Made Smarter’s innovative leadership programmes.

N & J Aluminium Linings, manufacturers of aluminium linings and accessories for 4x4 vehicles, based in Clitheroe, is among the latest companies to graduate from the Leading Digital Transformation (LDT) programme run by Made Smarter, a government-funded industry-led initiative to increase technology adoption among SME manufacturers.

LDT, which is delivered over three months with Manchester Metropolitan University (Manchester Met), blends face-to-face workshops, online webinars, case studies to see technology in action, and a site visit to PrintCity, Manchester Met’s 3D additive and digital manufacturing centre. Since last year, the programme has turned 34 delegates into digitally-informed, empowered leaders, armed with a bespoke digitalisation strategy.

Meanwhile, the Leading Change for Digital Champions (LCDC) programme is delivered using a bite-size, blended approach consisting of two face-to-face workshops, online coaching, a site visit to an SME manufacturer to see the impact of digital change first-hand, as well as a chance to see the latest digital technologies at an Amazon fulfilment centre. The programme has so far created a network of 29 advocates to guide others and support the impactful and lasting changes digital technologies will bring. 

This is in addition to the 62 business leaders equipped with new digital skills through Made Smarter’s trailblazing leadership initiative run between 2019 and 2023.

Manufacturers across the North West are now being encouraged to register their interest for the next series of programmes.

Commenting on her experience, Julia Buchanan, director of N & J Aluminium Linings, said: “Digital transformation was something we had been reluctant to engage with, having grown used to the paper-based ways of doing things. Made Smarter has changed all of that. We have engaged in digital projects which will improve our sales order and quotation, upgraded our design software and invested in a design apprentice.

“Meanwhile, the leadership programme has taught me about the importance of involving the whole team in identifying improvements because their working perspective is as valuable as our management perspective.”

Since launching in 2019 Made Smarter has supported 2,500 manufacturers in the North West to access expert, impartial technology advice, digital transformation workshops to help take that first step to transform a business, and support with technology adoption projects. It has also supported 284 businesses with skills and leadership advice and training.

Ruth Hailwood, Made Smarter's organisation and workforce development specialist adviser, said: “Made Smarter has taken a people-first approach to helping SME manufacturers adopt technology tools to take their businesses forward. Technology tools bring change to the way day to day work is done and this change needs to be led to make sure the people in the business are ready to use these tools to maximise the benefits for the business and realise the potential of their people.

“Our Leading Digital Transformation programme and Leading Change for Digital Champions programmes work hand in hand to support SME manufacturers to take their entire organisation and people through digital transformation successfully and maximise the opportunities for their business.  

“Ultimately, accelerating changes to leadership and skills within the industry, especially with SMEs, will make the biggest difference to achieving successful digital transformation and reaping the benefits for UK manufacturing economically, socially and environmentally.”

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