Now it’s time to embrace digital technology

Lancashire manufacturers are being urged to embrace digital technology as they adapt to work in the new normal created by the coronavirus crisis.

The message from The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre North West (AMRC NW) is that the time to act is now.

And to help SMEs onto the new digital road in these challenging times it is offering online digital strategy assist sessions at no cost to the business.

The countys proud heritage in manufacturing has been embracing global challenges for years. Covid-19 and social distancing has added a different dynamic, resulting in digital technology being used to communicate and connect workers in ways many of us would not have envisaged a few months ago.

Businesses are seeing and experiencing how technology can work in new ways to help them survive. The challenge for many will be to expand on this and embrace technology in a greater way to ensure that Lancashire manufacturing thrives.

The University of Sheffields AMRC NW was established in Lancashire to help the countys manufacturers adopt this new technology.

Commercial director Melissa Conlon says: “Manufacturers are under huge pressure; our role is to convince them and assist them to adopt new technology that will enable them to survive and remain competitive in challenging circumstances and an uncertain future.

Manufacturers, when thinking about adopting new technology, should think big and start small. Having a Digital Strategy Roadmap is the first part of the journey to digital transformation.

Manufacturers, when thinking about adopting new technology, should think big and start small

A digital strategy needs to consider a number of emerging technologies that are out there:

  • The internet of things – the addition of sensors and internet connectivity to machines, warehouses and other physical infrastructure, enables tracking and automatic verification and responses.
  • Machine learning and AI – it is increasingly possible to automate decision making, as well as some of the tasks that are currently performed by humans.

  • Industrial robotics – even more highly automated manufacturing will enhance both productivity and the flexibility of manufacturing.

  • 3D printing – objects built up from materials on site enable benefits such as local production of more complex parts and rapid prototyping.

Before the current crisis, AMRC NW had delivered a number of digital workshops for SME manufacturers. It has now moved to deliver this help virtually.

Delivered online, at the end of the process, businesses will have the basis of a digital transformation strategy they can adopt.

SMEs wishing to take part will need a good internet connection to access Google Hangouts or Zoom. A computer with microphone is required for the one-to-one sessions.

The process

  • AMRC NW will send over a digital health check online questionnaire. It is essential that key departmental managers/directors complete this from their own perspective. Once all feedback has been received this will be collated by AMRC NW and will be used to form the basis of the workshop with the SMEs departments and directors
  • There will then be a virtual workshop. The aim of this three-and-a-half-hour process, involving SME department heads/directors, is to flush out priorities and expand on the information submitted via the online questionnaire. It will be facilitated by AMRC NW with points recorded and shared using whiteboard/KANBAN
  • AMRC NW will then draw up the information gleaned from the online questionnaire and the workshop to create the transformation strategy

The process is fully ERDF-funded and is available to Lancashire-based SMEs. Those looking to take part will be required to complete a business engagement form and also a de-minimus form.

Jeremy Kemsley-Pein is director of North West-based SME Heatsense Cables. The cable manufacturer has gone through the AMRC NW workshop process.

He says: The AMRC was approachable and it was clearly evident that they were keen to assist and support us in any way that they could.

Following the workshop, AMRC NW proposed a new workflow which highlighted the fact that our internal systems could be revolutionised by implementing an ERP system and interfacing it with existing software and hardware packages.

They also vetted our selected ERP software to ensure that it was compatible with our entire digital strategy.”

  • Book your fully-funded ‘digital strategy assist’, by contacting Nick Hall SME, Engagement Manager, n.hall@amrc.co.uk or 07510409646
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