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Data and analytics are ‘vital first step’ for digitalisation

Nearly three in four SME manufacturers being supported by the Made Smarter initiative are putting data collection and analysis at the heart of their productivity and growth plans.

A total of 61 manufacturers that have received funding through the Industry 4.0 adoption pilot have embraced digital technologies which connect disparate systems and unify data residing in different sources. This helps business leaders to spot trends in production and labour, correct maintenance and quality issues, and minimise safety, business risk and operational downtime throughout their production.

Handrail Creations in Bolton is one of the 61 manufacturers to have adopted this approach. With support from Made Smarter, it has invested in a new hand-held scanner and software designed to integrate with its systems. Managing Director Kenny Macfarlane believes the technology will boost processing speed by 25 per cent by converting data into usable information for his design team:

“With more than 70 live projects being managed at any one time and 75 per cent of surveys done using a 3D scanner, we are looking at saving a lot of man hours. It will increase our efficiency, but more importantly it will reduce the chance of error, ensuring that our bespoke products are right first time.”

As well as adopting data and systems integration, around a quarter of the 84 manufacturers that have so far received funding from Made Smarter are using Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sensors to collect data, and more than a fifth are adopting robotics and automation technology.

Donna Edwards, Programme Director for Made Smarter North West, said:

“Data and analytics are central to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, so I am extremely pleased that so many SME manufacturers are putting data at the heart of their own digitalisation journeys. Capturing the data from across their processes and bringing it all together in one place is a vital first step for many manufacturers looking to solve problems and recognise opportunities.”

“Simultaneously, many of these SMEs are also deploying sensors in their factories to collect valuable data. The next step, one which some forward-thinking SMEs are already taking, is to analyse the data using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. It is encouraging that so many of this region's makers are recognising that using these tools can empower them to grow their business and increase efficiency.”

Handrail Creations in Bolton. Credit: Made Smarter

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