Since it was launched two years ago, the North West technology adoption pilot has engaged with 350 businesses, helping them introduce digital tools and technologies to boost productivity and growth.
Greater Manchester manufacturers supported by Made Smarter, the movement helping SMEs join the Industry 4.0 revolution, are forecasting the creation of almost 200 new jobs from £3M of technology investment.
Since it was launched two years ago, the North West technology adoption pilot has engaged with 350 businesses in the city region to help them introduce digital tools and technologies to boost productivity and growth, and navigate the impact of Covid-19.
148 manufacturers have received intensive support including expert, impartial technology advice, digital transformation workshops to help manufacturers take their first steps to transform their business, a leadership programme, and funded digital technology internships.
34 businesses have secured £841,000 matched funding for 44 projects which are worth £3M after private sector investment.
The technology adoption projects are forecast to deliver an additional £32M in gross value added (GVA) for the Greater Manchester economy over the next three years, create 191 new jobs, and upskill 455 existing roles.
Some manufacturers are developing projects using technologies which enable them to integrate systems, capture and analyse data, and even create simulations of their plants and processes. Others are using 3D-printing, automation, and robotics to solve business challenges and meet increased demand.
Over 80% of SMEs working with Made Smarter to adopt cutting-edge technologies have seen a boost in productivity, and more than 25% reduced their carbon emissions. Businesses will also benefit from increased revenue, profits and exports, and lower energy bills.
Among the latest wave of manufacturers to secure funding for technology projects are: Forest Sofa (Salford); Garton Ltd (Wigan); Norlin Compounding Services (Bolton); Northwest Crankshaft & Machine Ltd (Wigan); Pilot Group Infrastructure (Manchester); Crystal Doors (Rochdale); Rotite Technologies (Stretford); and Visual Architects (Hyde).
Ryan Mohieddin, Managing Director of Forest Sofa, a furniture manufacturer based in Salford, said: "With the support and advice of Made Smarter we have been able to invest in a data and systems integration project which will enable us to digitally track our production through the manufacturing process. The increased visibility will enable Forest to better manage resource demands and reduce the likelihood of bottlenecking.
“Significantly the new system will also enable us to provide real time updates to our customers, something that I believe will be a first for our sector. We recognise that customer experience is key to a successful business, and the personalisation and automation of real time updates will enhance our customers journey.“
Ben Horn, Digital Transformation Programme Manager at Crystal Doors, a manufacturer of bespoke vinyl wrapped furniture components based in Rochdale, said: "Made Smarter has been supporting us in launching our Industry 4.0 Manufacturing Platform project. From the first meeting, their insight and advice have been invaluable in refining the project to become as focused and impactful as it is today.
“Very soon, we will be taking the project live, transforming our customer experience and taking our manufacturing data management to the next level. The insights on our operations which we expect to get as a result of the project will allow us to make huge strides in efficiency and in improving the quality of our service.”
Connor Whyley, Design Manager at Rotite Technologies, a designer of bespoke fastening solutions based in Stretford, said: "With the support of Made Smarter we are using additive manufacturing to revolutionise the way we work by offering a product range looking to make life easier through simple and intuitive connections. AM is ideal as it allows us to continually develop our range as we grow, whilst offering bespoke features like mass customisation.
“Made Smarter has been paramount to us being able to adopt AM and we are excited about what further opportunities this affords us.”
Lefteris Angelidis, Managing Director at Visual Architects, a designer and manufacturer of event interiors based in Hyde, said: “Made Smarter has been rocket fuel for our company. With the programme’s support we have not only analysed where we are now but looked well into the future and mapped out a real solid direction.
“The support of the staff has been incredible from advancing us to presenting us with a lot of really helpful information. Besides the support Made Smarter has enabled us to invest into robotics, new machinery and a digital technology intern to assist us in advancing our company to the next level.
“Made smarter has been one of the most valuable assets a company could ask for.”
Peter Durkin, Managing Director of Mini Gears, a manufacturer of supplier of machined parts, gears and gear racks, based in Stockport, said: “With the support and advice of Made Smarter we have been able to invest in a data and systems integration project which will help us achieve our aim of a paperless factory and drive growth and productivity."
Meanwhile, several manufacturers who have experienced the benefits of Made Smarter support, are taking the next step in their digitalisation journey including: Astropol (Wigan); Fabricon Design (Ashton-under-Lyne); Manchester Manufacturing Group (Denton); and The Bury Black Pudding Co (Bury).
Chris Wright, Managing Director of Astropol, a colour masterbatch and additive specialist based in Wigan, said: "With the support and advice of Made Smarter we have been able to invest in data and systems integration projects which will connect our entire business, helping us achieve complete digitalisation.
“This will transform our business, giving us complete visualisation, transparency and access to real time data, which we can use to improve productivity, find efficiencies, achieve manufacturing excellence, and drive sales in home and export markets.”
Richard Morris, Production Director for the Bury Black Pudding Co. said: “Our ambition is to create the world’s first smart black pudding factory. We have identified a pathway to achieving that ambition which starts with data and systems integration, then analytics, and automation. Working with the team at Made Smarter has accelerated our plan by years.”
Debbie Pierce and Richard Morris, of Bury Black Pudding Co.
Across the North West, the technology adoption pilot has engaged with 1,131 businesses, giving 540 intensive support, and supporting 126 businesses with £3.2M matched funding for 155 projects. This investment is forecast to deliver an additional £118M in gross value added (GVA) for the region's economy over the next three years, create over 750 new jobs and upskill almost 1,600 existing roles.
Juergen Maier CBE, Chair of Made Smarter
Juergen Maier CBE, Chair of Made Smarter, said: "I am delighted to see the positive impact that Made Smarter’s adoption pilot is having on individuals, businesses, the environment, and the UK economy.
“In the tumultuous times we face, it can be tempting to simply cut costs rather than invest. Yet, in the long term, this approach runs the risk of businesses getting left behind. For the UK manufacturing sector to thrive and become a world leader, we need to ﬁnd ways to encourage innovation and the adoption of digital technologies.”
As well as technology, Made Smarter has supported manufacturers to develop digital strategies and new skills.
Made Smarter’s digital transformation workshops are a rapid and bespoke process designed to accelerate manufacturing growth by identifying digital tools and technologies that can maximise operational processes and enhance business growth.
The region’s business leaders are now equipped with the vision and the skills to pursue smarter manufacturing through the Made Smarter Leadership programme, in partnership with Lancaster University and now also delivered by the University of Liverpool and Manchester Metropolitan University.
Manufacturers have also benefited from Made Smarter’s digital technology internships which offer students and graduates paid placements to work on live technology projects. Some have even secured jobs following their placement.
Donna Edwards, North West Pilot Programme Director at Made Smarter
Donna Edwards, North West Pilot Programme Director at Made Smarter, said: “Over the last two years the pilot has proven the value technology can bring to the manufacturing sector.
“We have helped hundreds of North West makers start their digital journey by providing them with specialist advice to help them select the right approach, level of investment and tools for their business.
“We have seen huge success with Made Smarter-supported businesses reporting growth, productivity and efficiency gains, job creation and high-value jobs. We’re also playing a crucial role in helping the UK reach its ambitious aim of net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050.
“Reaching 155 funded projects which will support 126 businesses to create over 750 new jobs and upskill almost 1,600 existing roles is a tremendous achievement.
“We are determined to continue reaching out to the region’s SME manufacturers to connect them to the tools that will make an everyday difference to their businesses. I would encourage manufacturers to contact Made Smarter to ensure they don’t miss out."