THREE electronics manufacturers are among 60 digital leaders now with the vision and the skills to pursue smarter manufacturing through Made Smarter’s innovative Leadership Programme.

Five cohorts of managers and directors at SME manufacturing companies have now completed the Made Smarter Leadership Programme through the Lancaster University Management School (LUMS), the University of Liverpool (UoL) and Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).

The programme encourages current and future leaders to develop a new way of looking at their business and create a clear strategy to enable the adoption of digital technology, including how that can drive the net zero agenda.

It uses a blend of workshops delivered by academics and experts in digital and leadership, site visits to SME manufacturers who are already on the journey of adopting digital technology, facilitated-learning sessions, and special project ‘sprints’ to test new ideas.

The programme also uses peer-to-peer coaching to create a trusted network of leaders, many of whom have remained in close contact.

Among the trailblazing businesses to embark on the programme are: Norcott Technologies, a specialist electronics design and manufacturer, based in Widnes; Heatsense Cables, a manufacturer of extreme environment cable, based in Rochdale; and Forsberg Services, a manufacturer of GNSS and navigation products, based in Heysham.

With 60 SME leaders now empowered to transform their businesses, manufacturers across the North West are now being encouraged to register their interest for the next two cohort intakes, starting on October 7 and November 10 at Lancaster University.

Reflecting on the success of the programme, Donna Edwards, Director of the Made Smarter Adoption Programme in the North West, said: “I am delighted that the Leadership Programme has helped create 60 new digital leaders by giving them time out of their business to reflect on the bigger picture and share ideas and experiences alongside their peers in manufacturing, and then return to their own business and develop a digital strategy to create growth and efficiencies.

“They are among hundreds of manufacturers in the region grasping the opportunities offered by Made Smarter which include expert, impartial technology advice, digital transformation workshops to help take that first step to transform a business, funded digital technology internships, and support with technology adoption projects.

“I would encourage SME manufacturers to make contact with Made Smarter to find out how we can help with leadership development, skills, and how to adopt technology the right way.”

The programme, which takes place over eight months, includes seven workshops led by both academics delivering leading edge thinking and business practitioners demonstrating adoption in real business settings.

Delegates will also embark on ‘sprints’ where they will test their ideas with other business leaders to build engagement and learn from each other.

Delegrates of the Made Smarter Leadership Programme during a visit to Veka
Delegates of the Made Smarter Leadership Programme during a visit to Veka.jpg

Andrea Williams, Operations Director at Norcott Technologies, an electronics manufacturer, based in Widnes, described the sprint sessions as her ‘lightbulb moment’.

“Theory is valuable and arms you with ideas, concepts and tools you can use,” she said. “Each element of the programme was an important piece in the jigsaw, and every session I returned to work energised with new ideas, purpose and strategy. But hearing how it had been successfully applied to another business and seeing the proof was the breakthrough moment. That was when I saw the full picture. Everything then fell into place. 

“While much of my focus is navigating the impact of Covid, the programme has given me confidence that I am moving in the right direction.”

Virtual site visits to SME manufacturers already driving digital in their companies included Runcorn-based Hosokawa Micron Ltd, a manufacturer and supplier of powder processing systems and equipment which has transformed its production performance through the application of digital technologies, and Veka Plc, a Burnley-based manufacturer of PVCu window systems.

Jeremy Kemsley-Pein, Director of Heatsense Cables, said the programme helped develop his digitalisation strategy.

“Over the last few years I have heard a lot of talk about Industry 4.0, digitalisation, factory automation, the Internet of Things, and other jargon, and it is important to keep abreast of all developments in manufacturing,” he said. “I realised that if I was to take Heatsense Cables to the next level I needed to understand what it was all about.

“The Made Smarter Leadership programme has helped me develop my entire digitalisation strategy. It has given me a very clear idea of what we need to do. 

“Meeting other SME leaders has also been invaluable. We’ve all come at it from different angles and have been able to share ideas with one another.”

Chris Mayne, Managing Director at Forsberg Services, was able to develop his strategy through the programme.

“Being able to take time out of the business, to take an outside perspective has enabled me to look at problems in a different way,” he said. “This programme has given me the tools to go back to the business and solve the problems that have been nagging me.

“I would recommend this programme to SMEs because it will help leaders identify the priorities to make those incremental improvements.”

Professor Angus Laing, Dean of Lancaster University Management School, said: “When we co-created the Leadership Programme with Made Smarter, our hope was to create a space for leaders to build their confidence, capacity and capability, to identify, test and adopt new technologies. 

“It is clear from the feedback from so many of the leaders from the five cohorts who have now embarked on this programme that they have reaped great benefit from taking vital time away from the business to develop a strategy to adopt hi-tech and digitally-based manufacturing techniques into their own production processes while bringing employees and other stakeholders along on their digital transformation journey.”

Registration for the next Leadership Programme is now open. For more information or to apply for your place visit