Made Smarter’s pioneering technology adoption programme has marked its fourth anniversary by helping its 250th SME manufacturer invest in new technology.

Totalling 275 projects funded, the investment is worth £18M, including £5M funded by the government-funded and industry-led initiative and £13M from the businesses themselves.

Made Smarter, which was launched in 2019 to help SME manufacturers digitalise, decarbonise and drive growth, is now looking towards further success in 2023.

Manufacturers are forecasting their investments will create almost 1,300 new jobs, upskill 2,400 existing roles, and deliver an additional £209M in gross value added (GVA) for the North West economy over the next three years.

Made Smarter has helped manufacturers adopt technologies which enable them to integrate systems, capture and analyse data, and even create simulations of their plants and processes, others are now using 3D-printing, automation and robotics to solve business challenges and meet increased demand.

By adopting cutting-edge technologies, these businesses are benefitting from improved productivity and revenue, increased exports and job creation, an upskilled workforce, lower energy bills, and a reduced carbon footprint.

By supporting many of these businesses to take their first steps towards digitalisation, Made Smarter is also paving the way for more advanced technologies coming quickly down the track such as the industrial metaverse.

Among the latest manufacturers to invest in technology using match-funding from Made Smarter are Airframe Designs, specialist engineers based in Blackpool who are investing in 3D scanning technology to support the launch of their new AFD-3D division which will supply 3D engineering and manufacturing services to the aviation, defence, space, marine, nuclear, rail and automotive industries.

The business is forecast to manufacture an additional 1,500 parts over the next five years, create a new job, upskill four existing staff, and save over five tonnes of CO2 over the next three years.

Garry Sellick, Manufacturing Manager, said: “The technology and innovation that the scanner brings is game-changing, enabling an efficient seamless integration of geometrical point data between our design, analysis and manufacturing teams and with our customers.

The support from Made Smarter has been fantastic and accelerated our ambitious plans.”

Ratio Technology, a bicycle component manufacturer, based in Kendal, invested in 3-axis CNC machining technology to bring production in-house, increase opportunities for customisation and innovation, and reduce costly delays and mistakes due to subcontract manufacturing.

Tom Simpson, director and co-founder, said: “This investment is game-changing for our business. Made Smarter has accelerated our adoption of this vital technology by a year or more and broadened the scope of the investment. We are now looking to expand the team by creating new roles and upskilling four existing team members.”

Other SME manufacturers securing support from Made Smarter for the first time include: CNC Robotics, a robotics integrator based in Bootle; Lake District Farmers Ltd, meat manufacturers and suppliers based in Ulverston; Protea Limited, manufacturers of analysers for the control and monitoring of emissions gases, based in Middlewich; Kings Fine Cooked Meats, manufacturers of cooked meats based in Wigan; and Orb Interiors, manufacturers of kitchens, based in Salford.

Meanwhile, some manufacturers who have already reaped the benefits of technology adoption, have secured ongoing support from the Made Smarter team.

Derek Rose, a Congleton textile manufacturer whose brands are stocked by Harrods and Selfridges, first invested in a software solution which has overcome a manual, time-consuming production process. Now the business has invested in an automated cutting machine so it can improve the manufacturing elements and quality of its silk products

Laura Moore, Silk Studio Manager, said: “We feel very fortunate to have benefited from the insights of Made Smarter. We have a digital roadmap and some ambitious plans to continue to improve our design and manufacturing methods, improve our sustainability, upskill our team and create new highly skilled jobs, and drive growth.”

Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses, a cheesemaker in Preston, and Multiwood Products, a kitchen door manufacturer in Bury, are also now taking the next step in their digitalisation journeys.

Since 2018 Made Smarter has supported more than 2,500 businesses on their digitalisation journeys, offering fully funded support including expert, impartial technology advice, digital roadmapping workshops to help manufacturers take their first steps to transform their business, and skills development.

Commenting on the programme’s achievement, Donna Edwards, director of the North West adoption programme, said: “When we launched the Made Smarter adoption programme four years ago our ambition was to boost growth, productivity, efficiency and create high value, well paid jobs of the future, as well as play a vital role to help accomplish the UK’s aim of reaching net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050.

Digital adoption is still rife and robust in the SME sector. It’s been great to see that so many firms have tapped into our expertise to help them select the right approach for their business, how much to invest and which technologies will bring the greatest benefits. 2023 promises to be another busy year for Made Smarter.

As trailblazers, we are tremendously proud of our achievements working together with the manufacturers we have supported, but now is not the time to rest on our laurels. More challenges lie ahead for manufacturers as they navigate a multitude of demands on their businesses, whilst also trying to keep up with the rapid pace of change.  So, I would encourage any North West manufacturers who are wondering where to go next with technology to help manage their business more efficiently and sustainably to get in touch with the Made Smarter team.”

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