Data tech adoption driving SME manufacturers’ growth ambitions

Posted on 23 Nov 2022 by The Manufacturer

SME manufacturers in the North West are using data and system integration technology as the driving force behind their digital transformation and growth ambitions, new analysis from Made Smarter reveals.

More than half (159) of the 275 technology projects supported by Made Smarter’s North West adoption programme focussed on digital technologies which connect disparate systems and unify data residing in different sources.

As a result of integrating systems and consolidating data sources, business leaders have achieved real-time visualisation of their processes, been able to spot trends in production and labour, correct maintenance and quality issues, and minimise safety, business risk and operational downtime throughout their production. 

One in five are adopting robotics and process control automation, while seven per cent are investing in Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), using sensors to collect critical production data to gain valuable insights about the efficiency of operations. Others are adopting additive manufacturing to reduce waste and fast track prototyping, while some are using immersive technologies to add value to their services. 

Meanwhile, early adopters who have already captured data are now focussed on analytics and artificial intelligence to get more insight and value from their manufacturing operations.

Among those reaping the benefits are The Cumbria Clock Company in Penrith, which maintains 1,000 church and public clocks. It introduced a bespoke digital management system to give the business complete oversight over its operation, increase productivity and efficiency, cut costs and reduce carbon footprint.

Precision Card Services (PCS), a Macclesfield-based manufacturer of recyclable and eco-degradable plastic cards for household names including Harrods and Cineworld, invested in a bespoke solution that can read a card, check against a data file in real time, and then encode it. The investment resulted in a £1.5m contract and a raft of new customers.

Nutree Life, a Burscough-based manufacturer of vegan and free-from protein bars, integrated its systems, end to end from warehouse to despatch, enabling real-time visibility of its processes and the ability to respond to and improve its performance. As a result, the business has quadrupled its turnover and doubled its workforce.

Organica UK, a Birkenhead-based manufacturer of environmentally friendly household cleaning products for leading supermarket brands, invested in data-driven technology projects which introduced real-time monitoring and analytics. As a result, it was able to increase productivity by 20% and reduce energy consumption and waste.

Mini Gears, a Stockport-based manufacturer of machined parts, gears and gear racks, has embarked on a project to create a fully digitally integrated factory to drive growth and productivity, and penetrate new markets.

Alain Dilworth, Programme Manager for the Made Smarter’s North West adoption programme, said: “Data and analytics are central to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, so it is encouraging that so many of this region’s makers are embracing the opportunities that these tools offer.

“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. It also becomes a platform for the next step, one which some are already taking, is to analyse the data using artificial intelligence.

“Over the last four years Made Smarter has supported 2,500 businesses with grant funding, skills training and leadership advice. We are keen to start more conversations with SME manufacturers about how we can help them.”

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