Digital technology internships a win-win for students and businesses

Posted on 3 Jun 2020 by Jonny Williamson

Small and medium-sized manufacturers are tapping into digital talent to help put technology at the heart of their growth plans.

With many internships and placements being delayed or cancelled due to Covid-19, manufacturers are benefiting from the fresh insight of a digital native to help them adopt technological tools that result in increased revenue growth, reduced production time, and generate the data and insight for new product and market development.

Meanwhile, interns are benefitting from paid work experience, valuable hands-on work experience and a taste of a potential career path. A number have even secured permanent jobs.

The internships are supported by Made Smarter – a national movement helping SME manufacturers in the North West to adopt digital technologies, offering undergraduates, Master’s and PhD students, and graduates from UK universities a golden opportunity to gain a valuable foot in the door of a forward-thinking company or industry.

Digital technology internships - Made Smarter (L to R) - Alex Taylor, Brett Turner and Luke Hickson

(L to R) – Alex Taylor, Brett Turner and Luke Hickson. Image: Made Smarter

Interns are working on live projects across the North West which are having a real effect on the business’s long-term success. These range from implementing new hardware or software to developing a digital road map and strategy to support their digital transformation.

Kendal Nutricare, based in Cumbria, a manufacturer of nutrition products including infant formulas and baby cereals, has been able to use the intern programme to prove the business case for employing a data analyst to harness the value of the data being produced in its factory, both in terms of the machinery, processes, and energy consumption.

Alex Taylor, a recent Master’s graduate in Intelligence Systems, was able to apply his knowledge of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to the role.

Grant Remington, projects and contracts manager, said: “Over the years, we have invested in leading edge machinery as part of our digitalisation journey. We knew there was a lot of valuable data coming out of our processes but didn’t have the time or expertise to capture and analyse it.”

He continued: “Alex has been a great asset to Kendal Nutricare, collating our onsite data, analysing and highlighting any data spikes we have accrued enabling the correct departments to rectify ongoing issue.

“His work has highlighted bottlenecks which are causing production downtime and resulted in immediate opportunities to reduce our energy bills. It has certainly proved a business case for a full-time analyst.”

Darwen Terracotta, based in Blackburn, is a manufacturer and supplier of replica architectural terracotta and faience for the restoration and repair of historic buildings.

It wanted to explore how 3D scanning and printing technologies could be adopted into its manufacturing processes and was linked to a student at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Steve Allen, director, explained: “Having an intern who could look at our factory, how we make things, and research how 3D scanning and printing can help, has been highly beneficial.

“It meant we didn’t have to take the gamble of any capital investment, but instead allowed the intern to use his university’s access to leading edge research to test various technologies first.”

Fabricon Design, an Ashton-Under-Lyne-based business which uses advanced manufacturing methods to produce innovative plastics, aluminium and steel component designs, was matched to Luke Hickson, a Master’s postgraduate studying Industrial Digitalisation at Manchester Metropolitan University.

After impressing on projects using CAD design and 3D printing, he secured a permanent job as design and development engineer.

Fusion Implants - (L to R) James Sage, Ita Rodarte and Dan Jones

Fusion Implants – (L to R) James Sage, Ita Rodarte and Dan Jones. Image: Made Smarter

Fusion Implants, a manufacturer of high-performance veterinary implants from titanium using 3D printing, also offered a job as R&D engineer to James Sage, a recent graduate Master’s student in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Liverpool, after a successful three-month internship.

The business wanted to develop a pioneering implant to treat condylar fractures in French Bulldogs and needed help analysing hundreds of CT scans using leading-edge biomedical software.

Lowlife Products, a Bollington-based manufacturer of aftermarket elevating roofs and furniture for leisure vehicles wanted help to adopt 3D laser scanning technology to develop new products.

It was matched to Brett Turner, a recent Master’s postgraduate in Industrial Digitalisation at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).

Andy Gosling, director, said: “While we were able to teach [Brett] a lot about the real practices of manufacturing and engineering, he was able bring a fresh perspective and showed great initiative during a project to manufacture components from moulds by using his contacts at the university to produce vital parts at a significantly lower cost.

“From an SME’s perspective, those sort of contacts and savings are crucial to the business.”

Made Smarter, the industry-led, government-backed national movement, has a wealth of students and graduates ready to take up the 480-hour internships which can be carried out through full-time or part-time options.