Made Smarter – 12 months on: 300 SMEs supported with investments totalling £7m

Posted on 6 Jan 2020 by Jonny Williamson

Hundreds of North West-based small and medium-sized manufacturers have secured support in the first year of the Made Smarter programme, with 62 investing £5.4m to adopt new technologies - supported by £1.6m of matched funding.

Three hundred regional manufacturers, operating in a wide range of sectors including engineering, aerospace, food and drink, agriculture, steel, chemicals and textiles, have so far benefited from the Made Smarter programme. In total, almost 800 businesses have reportedly sought support to date.

Through digital technologies, the UK manufacturing sector could:

Made Smarter Statistics - Through digital technologies, the UK manufacturing sector could ...

The Made Smarter North West Pilot is working specifically with SMEs to to assist them in adopting and integrating digital tools and technologies into their processes to help boost productivity and growth.

Andrea Thompson, chair of the Made Smarter Commission’s North West Pilot and BAE’s managing director for Europe & International Programmes, said: “We recognise that the move towards advanced technologies can be intimidating, which is why Made Smarter offers a raft of additional support to help manufacturers take that first step.

This support for local manufacturing SMEs includes: expert impartial advice and one-to-one support; digital roadmapping workshops to help manufacturers take their first steps to transform their business; eight-month leadership and management training programmes offered in partnership with Lancaster University; as well as funded three-month student placements.

More than 60 of the businesses supported with impartial, specialist technology advice have also secured matched funding; with this support forecast to deliver an additional £52m in gross value add (GVA) for the North West economy over the coming three years.

The 12 business leaders recently undertook their first site visit to Runcorn-based Hosokawa Micron – image courtesy of Made Smarter.

Twelve business leaders recently embarked on an eight-month Made Smarter Leadership Programme, with their first site visit to Runcorn-based Hosokawa Micron – image courtesy of Made Smarter

Liverpool-based engineering business Abbey Group is projecting a 22% increase in turnover, a 41% increase in profit and the creation of 30 new jobs over the next 24 months by investing in a real-time machine monitoring and an AI planning solution.

James Tanner Joinery, based in Kendal, will double its production capacity and profits after investing in an advanced five-axis CNC machine and software.

MSM aerospace fabricators in Manchester is predicting 20% growth by adopting sophisticated digital twin technology that will redesign its new factory and unlock production and capacity planning in the future.

Michael Pedley, managing director of MSM aerospace fabricators, commented: “Our plan was always focused on design as a discrete project. This extra investment means we get maximum value from the technology in the future. It also means that we could do it immediately rather than delaying – propelling us forward by years.”

The £20m North West Pilot programme was launched in November 2018 at The Manufacturer’s Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit, becoming operational in January 2019, and runs until March 2021.

The pilot is being overseen by the Made Smarter Commission – a partnership between the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and industry leaders.

The pilot will inform how best to support SME manufacturers in the adoption of new industrial digital technologies.

Michael Pedley, managing director of MSM aerospace fabricators - image courtesy of Made Smarter.

Michael Pedley, managing director of MSM aerospace fabricators – image courtesy of Made Smarter

SME applicants are developing projects involving the adoption of a range of industrial digital technologies, including data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), industrial internet of things (IIoT), 3D printing and robotics to solve business challenges across a range of manufacturing functions.

By adopting these technologies, the businesses expect to benefit from improved productivity and revenue, increased exports and job creation, providing new skills to workforces, enhanced supply chain integration and reduced environmental impact.

Donna Edwards, programme director for the Made Smarter North West pilot, said: “Over the last year, the Made Smarter team has engaged with hundreds of makers from every corner of the region.

“We have found a great enthusiasm about the benefits of adopting new digital technology tempered by uncertainty of how to go about it. It’s clear that the SMEs need the specialist advice and insight to help them select the right approach for their business, how much to invest and which technologies will bring the greatest benefits.”

According to Juergen Maier, former CEO of Siemens UK and co-chair of the Made Smarter commission, the task now is to scale up what has been achieved to date and determine “what other regions can learn from the great work that’s already being done here.”

Made Smarter is relevant for any North West SMEs employing less than 250 staff who make, create, manufacture or engineer.

Want to know how Made Smarter could help you with a technology investment plan and 50% match funding for investment?