Made Smarter’s Brian Holliday discusses his new role as Co-chair

Posted on 8 Apr 2022 by Joe Bush

The Managing Director of Siemens Digital Industries, Brian Holliday has recently been appointed as the Co-chair of the Made Smarter Commission alongside Lee Rowley MP, Minister for Industry for the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Brian will take over from former Siemens CEO Professor Juergen Maier. The Manufacturer Editor, Joe Bush, recently caught up with Brian to discuss his appointment and his plans for shaping the future of the Made Smarter programme.

Brian Holliday, managing director, Siemens Digital Factory.

What’s your involvement with Made Smarter and how did you come to be appointed as co-chair?

I’ve been involved since the 2017 Made Smarter report which picked up on some of the early work around advanced digitalisation in industry. We could see the impact that it could and should have on manufacturing.

It became a coalition of the willing of those who were informed, prepared and able to contribute something to that early report, and who identified that we had problems with underleveraged innovation, adoption of technology and leadership. We didn’t really understand the art of the possible in the UK, we weren’t investing at the same rate as other countries, and while we were innovating, that wasn’t necessarily translating into positive manufacturing outcomes. That report was a tremendous opportunity to bring a commission together, with and supported by government.

Our priorities are leveraging other programmes and being better at working in ecosystems, leveraging private finance and doing a better job of saving the planet, one factory at a time.

Since then I’ve been involved in a number of events, including COP26, looking at sustainability of industrial digital technologies, with Innovate UK and with the Made Smarter Innovation Programme. I’ve also contributed to the skills topic where I could, to help make sure that we have the right leadership skills to exploit a higher wage, higher productivity, more competitive manufacturing sector which is supported by industrial digital technologies.

What will your new role entail?

I work in the digital industries team at Siemens, along with the other commissioners. This is an opportunity to give a little something back, and to work on behalf of the sector. Some of the role is aligned with what we’re broadly trying to achieve at Siemens around engineering skills, vocational skills pathways and technology deployment in industry.

We’re also part of a number of programmes where we’re trying to improve leadership insight, both inside our firm and sharing what we know with others. So, I would say there’s a high degree of alignment with what I’m doing in my day job.

It’s a role that feels particularly worthwhile because we’re doing it in concert with government, and it feels like government have the power to convene. That’s really important for a sector that needs policy instruments, along with a concerted effort from the people working in this space, to help move things forward.

It feels like the right thing to do for me, for the commissioners, and for the long tail of people who are now employed full-time in roles focused around in innovation and adoption activities. And I’m very conscious that my role is to help support and sustain this really value adding programme.

We’ve got some incredible early successes from interventions, for example, where Made Smarter experts have gone into pilot regions to work with companies to improve their productivity. They’ve translated technology to solve real business problems. There are some fantastic reference cases like Friars, the chocolatiers, who’ve increased output by 733%. There is the 160 year old Cookson & Clegg who increased their productivity by 40%, and Panaz the textile manufacturer, who doubled their production capacity. These Made Smarter interventions, in the absence of a manufacturing advisory service, have been found to be really necessary.

They’re making a difference and are adding tremendous value to regions that were perhaps suffering when it came to adoption. So, I see my role as being able to promote, support and help make the case that we continue to work in these incredibly important areas. The case needs to be made for small to medium companies, but also to government, to recognise that a little bit of stimulus can make a huge difference to the productivity of the firms that we’re working with.

And if we leverage the £147m that is in the innovation pot for Made Smarter with industry matched funding, then we’ll be close to £300m of leveraged R&D and innovation spend for the manufacturing sector. And that could make a real difference to our global standing in industrial digital technologies.

As an example, a company that has been part of the Made Smarter programme had previously invested heavily in tooling for new customer products. However, after an expert from Made Smarter paid them a visit, they found that they were able to additively manufacture in plastic; using a polymer additive manufacturing printer it gave them around 90% of their tooling requirements. From a £4,000 investment they achieved £40,000 of profit the following year.

These really tangible interventions create lightbulb moments that are making a difference to firms that perhaps didn’t see themselves as investors in tech, or perhaps didn’t realise it was possible. Our role is to give a leg up to these firms and highlight the art of the possible.

Can you explain Made Smarter’s Adoption and Innovation programmes and how you will be driving these forwards?

There’s a team in place on the Adoption side and with the funding that we’ve got in place, we are hoping to make the case over the next three years to become national. We want to be a front door for which companies, regardless of where they are, can benefit from expert help; perhaps grant funding of up to 50% for a particular innovation. We hope that the Made Smarter team will be able to facilitate the sort of investments that could make a difference to the productivity of firms.

On the Innovation side, as mentioned we have £147m identified for the Made Smarter Innovation Fund. And this is really pulling together collaborative R&D programmes from small and large companies and academic institutions, focused on the development of the exploitation of industrial digital technologies, often at scale.

Manufacturing today is a valuable, digital and engaging career with exciting companies, brilliant products and international opportunities.

We’ve been through a Fast Start Programme, and we’re now looking at how best to exploit the funding that’s available to us to make the biggest difference to the sector. We’re looking as a commission to support the activities of the sector and where we can, with Minister Rowley, make sure government continues focusing on the sector to scale nationally for adoption.

What are you seeing as the main barriers to entry for UK manufacturers wishing to adopt digital technologies?

It consistently comes back to a lack of knowledge of the benefits of technology, a lack of the skills needed to deploy and a lack of leadership to be able to put resources in place. That’s not a criticism; there are many very stretched firms out there who simply haven’t had the capacity or perhaps that lightbulb moment, with something being presented in context that could help.

We could certainly do more if we work together to leverage the limited public funds that are available, but we’ve also got some challenges around private finance. We’re constantly hearing that private finance isn’t necessarily working for manufacturers when it comes to lending against cash flow, and lending to scale up capital, plant and equipment, and investment.

Of course, we’re having conversations with government about R&D tax credits and we’re looking for more that work in the Annual Investment Allowance or the Super Deduction Tax space. But we want to make sure we’re leveraging private finance better for manufacturing as a focus.

And then finally, we’ve obviously got to do better when it comes to sustainability. Made Smarter was set up to address productivity in manufacturing. However, we’ve since become much better informed about the challenge we face in environmental terms. Industry is a significant emitter of CO2; we heat things, we cool things, we move things, and we control things that consume energy and emit CO2.

So, we’ve got to think about sustainability. It’s my honest observation as a technologist in this space, that when it comes to sustainability, cyber security and safety technology investment, we’re still not seeing adoption at scale.

A variable speed drive for example, can reduce the energy consumed through a motor by 60%. We have payback periods against motors that have been sat in-situ for many years and we have data we can exploit. All these industrial digital technologies can have a big impact on the energy consumption of industry. So, in summary, our priorities are leveraging other programmes and being better at working in ecosystems, leveraging private finance and doing a better job of saving the planet, one factory at a time.

Has manufacturing increased in importance at government level in recent years?

It has and Made Smarter is evidence of that. We have ring fenced funding, for example, for a programme that is absolutely focused on manufacturing, and we’ve got funding that is secured for the High Value Manufacturing Catapult to translate innovation for the sector.

To be candid, in the future I hope that manufacturing will relate even more to the government’s levelling up agenda. We have a challenge in sector attractiveness and the perceptions of manufacturing. We have pathways that are essentially broken, where we don’t signpost manufacturing as well as other sectors or other academic pathways do through the schooling system.

I think it’s improving, but the challenge is around storytelling. Manufacturing today is a valuable, digital and engaging career with exciting companies, brilliant products and international opportunities. So, it’s incumbent upon all of us to tell that story better.

What is your aim for Made Smarter moving forward?

We’ve got activities underway in adoption, leadership and innovation, and I want to ensure that we credibly continue what we’re doing for all those people who are investing their time, effort, energy and experience into those. We want to be able to continue what we started and be able to grow. And ensure that, regardless of the government that follows, we’ve got something that is sustained through parliamentary cycles into addressing this underlying problem of adoption, underleveraged innovation and leadership.

As mentioned, we’re currently exploring greater levels of collaboration, leverage of private finance and a greater focus on sustainability. So, what I’d like to see in the future is made smarter being recognised as a national, very accessible programme that manufacturers all over the country would recognise; as a front door and access point to help and further innovation.