A further 11 companies based in the North West have signed up to benefit from the business-led programme designed to boost the country’s productivity and economic growth through the adoption of digital technology.
From baking cakes to modifying vans, each one of the businesses is hoping to enhance their profitability and competitive edge by implementing advances in data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), 3D printing and robotics.
They will benefit from the £20m Made Smarter Programme, which will help them to grow by adopting new digital technologies and introduce advanced manufacturing methods.
The investment is expected to bring extensive benefits including improved productivity and revenues, increased export sales, job creation, an upskilled and/or retrained workforce, greater supply chain integration, and reduced environmental impact.
For these 11 businesses alone, the Made Smarter business support programme could deliver an additional £13m in gross value added (GVA) for the North West economy over the next three years.
Through digital technologies, the UK manufacturing sector could:
The businesses, based in Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Warrington, Lancashire, Cumbria and Liverpool, operate in the food and beverage, engineering, healthcare and agriculture sectors, and join the 24 other businesses who have received Made Smarter funding to date.
The 11 firms which are part of the new tranche set to benefit from the pilot scheme include: Bell Mount Farms (Penrith); Blends Holdings (Knowsley); Lowlife Products (Bollington); Handrail Creations (Bolton); Bells of Lazonby (Lazonby); Plastic Card Services (Macclesfield); Cadscan (Chester); Lancashire Farm Dairies (Rochdale); Fabricon Design (Ashton-Under-Lyne); Len Wright Salads (Tarleton), and Eggbase (Sedburgh).
One business set to reap significant benefits is Bell Mount Farming, based in Penrith, Cumbria, which produces eggs for the ‘Lakes Free Range Eggs’ brand.
Owners David and Helen Brass want to adopt big data and analytics to boost egg production by ensuring the conditions are optimal for free range hens.
This would result in increased sales and profit, improved welfare for the hens, and a host of savings in terms of waste, energy use, travel and environmental impact.
David said: “At present, there is no real time data collection system in place across the UK laying flock to monitor egg laying hens.
“The matched-funding from Made Smarter will enable our ambitions to invest in a free-range egg management system to monitor the health of hens using sensors to optimise welfare and egg production.
“This would will provide a first step in the collection of a unique data set that will be shared by industry stakeholders, improve performance, welfare and aid research into the industry’s most pressing problems.”
The new firms to sign up to Made Smarter follow a pioneering tranche of nine manufacturers already part of the pilot, which aims to engage with more than 3,000 manufacturing SMEs in the North West.
Up to 600 North West firms will also qualify for more in-depth support including mentoring from senior industry figures, a leadership and management programme specifically designed to support leaders to implement digital change, and match-funded grants towards the cost of new software or hardware.
Donna Edwards, director of the Made Smarter North West pilot, commented: “Working with business we have found that they are enthusiastic about the benefits of adopting new digital technology.
“Often, they need funding support, but also the specialist advice and insight to help them select the right approach for their business. This is exactly how Made Smarter can and is helping businesses across the region.”