The opening day of the SME Growth Summit 2021, in partnership with the MTC's Digitalising Manufacturing Conference, saw strategic leaders of UK SME manufacturers gather to discuss the issues that matter across the sector.
A plethora of leading experts in digital manufacturing offered their insight via a high-calibre array of presentations and panel discussions. Delegates also had the opportunity to sit down with their peers at interactive roundtable discussions to discuss and identify the most effective avenues of growth and how to act on them.
The SME Growth Summit is designed for the leadership teams of UK SME manufacturers looking to increase market share, or break into new markets entirely, and thrive in today’s industry. An example of this was discussed by Katherine Bennett, CEO, HVM Catapult, who spoke about the opportunity presented by the drive towards Net Zero and what SMEs can do to seize upon it and future-proof their business.
One hurdle on the road towards digitisation is of course cost, particularly for SMEs. And for small companies on a budget, the implementation of new and emerging technologies has to make economic sense.
However, is it possible for SME manufacturers to tap into the benefits of digitalisation without the costs and risks inherent in large-scale solutions? In his keynote, Dr Greg Hawkridge, Research Associate, IfM, University of Cambridge, discussed ‘Digital Manufacturing on a Shoestring’, an EPSRC-funded project which aims to understand and demonstrate how low-cost commercially available technologies for mobile computing, sensing and AI can be exploited in SMEs.
Greg explained: “Digital Manufacturing on a Shoestring is a project that is led by the Institute for Manufacturing and is funded through an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council grant. The University of Nottingham is also a key partner in the delivery of the project. The project involves the following activities: requirements gathering, SME digital manufacturing assessments, options development, hackathons, pilot studies, engagement and application workshops, demonstration sessions and low-cost digital solution development.”
“From our initial research and activity with the manufacturing industry, we expect a high rate of adoption amongst small-to-medium sized companies. Shoestring removes the normal barriers these companies face when considering digitalisation: the cost barrier is removed by the low-cost approach; the risk barrier is removed by a non-core systems approach; and the complexity barrier is overcome by the requirements development approach, enabling companies to ‘dip their toe in the water’ and adopt one digital solution at a time.
“Shoestring plays an important role in upskilling the workforce as the programme presents a framework which helps companies encourage and develop their employees’ digital skills. The approach can be incorporated as a project-based learning tool in apprenticeship programmes and further education curricula, creating valuable transferrable skills in the next generation.”
Day one at the SME Growth Summit was rounded off by Chris Beach, CEO and Founder, Luhv Drinks who, in his keynote titled: ‘99 problems and ‘the solution’ is 1 of them’ addressed themes including how working on a solution can find new challenges; in a world full of people, who are you looking for? And you know when you know, but what happens when you don’t?
“Luhv Drinks was born from a desire to learn more about the natural ingredients we consume every day and it then grew to be a company that users can rely on for knowledge and understanding of ingredients and their functions. We believe health shouldn’t be complicated, so we’re making it simple.
“My entrepreneurial journey began by trying to figure out a way to be healthy but I actually ended up encountering problem after problem, after problem. It can be difficult to know where to turn to and who are the right people to speak with. We worked with King’s College London and a team of biomedical and dietetic scientists to scientifically understand how natural plant-based ingredients work and how they work with each other. We took all that research and created a range of drinks that focus on different areas of the body and also explain the natural ingredients and their functions on the back of the bottle.”