Made Smarter, the movement helping SMEs join the Industry 4.0 revolution, has reached a major milestone having now funded more than 100 businesses, including 13 in Cumbria.
The North West technology adoption pilot is working with small and medium-sized manufacturers to help them introduce digital tools and technologies to help boost productivity and growth, as well as navigate the impact of Covid-19.
Almost 950 SME manufacturers have secured support, including specialised advice and £2.5M of funding, since the launch of Made Smarter 18 months ago.
This support includes expert, impartial technology advice, digital roadmapping workshops to help manufacturers take their first steps to transform their business, leadership development programme developed in partnership with Lancaster University, and funded digital technology internships.
104 of the businesses have now secured matched funding for 115 projects and are forecast to deliver an additional £100M in gross value added (GVA) for the North West economy over the next three years.
Among the Cumbrian SMEs looking to the future is DM Engineering based in Maryport.
Darren Martin, Managing Director, said: “As a relatively young business we want to build the company on the right footing by investing in the right digital technologies at the right time.
“Made Smarter has provided us fantastic support and advice to enable us to stride towards our ambition of developing a smooth, client-led, high-quality service.”
The latest Cumbrian SMEs to secure funding include Storth, an agricultural machine manufacturer based in Holme, who have adopted a robot welder which is twice as fast as its human counterparts and means welding staff can move to higher value, more rewarding and technically challenging roles.
Julian Lopez, Export Manager at Storth, said: “Made Smarter’s digital roadmapping workshop exposed our inefficiencies and our old-fashioned ways of working and kick-started a cultural shift in our company. Coupled with matched funding for a robot welder, we were able to continue operations during COVID-19 and overcome historical production delays moving forward.”
Meanwhile, Playdale Playgrounds, a playground equipment manufacturer based in Ulverston, has already experienced the benefits of Made Smarter support and is now taking the next step in its digitalisation journey.
Other businesses previously revealed to have secured funding include: Bell Mount Farming (Penrith); Bells of Lazonby (Lazonby); Eggbase (Sedburgh); James Tanner Joinery (Kendal); Forge Europa (Ulverston); Astec Precision (Ulverston); Hudson Swan (Workington); Contactless Check Solutions (Maryport); The Cumbria Clock Company (Penrith); Cranstons Quality Butchers (Eden); and DM Engineering (Maryport).
Some manufacturers are developing projects using technologies which enable them to integrate systems, capture and analyse data, and even create simulations of their plants and processes. Others are using 3D-printing, automation, and robotics to solve business challenges and meet increased demand.
By adopting cutting-edge technologies, these businesses are benefitting from improved productivity and revenue, increased exports and job creation, an upskilled workforce, lower energy bills, and a reduced carbon footprint.
Donna Edwards, Programme Director for the Made Smarter North West pilot, said: “Reaching 104 business and 115 funded projects is a fantastic achievement – and there is much more to come.
“Over the last 18 months the Made Smarter team has engaged with hundreds of makers from every corner of the region offering specialist advice about the benefits to adopting new digital technology.
“I am thrilled that so many firms of all sizes have tapped into our expertise to help them select the right approach for their business, how much to invest and which technologies will bring the greatest benefits.
“The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on manufacturing and resulted in widespread repercussions for the economy. Manufacturers have reacted and adapted to the different circumstances they find their businesses facing and technology has been at the heart of that response.
“While there is uncertainty, what is clear is that Made Smarter is needed more than ever to help SMEs maintain their competitive edge using technology to come back smarter and navigate the future.”