Manufacturers from Cumbria have urged others to follow in their footsteps by adopting technology and digital tools to survive and thrive.
Businesses from across the region shared their insights at the Made Smarter: journey to digital manufacturing conference.
They included: Stead McAlpin & Company, a manufacturer of high-quality furnishing fabrics based in Carlisle; The Cumbria Clock Company, a clock repair and restoration specialist based in Penrith; Contactless Check Solutions, a Maryport fire door manufacturer which has developed an industry-first solution to make safety inspections faster and more accurate; and Storth, an agricultural machine manufacturer based in Holme.
They are among 1,200 businesses that have engaged with the Made Smarter North West Adoption programme over the last two years.
Now after securing additional funding from the government, Made Smarter is looking to engage with hundreds more manufacturers in the county, offering matched funded grants towards technology projects; expert, impartial technology advice; digital transformation workshops to help manufacturers take their first steps to transform their business; a leadership programme; and funded digital technology internships.
Jayne Moorby, marketing manager from Oxley Group, the aerospace and lighting systems specialist based in Ulverston, led a panel discussion about the value technology has brought to manufacturer’s businesses.
She said: “As SMEs we’re all so busy in the day job of ‘business as usual’ that it is hard to set aside the time and resources to focus on continuous improvement in the business but we know that there is a huge productivity challenge that we need to address.
“Made Smarter is more than just financial support. It is advice, a network of help, interns that give you an extra pair of hands with digital skills to be able to support you in delivering a project, and a leadership programme which helps to really embed the changes in an organisation.
“It’s all about embedding the changes in the organisation to make it happen.”
Julian Lopez, Export Manager at Storth, spoke during a panel event about how his business invested in a robotic welder to boost resilience.
He said: “Talking to Made Smarter has been like turning a light on in a dark room. It has been a valuable experience and I would recommend it.
“Our investment enabled us to manufacture quicker and cheaper, and solved the problem of manpower not just in terms of sourcing quality welders to satisfy demand but to maintain production during the pandemic when welders were self-isolating.
“The technology has made us more competitive to be able react quickly to orders and we are exploring increasing the number of robot welders to work on a bigger range of products.
“Made Smarter helped us look at our digital future.”
The conference, which was attended by 300 delegates, also featured insights from industry leaders Juergen Maier, chair of the Digital Catapult and co-chair of the Made Smarter Commission, Stephen Phipson, the chief executive of Make UK, Glyn Jones, service delivery director at BAE Systems and chair of the Made Smarter Pilot Steering Group, Andrea Hough, MD of Atec Solutions and member of the Made Smarter Pilot Steering Group and Made Smarter Commission, Donna Edwards, managing director of the Growth Company and Made Smarter North West Adoption Programme director, and Matt Ellis, assistant director of Made Smarter for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Keynote speaker Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng underlined the importance of manufacturing through the pandemic and the UK’s drive towards recovery, growth and net zero.
“Made Smarter has a critically important part to play in all of these targets,” he said. “Industry leaders have made clear that digital technology is vital to recovery and to the growth of UK manufacturing and they are all backing Made Smarter to achieve this.”