A new generation of manufacturing requires a state-of-the-art programme

Author: Alain Dilworth, Made Smarter Programme Manager

Author: Alain Dilworth, Made Smarter Programme Manager

From the moment that I was drafted in to develop the business case for what was to become the Made Smarter North West pilot I realised that the project could be transformational for SMEs. I was both incredibly excited but also apprehensive, I knew there would be a lot to achieve but the potential was clear.

In my opinion, Made Smarter is a truly unique and innovative programme that really can make a powerful and effective difference to local manufacturers across skills, leadership and wider business strategy. I understood from the outset the rarity of this programme, one that can offer such a varied spectrum of wrap-around organisational help to broad range of industries. This impacts the business, the local economy and the country and I am both passionate and motivated to do my bit to make a positive difference and I really think Made Smarter has an opportunity to play a vital role given current economic uncertainty.    

Made Smarter doesn’t stop at the more conventional elements of free advice and guidance from knowledgeable industry experts.  It integrates leadership support from accredited academics and fosters student placement opportunities to encourage those essential links between industry and education to thrive, an area that has proved more difficult to realise in past years. This means we can take SMEs on a comprehensive, tailored journey and really instigate long-term improvements into their businesses.

The privilege of running a pilot like this one, and it is a privilege, is that we can adapt and change as the programme learning develops.  The programme is continually evolving to meet the needs of the businesses we are working with. As we discover new pain points, we can adapt to support them to overcome these challenges and deliver the best possible service. As a team we are always thinking of new, improved methods to ensure our clients receive the right support, in a way that’s right for them with minimal disruption to their everyday operations.

My first action was to begin putting a team together to deliver the pilot – this was, and continues to be, a genuinely rewarding process. We are an ever-growing group of dedicated professionals, focussed on delivering the best possible outcomes for our clients and working to create a scalable, robust model that can be rolled out across the country.

The level of interest and engagement has taken us all by surprise, Made Smarter has struck a real chord with SMEs across the region.  The team is far busier than we ever imagined, and it is clear to see that not only was Made Smarter needed, but it was welcomed by the North West.

We are starting to see some technology themes emerging in terms of the projects being supported. From automation of out-dated manual processing reducing hours of processing to mere minutes, to the integration of smart sensors that can enable organisations to generate powerful insight to drive their productivity and reduce waste, we’re seeing real business benefits every day. No two projects are alike and the case studies that are appearing on the www.madesmarter.uk website are evidence that the adoption of digital technology has much wider applications than you might imagine.

We are a learning programme and BEIS (Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) are encouraging us to strive for better and better solutions for our North West businesses given the prominence digital technology has in national, regional and local Industrial Strategies.  We are most grateful for the wide support we are receiving and continue to be offered from the business community, and for the encouragement from our many stakeholders.

I often get asked;

  • Has everything gone to plan?

Absolutely not, but in a good way. Demand rapidly started to outstrip supply as SMEs asked for help in numbers that we had not conceived at the outset.  With the additional resource we now have we are catching up fast so please bear with us!  It is really satisfying when we can support a forward-thinking local manufacturer to realise the potential business returns accessible with modern, cutting-edge tools. It’s incredible to see first-hand how this programme can have a positive effect on the daily operations of a business from the factory-floor to the owner.   

  • Have we altered the lives of business owners?

Yes, the projects we support all demonstrate how new technologies can maximise every day processes, giving leaders that all-important breathing space to concentrate on planning and new opportunities.

  • Have we helped secure the future of UK manufacturing?

I think we are making huge strides forward, but more on this next time!

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