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Those unfamiliar with UK manufacturing in Cumbria could be excused for thinking it was all tea rooms, tourism, fells and farming.

But amid our stunning landscapes is a unique powerhouse of makers.

The county’s manufacturing sector employs around 20,000 people - which is one in six of total employment, way above the national average of 11pc.

A significant contribution comes from the presence of manufacturing giants such as BAE Systems, GlaxoSmithKline, Siemens, United Biscuits, and Sellafield, Europe’s largest nuclear centre.

But all of these prime employers are supported by a vital supply chain of SMEs which operate in a challenging landscape, both literally, in terms of its geography where population centres are disparate and have smaller labour pools, and figuratively, competing against other regions where cost bases may be lower.

13 Cumbrian businesses have also secured matched funding, which is forecast to deliver an additional £9.96M in gross value added (GVA) for the Cumbrian economy over the next three years.

Astec Precision, Bell Mount Farming, Bells of Lazonby, Contactless Check Solutions, Cranstons Quality Butchers, Cumbria Clock Company, DM Engineering (Cumbria), Eggbase, Forge Europa, James Tanner Joinery, Playdale Playgrounds, Hudson Swan, and Storth are solving their business challenges using a range of industrial digital technologies such as including Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Additive Manufacturing and Robotics.

My role on the North West adoption pilot steering group has been to spread the message that by adopting digital tools Cumbrian SME manufacturers will increase their growth, productivity, efficiency and create high value, well paid jobs of the future.

To date, the programme has supported over 400 SMEs with specialised advice and £2.7M of funding towards projects valued at over £9M.

Jayne Moorby, Marketing Manager of Oxley Group
Cumbrian Success
  • How have the businesses benefitted?

    These businesses are benefitting from improved productivity and revenue, increasing exports and job creation, providing new skills to workforces, enhancing integration with supply chains, opening new markets and products, and reducing their environmental impact.

    It’s clear to see Cumbria manufacturers are enthusiastic about the benefits of adopting new digital technology. But there is also uncertainty of how to go about it.

    Made Smarter can offer SMEs the specialist advice and insight 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 hit manufacturing in Cumbria just as it has nationally and globally. But our county’s manufacturers have reacted and adapted to the different circumstances they find their businesses facing with typical resilience.

  • How has digital technology helped them?

    Those which have invested in emerging technologies have been able to navigate the impact in a variety of ways, including switching production to make medical scrubs, ventilator parts and PPE to help the front-line fight against the disease. Others have harnessed new capabilities to ramp up production to meet increasing demand and continue operating while staff self-isolate to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some have used new technologies to continue manufacturing operations remotely, while others, forced to temporarily close or reduce operations due to lockdown, used the time to plan for the future.

    Digital technologies have allowed manufacturers the option to run operations virtually, remotely or with minimised human intervention. These tools have helped to not just maintain production and processes during the instability, but also increased the chance of businesses in weathering any future unexpected circumstances as they occur.

    These stories are proof points for how important emerging technologies are to the future of manufacturing and there is certainly an appetite to embrace them in Cumbria.

  • The Future

    While COVID-19 outbreak has created a lot of uncertainty, and will have widespread repercussions for manufacturing, Made Smarter is more determined than ever to reach even more industrious and innovative businesses in Cumbria, and encourage them to take advantage of what I truly believe is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to boost their growth and create the high value, highly paid jobs of the future.

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