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The Made Smarter scheme was launched in the West Midlands in June 2021 to help manufacturing and engineering SMEs utilise new digital technologies to improve their efficiency and productivity.

C&W Business Solutions ltd, part of the CW Growth Hub Group, leads the scheme in the region alongside the Growth Hubs in Worcestershire, the Marches, and Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire, and on behalf of Business Growth West Midlands, the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Department for Business and Trade.

Made Smarter West Midlands helps SMEs in the manufacturing and engineering sectors to access match-funded grants and expert advice from digital transformation specialists at WMG, at the University of Warwick, and the MTC, to introduce digital technology.

One of the businesses to have benefited is family-run commercial bakery, Handmade Speciality Products, which manufactures millions of single and multi-pack muffins, cookies, flapjacks, gingerbread, traybakes and cakes each year from its base in Blackhorse Road, Exhall, Coventry, for customers ranging from schools and universities to retailers and wholesalers across the UK.

In this blog, we talk to sales director James Raeburn, who discusses the impact of Made Smarter West Midlands on productivity and day-to-day operations.

“We came across Made Smarter through Laura Delahunty at CW Growth Hub and very quickly she set up a meeting for Digital Transformation Specialist, Paul Sullivan, to visit our site together with Dave Roddis, from the MTC.

“Paul explained the programme and Dave spoke to colleagues to really understand the business from a systems point of view, including how we run the business right from when we receive an order all the way through to dispatch.

“Dave has a manufacturing background and he was great at explaining the different processes we could put in place to become more efficient, and he introduced us to different suppliers.

“From the digital roadmap that he produced, we narrowed down our key challenges and how they could help to improve our processes.

“We looked at two elements - to become smarter in our factory to increase our capacity, and to become more automated.

“We also looked at our systems and where we could improve our ordering processes and stock management, and the Materials Requirement Planning (MRP) system to reduce human error.

“Following Dave’s advice, we decided to apply for a £20,000 Made Smarter grant which we match-funded towards automating our gingerbread/biscuit production process, because that was the area identified as a priority. We have seen significant growth in our decorated biscuit sales and at the time we were having to turn away new business due to capacity restraints.

“Automating the process has increased our capacity by over 50 per cent. The machine is now on-site and installed and it is running in conjunction with a robotic cutting machine, which sits on the line and has significantly improved our consistency and productivity.

“We produce over five million biscuits every year and this new process will mean we have significant increased capacity to meet our customer demands.

“It has been a brilliant process working with Made Smarter. Paul was really supportive and Dave had great knowledge and really spent the time getting to know our business. He talked to the team to understand the pain points and came up with suggestions to resolve them.

“There is increased demand for decorated biscuits during seasonal periods, especially Christmas, Halloween and Easter. Historically we have had to temporarily recruit and train agency workers during these periods and then they would leave due to the nature of our order book. What we really wanted was to take on more permanent staff.

“Now, our new way of working means we have been able to take on more permanent staff and upskill our staff to use the new equipment. It has been really good for the business.

“On the back of the roadmap produced by the Made Smarter programme, we are reviewing other areas of the business to invest in ourselves, in order to improve our processes in the long-term for sustainable growth.

“We are looking at more automation and MRP systems to improve our stock control and bakery lines in other areas. The Made Smarter programme was really positive for us and incredibly helpful.”

If you are interested in joining the Made Smarter West Midlands programme, please register your interest at