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Whilst there are definitely challenges when it comes to digital transformation, many makers are facing them head-on and steaming forward with their technology plans. Here, Sarah explains how.

Cumbria has previously been considered a place for ‘conventional manufacturing’ only. However, with businesses like these putting a real focus on innovation, they’re showing how they can be recognised outside this bubble.

Find out what Sarah, our Digital Transformation Specialist in Cumbria, has to say
  • Interest in technologies

    The start of 2020 saw a rising interest in technology adoption among Cumbrian makers. Then lockdown hit.

    Surprisingly, this actually drove the curiosity of many rather than derail it. For instance, agricultural machine manufacturer Storth Engineering implemented a robot welder. Its timely arrival, just before the first UK lockdown, allowed the business to continue operating with reduced human intervention whilst welders were self-isolating.

    I think it’s a bit of a game of two halves when it comes to digital transformation. Some fear losing their USP in the process. We have one client who is keen for every process to use technology except the handcrafted element. Otherwise, they feel they’ll have nothing differentiating them from any other competitor.

    It’s a balance between innovation and heritage. If a business were to completely automate themselves, then it wouldn’t have that Cumbria or Lake District legacy appeal. Some say that the region’s rural nature hinders its digital adoption, but I don’t think that’s the case. There’s a market for both factors to co-exist – you just need to get the mix right. We’ve certainly seen plenty of successful projects prove it…

  • Cumbria success stories

    Let me return to the example of Storth and their robot welding system first. For them, technology adoption was a vital need rather than a way to replace workers. Even without the pandemic, they had an issue sourcing welding talent due to their rural location. Through this investment in technology, they’ve future-proofed their business without compromising their values.

    Another company who will benefit from digitalisation is Ye Olde Friars, who manufacture traditional chocolates. They’re predicted to boost their production by an incredible 1,700% following support from Made Smarter.

    There’s also the Cumbria Clock Company who, despite working in a traditional industry with historical pieces, are still utilising digital technologies successfully. And then there’s Contactless Check Solutions, who are now on their second project to improve fire door compliance through the power of digital.

    Cumbria has previously been considered a place for ‘conventional manufacturing’ only. However, with businesses like these putting a real focus on innovation, they’re showing how they can be recognised outside this bubble. What’s more, leading Cumbrian makers like Sellafield and BAE Systems have exposed smaller businesses in the region to innovative manufacturing practices – they’ve long utilised advanced technologies and act as a great source of inspiration for the entire supply chain.

    Technology really can help makers. It can create new jobs in their business and support their growth. It’s for reasons like these that projects supported by Made Smarter are such a success, and why many makers come back to us to continue on their digital transformation journey.

  • Support for Cumbria makers

    To ensure we can grow the Cumbria economy and that no one is left behind, it’s a case of showing small manufacturers what technology can do – and helping them combat any challenges that they believe there are.

    Many makers come to us because they want to receive funding for a technology project, leading to benefits like upskilled staff and an increased headcount. However, during our conversations, they often discover just how valuable our digital transformation workshops can be.

    Some manufacturers I’ve spoken to didn’t initially think we could help them at all. Yet, with one of these workshops, they’ve been able to see the potential. For instance, we’ve worked with a gin maker and discussed how onboarding a digital technology intern could in fact advance their business considerably.

    Our workshops have shown companies of all sizes how we can help, and provided a digital roadmap they can start to action.

We’ve been supporting manufacturers in Cumbria for two years now, and whilst there is of course a long way to go for full technology adoption, digitalisation has come on leaps and bounds. We’re proud to help the community grow in whatever way we can.

Based in the region? If you’d like an informal, impartial chat with me, I’d love to hear from you. Simply email me directly at

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