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The £1.9 million Made Smarter scheme was launched in the West Midlands in June 2021 to help manufacturing and engineering SMEs utilise new digital technologies such as AI, advanced robotics, big data and wearable technology to improve their efficiency and productivity.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub is leading the one-year scheme with the region’s other Growth Hubs in Greater Birmingham and Solihull, the Black Country, Worcestershire, The Marches, and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire on behalf of the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The West Midlands Growth Hubs are working closely with the West Midlands Combined Authority and their strategic partners WMG, at the University of Warwick, and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry.

Here, Industrial Digital Technology Specialist for Worcestershire Martyn Mangan explains why Made Smarter is such an important scheme for businesses in the area to take advantage of.

Hear Martyn's perspective and expertise
  • Why is digital technology adoption important?

    As we head into a digital future, it’s more important than ever that businesses in the manufacturing and engineering sectors keep up with the pace of change and don’t get left behind.

    While many large firms are able to put time and money into assessing, purchasing and implementing the latest technologies to improve their businesses, this can be a challenge for smaller businesses who may not have the capital or time to do so.

    In addition, they may not be able to demonstrate their potential to outside investors due to the absence of robust improvement plans.

    Many companies know they need to do something to improve their business, but a high proportion do not have the time to clarify what steps to take.

  • My background

    My background is in finance and investment – and I know first-hand the importance of a roadmap like this to outward investors. A business with a clear, costed plan on how they are going to improve and generate more income is incredibly attractive to investors compared to firms with a goal in mind but no set plan to achieve it.

    Investors will also appreciate that a third party – in this case MTC and WMG – have independently assessed how the business can improve and have worked with them to create the roadmap. If this is done internally, it does not carry the same weight.

    Made Smarter is a fantastic opportunity for smaller manufacturing and engineering businesses to get ahead of the curve. Innovations are coming in all the time, so now is the time for companies to adopt the latest technology and drive productivity forward.

    The team at Made Smarter is here to help, so I’d encourage any business looking to make changes or with any questions to get in touch.

  • How Made Smarter helps

    This is where Made Smarter comes in. We visit manufacturing and engineering businesses, assess their particular challenges and desires, and help create a roadmap for them to overcome the issues they are facing.

    We also provide significant grants to give them a leg-up when it comes to purchasing new technology that enables them to kickstart their plans.

    I am already speaking to plenty of businesses in Worcestershire about Made Smarter, and the challenges for them are similar to everywhere else in the West Midlands – namely how to increase productivity without taking on more staff.

    For example, quite a lot of businesses still use paper records for everything from orders to job cards, and some are reluctant to change to a better, digital system because of the risks from short-term disruption, the investment needed and confusion over what steps to take and in what order.

    But I would say to any business on the fence about making the push to digitalisation is to give Made Smarter a try – there are enormous benefits.

    Businesses are first visited by the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) or WMG, at the University of Warwick, who can audit the business over eight days and find out exactly where improvements can be made, and how best the business can make those improvements.

    Up to £20,000 of grants are available for capital investment into new machinery or software – and 50 per cent of these grants are match funded. MTC and WMG can advise businesses on what they should spend the money on if they are unsure.

    MTC and WMG will also help create a roadmap for the business, outlining exactly how they will get from where they are now to where they want to be in the future.

    Contact Martyn Mangan via email

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