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The core principle at the heart of Made Smarter is that people are at the centre of adoption, and that technologies are tools in their toolbox.

Our role is to quickly understand a manufacturer and identify business challenges, highlight opportunities, and assess areas for skills support.

Our tried and tested process starts with an assessment of needs. Since 2019 our team of technology experts, supported by our Organisational Development Workforce team, have taken 357 companies through fully-funded digital transformation workshops.

The outcome is a tailored digital roadmap that cuts through the jargon and offers solution-agnostic advice. Finally, we can offer access to skills and leadership training, and grants towards technology projects.

The process clearly works. Over 300 of those manufacturers have gone on to adopt technologies.

Technology types

As pioneers of the adoption programme model, we have developed expertise in the potential application of industrial digitalisation technologies (IDTs) and communicated their transformative potential to SME manufacturers.

We learned early on that most businesses needed stronger foundations to start their journey towards the aspirational smart factory of the future. This has meant most (50%) grant funded projects have focussed on data and systems integration technology, as well as sensors to enable factory connectivity.

Business leaders have achieved real-time visualisation of their processes, been able to spot trends in production and labour, correct maintenance and quality issues, and minimise safety risks, business risk and operational downtime throughout their production.

Meanwhile, automation - both process control and robotics - has been a keen focus of investment (25%) as manufacturers have replaced manual methods. Those adopting these technologies are realising a raft of benefits including an increase in productivity, improved precision, consistency and quality, as well as opportunities to reduce operational costs by allowing machines to take on the burden of repetitive, low-value and sometimes dangerous work.

Pushing boundaries

There have been some early adopters, who have already captured data and linked systems, and are now focusing on analytics and artificial intelligence to get more insight and value from their manufacturing operations.

But the good news is that, with infrastructure now in place for so many Made Smarter supported manufacturers, they are also now ready for more sophisticated, boundary-pushing technologies such as analytics, machine learning and AI, which are evolving at unprecedented speed.

Impact and realising the benefits

Over the last five years Made Smarter has helped over 300 manufacturers invest £22.5m in a range of IDTs and reap a raft of rewards including 1,600 new jobs, 2,850 upskilled roles, all while boosting the economy by £242m.

Many have reaped a multitude of transformation benefits across all aspects of their business including:

  • Increased labour and resource productivity
  • Reduced maintenance costs
  • Reduced inventory
  • Increased forecasting accuracy
  • Reduced time to market
  • Creating new, higher-paid, higher-skilled jobs
  • Increasing exports through competitiveness
  • Improving resource efficiency for better resilience to global supply disruptions
  • Reducing environmental impact
  • Achieving or exceeding industry standards

A partnership approach

Demonstrating rather than telling people how technology is done properly is key to our future success. We have built a growing network of thousands of manufacturers who are learning from each other.

Simultaneously, we have also developed partnerships with industry-leading institutions such as NERIC, PrintCity and AMRC NW to better understand the industrial application of technologies.

Afterall, digital isn’t coming – it’s arrived. And for us to fully unlock and realise the benefits for industry, society and the planet, we must address the challenges together.

Download our new whitepaper Powering the Digital Transformation of SME Manufacturers.