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For the last three years, he has been the Digital Transformation Specialist for Coventry and Warwickshire for the Made Smarter West Midlands programme.

On May 30, Paul is starting his well-earned retirement and, in this blog, he reflects on his career and the highlights of being involved in this phenomenally successful regional digital technology scheme.

I was working in a business development role in my engineering consultancy when I received the call from Craig Humphrey at the CW Growth Hub to ask me to become involved in the launch of a pilot scheme called Made Smarter in the West Midlands.

I immediately thought it was a fantastic opportunity to share my skills and knowledge, built over a career spanning 50 years within the manufacturing and engineering industry, with the SME market and I was only too happy to say yes. I have loved every moment in my role since and I am immensely proud of what Made Smarter West Midlands has achieved during my time with the programme.

Since I started working with Made Smarter in 2021, I have helped upwards of 150 businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire and it has been a pleasure to meet and get to know each one.

Made Smarter is a vitally important programme for manufacturing and engineering SMEs – digital technology is the fourth industrial revolution and it is essential companies embrace new technology if they are to succeed in the modern world.

The supply chain is ready for digital adoption and, without it, some companies wouldn’t be able to function and that’s simply because OEMs are using digital tools in their operations. They therefore expect their suppliers to have digital technology in place.

It is important for these traditional, yet tremendously skilled, companies to maximise their knowledge and familarity with digital technology and gain the benefits which allows them to function in Industry 4.0.

I’ve loved being involved with Made Smarter because I’m meeting some companies that have absolutely no digital technology in place and others who are further along, yet we are still able to help them adopt technology that will improve their processes.

I met one business who was still using carbon invoicing and is now using an iPad for stock control after our involvement! But these are companies with tremendous skills and they often just need encouragement and the confidence to trust digital technology.

At the other end of the scale, companies are operating and proving how you can use digital tools in far more advanced ways,

The range of businesses that I have met has been vast and there has not been a single company that I have met during the programme that we haven’t been able to support, right from the most technophobic to the most digital-savvy.

The response to Made Smarter has been unbelievable – we could double the number of companies we can help should more funding be made available – and it has been fantastic right across the West Midlands.

Companies here in Coventry and Warwickshire have responded tremendously to adapting to new digital technology because they are seeing the benefits of introducing an MRP or ERP system to support their production mechanisms.

Made Smarter has, on average, increased employment by six per cent and I believe it has created more highly-skilled jobs.

The digital roadmaps which are produced by our partners, WMG at the University of Warwick, and the MTC, have been very well received by businesses and some have taken advantage of grant funding of up to £20,000, whilst other businesses have been able to fund the recommended technology themselves.

I’ve had very positive feedback from businesses – I don’t think we have had one negative response – because they have all been extremely grateful and complimentary about the way the programme is delivered since the advice they are receiving is impartial.

Craig made the right call in employing Digital Transformation Specialists who had a business background because we understand the issues companies have when making changes and the resistance it can sometimes cause in their workforce. It has been a tremendous pleasure working with a team of experts based all over the West Midlands and seeing the positive impact they have made to the region. Seeing the internal Growth Hub support team under the incredible leadership of Sarah Gambrall, the Made Smarter Project Manager, develop over the last three years has given me so much pleasure.

The fact we have business expertise and can bring in the digital experts from WMG or the MTC has been fundamental, and we have developed great partnerships. The programme is getting better and better as it grows, which is very rewarding.

I’m going to miss my colleagues because they are second to none and in the 50 years I have been working in business, these are probably the best group of people I have worked with, which is no mean feat considering I’m at the end of my career!

Case Studies - Our impact as told by our clients
Case Study - Auntie’s Sauce
Made Smarter support spices up Coventry food manufacturer

An Indian-inspired snack and sauce manufacturer in Coventry is excited for the future after Made Smarter West Midlands helped it spice up its productivity.

Auntie’s, based on the Red Lane Industrial Estate, was founded in 2018 by Gregory and Shireen Dhaliwal-Davies and ‘Auntie’ Mrs Pannum.

Inspired by the sauces created by Mrs Pannum – Shireen’s grandmother also known simply as ‘Auntie’ – the couple turned her delicious recipes into a business bearing her name.

Case Study - Auntie’s Sauce
Case Study - Whiteley Brooks Engineering
In the fast lane to success

A Coventry business which has been busy manufacturing precision-machined parts for over half a century is gearing up for the next stage in its history after joining the West Midlands Made Smarter programme.

Whiteley Brooks Engineering, which was established in 1965, supplies high-quality precision engineering parts for the motorsport, medical, automotive, defense, diesel testing and new technologies sectors.

During the pandemic, the business diversified when they were asked by McLaren Racing to work alongside them on the Ventilator Challenge UK Project to provide ventilators for the NHS.

Now, the 37-strong team has returned to providing Two Axis CNC Turning; Three, Four and Five Axis CNC Milling; and Surface, Universal and Cylindrical Grinding services. 

But, like many SMEs in the engineering and manufacturing sector, Whiteley Brooks Engineering wanted to improve its digital technology to continue to meet the requirements of its customers who are based throughout the UK.

After receiving an audit of their business from Made Smarter, Jat Purewal and his fellow directors have ordered a Nikken Five Axis machine which will be arriving from Japan in July 2022.

Jat said: “We are not a large corporate company so we don’t have the resources to deploy people to assess the new technology we need to continue to make us competitive in our field.

“We are confident it will lead to further work since we will be able to offer our customers a quicker and more cost-effective service.”

Case Study - Whiteley Brooks Engineering
Case Study - BARO Vehicles
Innovative engineering business taking the next step

A cutting-edge advanced engineering business based in Warwickshire has praised Made Smarter West Midlands’ Leadership and Management Programme for helping the next stage of its growth.

Case Study - BARO Vehicles