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After four years of working with SME manufacturers in the North-west and expanding the programme into an additional five regions, Made Smarter has some solid evidence as to the importance of the programme.

There is a real local, regional, and national approach to Made Smarter which enables organisations, large and small, at each stage of the supply chain network, to work together.

The National Commission continues to make the case to invest more in Made Smarter, not just in terms of productivity and growth, but also the positive impact on decarbonisation and net zero.

Made Smarter is joining up different agendas for the government. And then there is our North West steering board, which now includes SMEs who have benefited from the programme, ensuring the programme remains relevant and forward-thinking

Pioneering for the future

Make UK's analysis of 2022’s performance revealed a huge leap in output to £224bn, lifting the UK from 9th to 8th place in the global manufacturing rankings. That same analysis revealed that the North West remains the UK’s biggest manufacturing area, worth £28.2bn in output and employing 314,000 people.

Made Smarter has surely played a part in enabling that remarkable resilience and offers the government the opportunity to empower SME manufacturers to realise national ambitions for growth, levelling up and net zero.

This means embracing what has been proven to work, pursuing an experimental mindset to continuously improve and refine the adoption programme, and possibly expand it.

For instance, a feeder programme would help bring less digitally mature SMEs up to speed and lay the groundwork for digital transformation with interventions that embed lean manufacturing processes and low-level data capture and systems integration.

Similarly, for businesses graduating the adoption programme with digital leadership skills and positive experiences of technology adoption, there is a golden opportunity to accelerate investment in more advanced, leading-edge technologies.

The wrap-around model enables the core adoption programme to recapture the spirit of the 2017 Made Smarter Review and help SME manufactures realise that vision of a smart connected factory and Industry 4.0.

A Powerhouse of Knowledge

Ultimately, SMEs want to help themselves.

Any future iteration of the adoption programme must build on the success of the skills and leadership training already embedded. But there are clear opportunities to design short, high impact courses for all the key technologies.

For instance, a ‘data skills for manufacturers’ programme could teach how to capture, integrate, analyse, and visualise data to make informed decisions about the business.

Giving more manufacturers more access to skills will rely on being able to build on existing partnerships with demonstrators and forging new ones.

For instance, the North West is developing into a powerhouse in additive manufacturing with PrintCity, Manchester Metropolitan University's advanced 3D printing hub, Lancaster University’s Greater Innovation for Smarter Materials Optimisation (GISMO), the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in Lancashire, and Science and Technology Facility Council (STFC) AM labs in Cheshire.

Similarly, Made Smarter supports companies to access robotics through partnerships with the North of England Robotics Innovation Centre (NERIC) at the University of Salford, AMRC North West in Lancashire and the recently opened Robotics Living Lab at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Keeping a finger on the pulse of developments in existing technologies is vital to the success of the programme moving forward.

As manufacturers become more digitally mature, the adoption of additive manufacturing and immersive technologies will undoubtedly accelerate.

The job of Made Smarter should be to learn how manufacturers can collaborate with AI and simplify its application for maximise impact.

The programme has created a faster and simpler process for manufacturers to access what they need, the complex and confusing business support landscape that was first identified in the 2017 Made Smarter Review still remains a challenge today.

Fundamentally, what is needed moving forward is for joined-up thinking and a national approach to enable what works to be rolled out to every UK region in a consistent way, while taking advantage of regional technology and skills expertise. This approach would help UK manufacturing to move forward together.

This is an excerpt from the Delivering Impact Whitepaper, download the full whitepaper here. 

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