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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.

Squires Gear & Engineering has been based in Coventry since 1985, and is a market leader in the manufacture of CNC machined components for the automotive supply chain.

Here, we talk to commercial director Tim Squires about why the 16-strong company decided to join the Made Smarter programme.

Find out why Squires Gear & Engineering joined Made Smarter
  • The background

    “As a small business, we’re not exposed to all the cutting-edge technology that is available and at the same time, we’re not always able to invest in brand new equipment and new technology that can assist in the manufacture of the high-quality goods we produce.

    “There are two key reasons why we joined Made Smarter. First of all, it was to have a fresh set of eyes look at how our company operates to notify us what systems are potentially available to us and how they could help us."

  • How Made Smarter can help us

    “Secondly, to make the most of the match funding that could be available which could go a huge way towards assisting us in purchasing any technology if we decide to go down that route.

    “Although we manufacture physical components, the way we process those components has a big say on our profit margin and how long it takes us to make the products.

    “If we could reduce those times or make our processes more efficient from a technology perspective, that would have a key role in buying modern technology that’s about to come to the market because it is important to us to reduce our processing time and make our factory more efficient.

  • The process

    “Paul Sullivan, the digital technology specialist with the West Midlands Made Smarter team in Coventry and Warwickshire, came to visit us along with a representative from the MTC.

    “They spent a couple of hours here which gave us the opportunity to have a full discussion about the company, the nature of the business – what we do and the firms we supply – along with the current challenges we have.

    “Like many manufacturing companies, it is really difficult to obtain materials and prices are changing on a daily basis - particularly steel. If a customer takes two days to come back to us on a quote, when we go to place the order, we are finding the price has gone up so we have to start the whole quote process again.

    “We also gave them a full tour of the factory so that they could get a hands-on feel for what we do and the current technology we utilise.

    “There are areas where we feel we could improve and following this diagnostic workshop and this thorough review of all aspects of the business, we will then move to the next stage of the Made Smarter programme and hopefully implement some of their changes."

  • What's next?

    “It is still in the early stages because we haven’t received their report yet and, as in any business, it will be down to the cost.

    “But it will be interesting to receive an independent view of Squires Engineering and see whether new technology can be implemented.

    “We already use software technology for our management system and our day-to-day processes regarding what’s going on in and out of the factory.

    “We have a good software system for that but we’re waiting for feedback from Paul and the MTC to see whether they can make any recommendations where we can further improve our processes.”

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