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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.

Expert Tooling & Automation in Lyons Park, Allesley, Coventry, was among the first companies to sign-up to Made Smarter and in this blog, we talk to R&D Programme Manager Andy Bools about why they decided to join.

“The main reason we joined Made Smarter was to have a fresh pair of eyes look at what we do and give us a steer on what we could do better and smarter,” he said.

I think Made Smarter is an amazing scheme – it was a fantastic opportunity to have industry and academic experts come in and offer you their advice for free to help make us more competitive and grow our business. It is one of those schemes where I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t join because there are so many benefits.

Andy Bools, Expert Tooling & Automation
Our Journey with Made Smarter
  • Why we approached Made Smarter

    “The main reason we joined Made Smarter was to have a fresh pair of eyes look at what we do and give us a steer on what we could do better and smarter,” he said.

    “There were some specific areas we wanted to focus on, particularly digitising the way the company wants to move forward and accept the fact that we are not leaders in this field.

    “The main driver for joining Made Smarter is to make Expert more receptive to customers to show that we are completely different to our competitors so that when we quote a price for work, we can offer services that other businesses in our field can’t.

    “We also want to work more efficiently through the use of digital technology and we hope it will have a major impact on our bottom line so fundamentally, it could increase our sales and increase our efficiency.

    “It was also a brilliant opportunity to have access to experts in education and research that we wouldn’t normally have in a commercial arena.

  • The process

    “Once we had made the decision to be part of Made Smarter, it was really easy. An appointment was set up for the digital technology specialist for Coventry and Warwickshire, Paul Sullivan, to come along to our office to meet us along with representatives from the programme’s strategic partner WMG, at the University of Warwick.

    “We showed them round the building - which we moved to from Tile Hill in Coventry about two-and-a-half years ago - and then we had a detailed chat about our business so that they had an in-depth understanding of our work and what we wanted to achieve from Made Smarter.

  • Next steps

    “There are quite a few areas we spoke about digitising from our current activities, such as looking at the machine loading for our CNC machines and software to get better use out of our systems.

    “Should we replace them or do we need to look at improving the way we teach our staff to use the systems?

    “So, we want to know how we better engage with the users of the system and our employees so that they see the benefits as well as upskilling our staff.

    “We are now waiting feedback from the team that visited us because there are many areas of the business that could be improved through their original audit."

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