Trailblazing scheme to help SMEs work smarter celebrates third anniversary

Raf Gibki and Aneta Gibka, of RAF General Engineering Ltd Cumbrian manufacturers have helped Made…

Raf Gibki and Aneta Gibka, of RAF General Engineering Ltd

Cumbrian manufacturers have helped Made Smarter’s trailblazing technology adoption programme in the North West mark its third anniversary by reaching a major milestone.

The programme has now matched funded 200 businesses, supporting them to drive growth and decarbonise through digitalisation.

This includes 25 SME manufacturers in Cumbria who have secured £560,000 matched funding for 30 projects, worth £1.9 million after private sector investment. 

These investments are forecasting the creation of 79 new jobs and 166 upskilled roles, and are forecast to deliver an additional £19.75 million in gross value added (GVA) for the Cumbrian regional economy over the next three years. 

Among the latest wave of manufacturers starting their journey to use technology to benefit their business, their bottom line and the environment are:

  • Ennerdale Brewery, a craft beer maker in Rowrah
  • Stramongate Press in Kendal
  • David Holliday Kitchens, a furniture maker in Carlisle
  • English Lakes Ice Cream in Kendal

Meanwhile, RAF General Engineering Ltd, an engineering and fabrication business in Workington has already experienced the benefits of Made Smarter support and is now taking the next step in its digitalisation journey.

Aneta Gibka, director, saw the benefits of Made Smarter at the start of the programme before securing support for a second technology project.

She said: “Working with Made Smarter in 2019 we experienced the benefits of an integrated computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) system, and took a major first step towards our ambition to fully digitalise our factory floor and office.

“This next step was to invest in an ERP solution including shop floor data capture, that brings quality and efficiency benefits to the business. We now have real-time oversight of production, logistics, planning, quality, and finance. The future is bright thanks to Made Smarter. It’s helped push us forward.”

Kendal Nutricare, based in Kendal, a manufacturer of nutrition products including infant formulas and baby cereals, used Made Smarter’s digital internship programme to prove the business case for employing a data analyst to harness the value of the data being produced in its factory, both in terms of the machinery, processes, and energy consumption. 

Grant Remington, projects and contracts manager, said: “The  internship through Made Smarter was a roaring success. He analysed our site data highlighting areas to improve. Made Smarter then supported us to invest in a data and systems project for a new ERP system to control the site, monitor stock levels and give the business an enriched way to forecast, which we have started to implicate.”

Stead McAlpin, based in Carlisle, a manufacturer of high-quality furnishing fabrics and specialist printers and dyers, benefited from Made Smarter’s digital transformation workshop to scope potential solutions and a digital intern to implement and test new technologies.

Ben Soper, managing director, said: “We have experienced huge benefits of engaging with Made Smarter.

“As a traditional analogue printer this new technology is game-changing for us. It’s a new way of working which will enable us to become much more agile and responsive to customer requests and open up new markets. Such big change requires a careful and considered approach and Made Smarter has supported us all the way. We wouldn’t have had the confidence to take such a leap without their help.”

Since launching in 2018, Made Smarter has engaged with 1,381 businesses from every corner of the region to help them introduce digital tools and technologies to help boost productivity and growth, navigate COVID-19, and tackle climate change.

As part of Made Smarter, 670 have reaped the rewards of intensive support including expert, impartial technology advice, 248 have used digital transformation workshops to help take their first steps to transform their business, and 56 business leaders have developed the vision and the skills to pursue smarter manufacturing through the Made Smarter Leadership programme, developed in partnership with Lancaster University.

Meanwhile, manufacturers have benefited from funded digital technology internships which offer students and graduates paid placements to work on live technology projects. 

Donna Edwards, director of the Made Smarter Adoption Programme in the North West, said:  “We have seen huge success with Made Smarter-supported businesses reporting growth, productivity and efficiency gains, as well as upskilling their workforce and creating new high-value jobs. We’re also playing a crucial role in helping the UK grow sustainably and reach its ambitious aim of net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050. 

“Digitalisation enables businesses to find the sustainability sweet spot between these economic, social, and environmental goals. We look forward to continuing our drive to enable hundreds more manufacturers in Cheshire and Warrington, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, and Liverpool City Region to learn how digital transformation can help them recover, grow, and create resilience.”

Trailblazing scheme to help SMEs work smarter celebrates third anniversary