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New generation of digital leaders

03 August 2023

A GENERATION of manufacturing leaders is now armed with new digital skills and tools after graduating from a trailblazing programme.

Fifteen delegates completed the ‘Leading Digital Transformation’ programme, designed by Made Smarter, the government-funded industry-led initiative to increase technology adoption among SME manufacturers, and Manchester Metropolitan University (Manchester Met).

Delivered through a blend of face-to-face workshops, online webinars, case studies to see technology in action, and a site visit to PrintCity, Manchester Met’s 3D additive and digital manufacturing centre, the funded programme empowers participants to create a bespoke digitalisation strategy for their business.

It also provides them with a set of practical tools to make the most of opportunities that digital transformation can offer and access further support from Made Smarter, including funding for new technology and specialist advisers.

Companies who recently completed the three-month fast-track programme include: FRC Group; Ajax Equipment; Harten Frameworks; Greer Manufacturing; Logs Direct; BEP Surface Technologies; AV Metals; Rapid 3D Solutions; Playdale Playgrounds; Slater Harrison; Beverston Engineering; Liversidge Windows; CNC Robotics; and Arden Dies.

75 digital leaders have been supported over the past four years through the inaugural Made Smarter leadership programme and more recently, Leading Digital Transformation, which is now recruiting for its next cohort of businesses. Manufacturers across the North West are now being encouraged to register their interest for the next intake, starting in early September 2023.

Oliver Miller, Industry 4.0 project manager at Knowsley-based Beverston Engineering, a precision component manufacturer, said: “We have been on an incredible journey over the last few years, supported in part by Made Smarter, to create a smart factory and become an exemplar for other SMEs pursuing the same ambition.

“The leadership programme has been a fantastic opportunity to engage with a network of business leaders on the same journey, all with their own stories and insights.”

Liz Foulds, finance director of Lancaster-based Logs Direct, a manufacturer of fuel products, said: “We are on a journey to digitalise and decarbonise. To make the right decisions at the right time we have needed a digital strategy and roadmap. This leadership programme and other support from Made Smarter has helped accelerate us forwards.”

Reflecting on the success of the programme, Donna Edwards, director of the Made Smarter Adoption Programme in the North West, said: “Technology and digital strategy have proved a great benefit to manufacturers over the last few years as they have navigated a multitude of crises. They will be even more important to navigate future challenges and opportunities. But it’s clear that leadership and digital skills are needed to ensure businesses, especially SMEs, are properly equipped to deal with what lies ahead.

“Our mission is to develop a generation of digital leaders. I am delighted to celebrate the graduation of this latest cohort who have seen the value of taking time out of their businesses to share ideas and experiences and return with new ideas and a digital strategy to create sustainable growth.”

Dr Ann Mulhaney from the Centre for Enterprise at Manchester Met, said: “We're thrilled by the feedback of our first cohort, helping these business leaders at such a critical time for the industry.

“We look forward to working with the next group of participants as we collaborate on Made Smarter’s vision to create digitally-empowered SME manufacturers.”

Ruth Hailwood, Made Smarter's organisation and workforce development specialist adviser, said: “This programme is designed to be flexible for manufacturing leaders to fit around their busy schedules, allowing them to take time out of their business to reflect on the bigger picture and share ideas, experiences and opportunities with their peers in manufacturing.

“It focuses on strategy and how to identify critical priorities for taking a business forward, as well as highlighting where digital tools can help.”

Since launching in 2019 Made Smarter has supported 2500 manufacturers in the North West to access expert, impartial technology advice, digital transformation workshops to help take that first step to transform a business, and support with technology adoption projects.

The programme is available by application to leaders from North West-based SME manufacturing businesses with fewer than 250 employees and a turnover of less than £50 million or a balance sheet total of less than £43 million.