Plant & Works Engineering
Made Smarter drives £22m tech investment among SME manufacturers
Published:  25 January, 2024

SME manufacturers have invested £22m in technology, backed by Made Smarter’s trailblazing adoption programme in the North West.

300 businesses have now secured £6.5m matched funding from the government-funded, industry-backed initiative, adopting technologies as diverse as sensors, robotics, 3D printing and artificial intelligence (AI).

These 350 technology projects, supported by £16m private sector investment over the last five years, are forecasting the creation of almost 1,600 new jobs and over 2,850 upskilled roles, and are set to add £242m to the economy over the next three years.

Among the latest wave of businesses starting their journey with Made Smarter to benefit their bottom line and the environment are food and drink manufacturers: Harbourside Products, Northern Pasta Company, Brightside Brewing Company, Just Bee Honey, Studio Bakery and Chandley Ovens.

Allison Metcalf, Managing Director of Studio Bakery, based in Clitheroe, used Made Smarter support to create a digital roadmap and then invest in a new cutting machine.

She said: "Working with Made Smarter has been transformational for our bakery business. At a time where we were rapidly expanding, they were there to support us. New technology has increased our productivity and made us more efficient. We're now able to meet our increased orders and we're ready for the next stage of our expansion.”

Lifestyle product manufacturers adopting industrial technologies include: Weaver Dane, Saxon Furniture, Crozier Design, Neal Jones Furniture, Contour Campervan Furniture, Evertaut, Mactapes, English Trading Company, and Alphin Pans.

Contour Campervan Furniture, based in Kendal, has adopted CNC machinery with Made Smarter’s support.

Co-founders Caitlin Green and Tom Lake said: “This technology has enabled us to bring production of our birch plywood campervan furniture in-house. We can now produce more, have improved quality control over our product, and are able to innovate and create new products much more quickly. This has helped us to create jobs, made us a more profitable company and significantly reduced our lead times for our shipped flat-pack campervan furniture.”

Meanwhile, sports and leisure manufacturers undertaking projects with Made Smarter include Kong Climbing, Foams 4 Sports, and A & D Sports.

Paul Ward, General Manager of Kong Climbing, a climbing wall manufacturer, based in Keswick, said new digital tools significantly enhanced their capabilities to offer unparalleled services and products.

“The impact of Made Smarter’s support cannot be overstated,” he said. “We are now better equipped to tackle challenges, explore new opportunities and make a lasting impact in our field.”

With the Government committing to continue the North West adoption programme as part of a UK roll out, manufacturers are being urged to connect with Made Smarter to access the funded support on offer. This includes digital transformation workshops to create a digital roadmap, impartial and expert technology advice, leadership and skills training, as well as grant funding for digital internships and technology projects.

Donna Edwards, Director of the Made Smarter Adoption Programme in the North West, said: "I am incredibly proud of what the Made Smarter team has achieved over the last five years. These milestones are simultaneously a moment to celebrate, as well as a reminder that our work is by no means done.

“Our mission is to engage with the thousands of manufacturers out there who we are certain could benefit from our support. As such we are redoubling our efforts to reach more businesses, and to inspire and inform them about the benefits of technology adoption.

"For many this may be helping them take the first step to digitise manual and paper-based systems or using sensors to capture vital production data. But for others with a digital infrastructure in place, they may be ready for more sophisticated, boundary-pushing technologies such as analytics, machine learning and AI, which are evolving at unprecedented speed.

"Digital isn’t coming – it’s arrived. Adopting technologies at the right time and in the right way is the key to unlocking real benefits for industry, society and the planet."