Manufacturers set to embrace new digital technologies after Made Smarter event


Manufacturers from varied industries including aerospace, engineering and food and beverage, are set to embrace new digital technologies following a successful Made Smarter event in Blackburn.

ELE Advanced Technologies, Granite House, Westmill and BEP Surface Technology were among 30 delegates drawn from across Lancashire, Liverpool and Greater Manchester’s manufacturing, engineering, and food and beverage sectors.

The free Powering your Manufacturing through Digital Transformation event in Blackburn was run by Industry 4.0 programme Made Smarter, which supports manufacturers to digitise and innovate through grant funding, fully funded specialist technology advice, and leadership and skills development. Business leaders joined roundtable sessions chaired by industry experts, which focussed on specific barriers to adopting new digital technology and overcoming them such as skills, leadership, finance and culture. 

Colne-based engineering business ELE Advanced Technologies operate in the aerospace market which generates over £8 Billion in turnover and employs over 26,000 highly skilled workers in the North West.With the aerospace industry forecast to grow, ELE Advanced Technologies wants to remain competitive so attended the Made Smarter event to understand more about how digital tools can boost its business.

Dave Dudley, from ELE, said: "We attended to learn more about business support, understand what Made Smarter is all about and learn more about digital transformation and what it could do for our business. "It was also an excellent opportunity to network in an area of interest which we knew very little about.”

Granite House, based in Southport, a manufacturer of granite and quartz worksurfaces, has also been inspired to begin its digital road map. Junaid Patel, from Granite House, said: "We attended because we know we need to embrace technology. The event was very thought provoking and was definitely worth attending.”

Westmill, the Manchester-based food manufacturer, wants to introduce new digital technology and attended the event to find out how. Tim Lishman, from Westmill, said: “It was a really useful and good level of discussion around the table."

The Made Smarter team was on hand to offer business leaders information about the free advice and funding support to help with the adoption of new, smarter production methods such as robotics and automation, additive manufacturing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IOT), 3D-printing, the use of ‘big’ data and the latest design software. 

BEP Surface Technology, based in Radcliffe, is a precision engineering and surface technologies business. Andrew McClusky, from BEP, said: “We attended the event because we were curious about Industrial 4.0 technologies and what Made Smarter could do to help us. “The event was a useful taster to what support and funding is available to businesses like mine.

Led by Made Smarter Programme Manager Alain Dilworth, the event provided practical advice and tools to help manufacturers take the first steps on transforming their business by helping them to develop a digital roadmap. 

Delegates heard from Dr Steven Barr and Ravi Gidoomal from Edge Digital, a consultancy dedicated to enabling businesses to gain maximum value from digital technology.Their presentation aimed to debunk digital transformation myths and explored the technologies and the benefits of each.

Delegates also heard about real life examples of how other businesses have applied new technology, the challenges they overcame and the benefits they are now seeing.

Mark Prince, Chairman of Nucroft, a consultancy which works with manufacturers on new business strategies, spoke about how exploiting a competitive advantage into growth is as important as unlocking efficiency, improving quality and reducing waste.

Industry experts on the roundtables included: Philippa Glover, Managing Director of Liverpool-based CNC Robotics; Phil Hargreaves, Head of Access 2 Finance; Pete Cornwall, Business Liaison Officer at Lancaster University; and Sarah Dhanda, Head of Employer Engagement and Partnerships at Semta.

Alain Dilworth said of the Digital Transformation event: “One of Lancashire’s many strengths is its manufacturing and technology sectors, so it is important that Made Smarter come here to advocate for the acceleration of digital adoption. “Made Smarter is engaged with a number of manufacturers operating in the aerospace supply chain, so we were thrilled to offer our advisory service to companies like ELE Advanced Technologies that attended the event".

“It was also encouraging to see SMEs from a wide range of sectors willing to travel to Blackburn to join us and I would like to thank all of the partners and businesses from across the North West who came together to explore how digital technology can grow businesses. “These events are important for us to share the message digital tools can increase profit, reduce inefficiencies, open new markets and provide greater insight for business leaders. “We will continue to travel across the North West to engage with businesses at the start of their journey.”

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