A Bollington manufacturer has been ‘transformed’ after securing support from Made Smarter, the movement helping SMEs join the Industry 4.0 revolution.
Art Graphics UK, which makes bespoke art presentations from its base at the Adelphi Mill, has reaped the benefits of funding from the North West technology adoption pilot.
Frances McDonnell, Managing Director of, said: “We undertook a systems integration project and were helped through the process at every stage by the Made Smarter team with intelligent and knowledgeable options.
“With this investment and expert advice we were able to take giant leaps forward on our digital journey. The project linked our many systems together for greater visibility over all our processes. It has been transformational.”
Since it was launched two years ago, Made Smarter has engaged with 154 businesses in Cheshire to help them introduce digital tools and technologies to boost productivity and growth, and navigate the impact of Covid-19.
64 manufacturers have received intensive support including expert, impartial technology advice, digital transformation workshops to help manufacturers take their first steps to transform their business, a leadership programme, and funded digital technology internships.
14 businesses have secured £309,000 matched funding for 16 projects which are worth £686,000 after private sector investment.
These technology adoption projects are forecast to deliver an additional £8.2M in gross value added (GVA) for the Cheshire and Warrington economy over the next three years, create 54 new jobs, and upskill 100 existing roles.
Some manufacturers are developing projects using technologies which enable them to integrate systems, capture and analyse data, and even create simulations of their plants and processes. Others are using 3D-printing, automation, and robotics to solve business challenges and meet increased demand.
Andy Devaney, Business Innovation Director at Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Embracing the support available from Made Smarter has helped 14 businesses in Cheshire and Warrington to increase productivity and accept new orders. With the impact of Covid-19, it has become more vital than ever for businesses to adapt and find new ways of working.
“The advice and funding Made Smarter offers helps manufacturers use the right digital technologies and tools to become more sustainable and able to take advantage of growth opportunities. By utilising the support available, including Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub, manufacturers can reduce costs, enhance their product offering, improve customer experience and keep up with the competition.”
Across the wider region the Made Smarter North West pilot has engaged with 1,131 businesses, giving 540 intensive support, and supporting 126 businesses with £3.2M matched funding for 155 projects. This investment is forecast to deliver an additional £118M in gross value added (GVA) for the region’s economy over the next three years, create over 750 new jobs and upskill almost 1,600 existing roles.
Over 80% of SMEs working with Made Smarter to adopt cutting-edge technologies have seen a boost in productivity, and more than 25% reduced their carbon emissions. Businesses will also benefit from increased revenue, profits and exports, and lower energy bills.
Juergen Maier CBE, Chair of Made Smarter, said: “I am delighted to see the positive impact that Made Smarter’s adoption pilot is having on individuals, businesses, the environment, and the UK economy.
“In the tumultuous times we face, it can be tempting to simply cut costs rather than invest. Yet, in the long term, this approach runs the risk of businesses getting left behind. For the UK manufacturing sector to thrive and become a world leader, we need to ﬁnd ways to encourage innovation and the adoption of digital technologies.”
As well as technology, Made Smarter has supported manufacturers to develop digital strategies and new skills.
Its digital transformation workshops are a rapid and bespoke process designed to accelerate manufacturing growth by identifying digital tools and technologies that can maximise operational processes and enhance business growth.
The Made Smarter Leadership programme, in partnership with Lancaster University and now also delivered by the University of Liverpool and Manchester Metropolitan University, are designed to equip business leaders with the vision and the skills to pursue smarter manufacturing.
Manufacturers have also benefited from Made Smarter’s digital technology internships which offer students and graduates paid placements to work on live technology projects. Some have even secured jobs following their placement.
Donna Edwards, North West Pilot Programme Director at Made Smarter, said: “Over the last two years the pilot has proven the value technology can bring to the manufacturing sector.
“We have helped hundreds of North West makers start their digital journey by providing them with specialist advice to help them select the right approach, level of investment and tools for their business.
“We have seen huge success with Made Smarter-supported businesses reporting growth, productivity and efficiency gains, job creation and high-value jobs. We’re also playing a crucial role in helping the UK reach its ambitious aim of net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050.
“Reaching 155 funded projects which will support 126 businesses to create over 750 new jobs and upskill almost 1,600 existing roles is a tremendous achievement.
“We are determined to continue reaching out to the region’s SME manufacturers to connect them to the tools that will make an everyday difference to their businesses. I would encourage manufacturers to contact Made Smarter to ensure they don’t miss out.”