North West pioneers lead launch of game-changing Made Smarter scheme
21 May 2019
Engineering firms have applauded the launch of a scheme designed to boost the north west of England’s gross value added (GVA) by up to £115 million.
The Made Smarter North West initiative, supported by £20 million investment from Government and industry, is focused on promoting the use of new technology and digitalisation among small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the region.
Nine companies are involved in the first stage of the project, which aims to engage eventually up to 3,000 firms, providing one in six with in-depth support and enabling matching funding.
The pilot firms will be introduced to a variety of advanced manufacturing methods such as artificial intelligence (AI), the industrial Internet of things (IIoT), 3D-printing and robotics.
Among the participants is Graham Engineering Ltd in Nelson, Lancashire, which specialises in the welding and fabrication of complex stainless steel.
IT manager Paul Ashworth, said: “Efficient and systematic working processes with reduced scrappage will lead to increased profitability, enabling the company to remain competitive across their various market sectors and provide added leverage into new markets.
“The next generation of engineers expect and demand cutting-edge technologies in their workplace. This investment will help to embed the perception of our organisation as a high-tech, innovative company with a vision for growth through sustained quality and diversification.”
Another pioneer firm, Abbey Group in Knowsley, is seeking to invest in digital technologies including system integration, data acquisition and AI. It plans to introduce real-time machine monitoring on the factory floor to capture live data and report on potential manufacturing efficiencies and costs.
Managing director Chris Jones said: “Investing in digital technologies will truly transform our current business, increasing profitability and productivity, while allowing us to develop innovative products in-house that will drive growth and sustainability and facilitate further diversification of our product portfolio.”
Other engineering firms piloting the scheme are T&R Precision Engineering, based in Foulridge, Colne and crane and lifting equipment manufacturer DT Engineering North West Ltd in Widnes.
T&R managing director Tim Maddison’s company is predicting a one third increase in revenue growth, focused on US exports, as a result of its participation.
The North West regional scheme will be delivered through five local enterprise partnerships working through their network of Growth Hubs.
It forms part of the UK-wide public-private network overseen by the Made Smarter Commission – co-chaired by business secretary Greg Clark and Siemens CEO Juergen Maier, with representatives from 17 leading UK manufacturing and technology companies as well as leading business associations.
Donna Edwards, director of the Made Smarter North West pilot, said: “I am delighted that the Made Smarter pilot has now supported the first successful SME applications including these engineering companies.
“Working with business we have found that they are enthusiastic about the benefits of adopting new digital technology. Often, they need funding support, but also the specialist advice and insight to help them select the right approach.”
Photo: EU Automation's recent publication highlighted the technological priorities for manufacturing