A new £20 million initiative, designed to embed advanced digital technology across the North West’s manufacturing sector to boost productivity, was officially launched today as part of Digital Manufacturing Week.
Backed by national government and some of the world’s biggest businesses, the Made Smarter North West programme is set to engage with 3,000 SME manufacturers based in Cheshire and Warrington, Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region.
Greater Manchester companies which get involved in the project will get the chance to access match funded support and advice regarding how industrial digital technologies (IDT), including robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing and the Internet of Things (IoT), could revolutionise their manufacturing processes.
A number of Greater Manchester firms will also qualify for more intensive business support, gaining access to match-funded grants, bespoke consultancy, mentoring and other resources which will help them to accelerate commercial growth.
It is anticipated that by becoming a test-bed for new types of technologies and advanced processes, the region’s manufacturing sector could generate a 25% increase in productivity and add £115m to the North West economy.
Embracing the principles of Made Smarter could also help to open up new markets, increase exports and create hundreds of additional high-skilled, high-value jobs across Greater Manchester.
This follows an announcement in the recent budget that up to £121 million of additional Made Smarter programme funding would be made available across the country as part of government’s £1.1 billion Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.
As well providing significant funding to underpin the Made Smarter concept, government has also worked closely with industry to drive the programme.
A formal partnership between the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the private sector, the programme is overseen by the Made Smarter Commission.
Co-Chaired by Business Secretary Greg Clarke, and CEO of Siemens Juergen Maier, the Commission includes representatives from 17 leading employers and organisations directly linked to manufacturing.
As well as Siemens, who employ 1,000 people in Greater Manchester, other members of the Commission with a major presence in the North West include Rolls Royce, BAE Systems, Airbus and Jaguar Land Rover.
Juergen Maier, CEO of Siemens, said: “Made Smarter has the potential to kick start a new industrial revolution for our manufacturing sector and be a catalyst for new investment in the latest digital technologies. At its core will be helping local businesses to innovate, creating new growth and technology opportunities in the process.
“It’s a hugely exciting time for Greater Manchester, and I believe this is truly a once in a generational opportunity to boost productivity and create the high value, highly paid jobs of the future.”
Made Smarter will be delivered across Greater Manchester by the GC Business Growth Hub, while its regional roll-out will be co-ordinated by Donna Edwards, Managing Director for Business Support and Business Finance at the Manchester-based Growth Company.
Donna Edwards said: “Growth Hub advisers across Greater Manchester regularly engage with manufacturers who are interested in adopting new hi-tech processes but are unsure how to go about it. There are also worries about how much to invest and deciding which technologies will bring the greatest benefits.
“Made Smarter North West has been developed specifically to address these needs, and through advice, support and a programme of match-funded grants it will offer hundreds of Greater Manchester companies the chance to tackle existing challenges, explore new ideas and drive economic growth.”
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said of Made Smarter North West: “From cottonopolis to graphene, Greater Manchester has a long tradition of leading the world in new forms of manufacturing and commercial innovation.
“Through Made Smarter North West we now have a fantastic opportunity to embed digital technology and advanced manufacturing throughout our manufacturing industry and wider supply chains.”
Today’s Made Smarter North West launch took place as part of Digital Manufacturing Week and the Manufacturers Leaders’ Summit. The Summit is a national conference hosted at Liverpool Arena dedicated to the latest digital manufacturing technologies.
Also present were several North West SMEs who already have developed or deployed IDT within their manufacturing processes. These included Rochdale’s Crystal Doors, a vinyl door manufacturer which uses robotics, 3D modelling and hi-tech dust extraction technology across their operations.
Richard Hagan, Crystal Doors Managing Director, said: “When I tell people we make doors many of them picture a sawdust-filled workshop, tins of wood stain and boxes of door handles. However, when they visit our facility and see the level of automation we utilise, and the precision technology which we apply to production, they are genuinely stunned.
“The efficiencies such processes bring also impact massively on our bottom line and I would encourage any Greater Manchester manufacturer, from any sector, to explore how an initiative like Made Smarter North West could change the way they work.”