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Greater Manchester manufacturer among first in UK to enrol in £20m Made Smarter business support programme

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Fantastic Mr Fox

A pioneering company in Greater Manchester is among the first in the country to benefit from a government-backed programme designed to boost UK manufacturing productivity and growth.

Animators and puppet-makers Mackinnon & Saunders, based in Altrincham, is aiming to transform its businesses by adopting new digital technologies through the £20M Made Smarter Programme.

It is among a cohort of nine North West companies who have successfully applied for Made Smarter matched-funding, allowing them to explore and adopt leading-edge advanced manufacturing methods such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), 3D-printing and robotics.

Over the last three decades Mackinnon & Saunders have brought to life some of children’s most beloved TV characters including Bob the Builder, Postman Pat and the new Clangers, and collaborated with Hollywood director Tim Burton on Mars Attacks!, Frankenweenie and Corpse Bride and Wes Anderson on Fantastic Mr. Fox.

In recent years, the company has been increasing its use of computer-aided design and 3D printing technology.

The forward-thinking firm now wants to embrace the very latest developments in additive manufacturing and innovative software solutions to help design and create its models.

These new processes will increase the quality and accuracy of the company’s products, boost efficiency and increase export sales opportunities.

Peter Saunders, Director of Mackinnon & Saunders, said that exploiting the potential of these new developments will help the company maintain its position as a world leader in its sector.

“Recent improvements in CAD, virtual sculpting and, in particular, some incredible ground-breaking developments in 3D printing, are creating new opportunities for us to utilise digital technology alongside the traditional craft skills associated with puppet-making.

“Working closely with some of the most innovative digital companies in the world will put the company in the best position to capitalise on new products and markets and give us a technological advantage over our international rivals.

“We are excited to benefit from the Made Smarter business support program.”

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 Mackinnon & Saunders.

“We have found businesses are enthusiastic about the benefits of adopting new digital technology. Often, they need funding support, alongside specialist advice and insight to help them select the right approach for their business.

“This is exactly how Made Smarter can and is helping businesses across the Greater Manchester region.

“Made Smarter is relevant for any North West SMEs who make, create, manufacture or engineer, and I urge local businesses not to miss this opportunity. I would encourage anyone who may be interested to register today for a fully-funded audit of your operations and see how Made Smarter might be able to help you.”