Food and drink manufacturers have helped Made Smarter’s pioneering technology adoption programme reach its 250th investment milestone.
Among the latest businesses to secure support from the government-funded and industry-led initiative are:
Lakes Sandwiches, based in Kendal, manufacturers of sandwiches and food-to-go items;
Lakeland Artisan, based in Kendal, an artisan food and drink manufacturer;
The Ulverston Meat Company, based in Ulverston, a butcher and meat supplier;
Kings Fine Cooked Meats, based in Wigan, manufacturers of cooked meats;
Lake District Farmers Ltd, based in Ulverston, meat manufacturers and suppliers;
Cornvale Fine Foods, butchers and fine foods suppliers in Melling;
Honeywell Meats, family butchers in Preston;
Fylde Fresh & Fabulous, a potato manufacturer in Greenhalgh.
Meanwhile, Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses, a cheesemaker in Preston, who have already experienced the benefits of Made Smarter support, are taking the next step in their digitalisation journey.
Launched in 2019 to help businesses digitalise, decarbonise and drive growth, Made Smarter has supported 275 technology projects worth £18m, including £13m from the businesses themselves.
Manufacturers are forecasting their investments will create almost 1,300 new jobs, upskill 2,400 existing roles, and deliver an additional £209m in gross value added (GVA) for the North West economy over the next three years.
Made Smarter has helped manufacturers adopt technologies which enable them to integrate systems, capture and analyse data, and even create simulations of their plants and processes, others are now using 3D-printing, automation and robotics to solve business challenges and meet increased demand.
By adopting cutting-edge technologies, these businesses are benefiting from improved productivity and revenue, increased exports and job creation, an upskilled workforce, lower energy bills, and a reduced carbon footprint.
Fylde Fresh and Fabulous (Fylde) has transformed its quality control process, reduced waste and boosted profits thanks to a data-driven solution supported by Made Smarter.
It has invested £40,000 in replacing a manual and out-dated paper-based quality check process, with a bespoke ERP solution. The solution uses handheld tablets and real-time visualisation of factory data. This live view enables the business to rapidly identify, communicate and react to any quality issues, which increases production efficiency and improves traceability.
Simon Leaver, CEO, said: “The support from Made Smarter has been fantastic. It has accelerated the scale and scope of our investment in technology, which will help our ambition to build an efficient manufacturing environment which produces first class potato products for our customers.
“We are operating in a growing market and employ a valuable team of long-serving employees with a wealth of experience and enthusiasm.
“By putting data and analytics at the heart of a new smart operating model, we will be able to innovate, grow, and create high value jobs.”
Lakes Sandwiches introduced new software to overcome the challenge of outdated and manual systems which were hampering growth.
Mel Walmsley, director, said: “Made Smarter looked at where we were and where we wanted to be, analysing all of our systems and looking for areas for improvement. It was fascinating to see everything from an outside perspective, with valuable advice from people who understand what solutions are available. It can be hard for businesses to venture outside of the working bubble as there is always so much to do and no time to do anything different.
“The new software is designed to streamline our sales order processing, from the initial customer order, into production of the products, right through to dispatch and invoicing, reducing manual input and the need for paper. Our customer paperwork will be digitised as well which helps us to reduce our impact on the environment.
“The whole process has been supported by Made Smarter and we now feel positive about our future and excited for the opportunities that are available to us.”
Lakeland Artisan, which produces fruit syrups, soft drinks, liqueurs and gins, has adopted an In-Line canning line to integrate with its chiller tanks and labelling machine.
The automation technology is expected to significantly increase productivity and efficiency, contributing to an increase in sales. It will also create one new job and upskill the existing workforce.
Geoff Monkman, director, said: “Made Smarter’s support and guidance has been extremely helpful. The grant has accelerated us along our digital journey and taken us to the next level.”
Kings Fine Cooked Meats has invested in a digital quality assurance solution which integrates with its production management system.
Paul Walsh, ERP manager, said: “By deploying tablets to replace our existing manual and time-consuming process, we have been able to improve the speed, reliability and accuracy of data to improve our compliance with customer and industry standards.
“Digitalising the process has given us real-time oversight of production, as well as access to valuable new data for analysis and generated new insights into how we can improve performance.
“This new paperless system has also improved our environmental impact.
“Made Smarter’s support has enabled us to take our business to the next level. Their support has helped our company reduce costs, increase productivity and reduce our environmental impact. We can’t thank them enough for their help and support.”
Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses, based in Preston, became more flexible and agile after investing in software systems and is now looking at improving other areas of the business.
Daniel Hall, owner, said: “We’re driving innovation across the market to meet the needs of our customers, and with a growing team, we’re always looking for more ways to optimise our efficiency and support and motivate our people to be their best.
“Digitising key areas of our production has enabled us to visualise key trends and insights on screens in real-time, helping the team to make quick decisions through transparency of data. The investment has had a really positive impact.”
Across the North West, Made Smarter has supported more than 2,500 businesses on their digitalisation journeys, offering fully funded support including expert, impartial technology advice, digital roadmapping workshops to help manufacturers take their first steps to transform their business, and skills development.
Commenting on the programme’s achievement, Donna Edwards, director of the North West adoption programme, said: “When we launched the Made Smarter adoption programme four years ago our ambition was to boost growth, productivity, efficiency and create high value, well paid jobs of the future, as well as play a vital role to help accomplish the UK’s aim of reaching net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050.
“Digital adoption is still rife and robust in the SME sector. It’s been great to see that so many firms have tapped into our expertise to help them select the right approach for their business, how much to invest and which technologies will bring the greatest benefits. 2023 promises to be another busy year for Made Smarter.
“As trailblazers, we are tremendously proud of our achievements working together with the manufacturers we have supported, but now is not the time to rest on our laurels. More challenges lie ahead for manufacturers as they navigate a multitude of demands on their businesses, whilst also trying to keep up with the rapid pace of change.
“So, I would encourage any North West manufacturers who are wondering where to go next with technology to help manage their business more efficiently and sustainably to get in touch with the Made Smarter team.”