Almost 50 new jobs have been created thanks to an initiative which helps SMEs join the Industry 4.0 revolution.
More than £1.5 million of investment has been created by Made Smarter, which was set up two years ago to help companies adopt new technology.
Made Smarter said it had engaged with 106 businesses in the county to help them introduce digital tools and technologies to boost productivity and growth, and navigate the impact of COVID-19.
Sixty-six 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.
Thirteen businesses have secured £367,000 matched funding for 17 projects which are worth £1.5 million after private sector investment.
These technology adoption projects are forecast to deliver an additional £10.5m in gross value added (GVA) for the Cumbrian economy over the next three years, create 47 new jobs, and upskill 104 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.
Cranstons Quality Butchers, based in Penrith, secured funding last year for a data and systems integration project.
Mel Wilson, head of finance, HR and business systems at Cranstons Quality Butchers, said: “With the support and advice of Made Smarter we have been able to invest in a company-wide sales order processing and factory system project which will enable us to have a fully cohesive system which will allow us to have greater efficiency and overview of orders and products along with a robust stock system for our dry goods, raw ingredients and factory made products.”
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.”