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Made Smarter, the government-backed £20m business support programme aimed at North West SME manufacturers who want to embrace more digital technologies, made a big impression in the Liverpool City Region with a special event.

Taking place at Sci-Tech Daresbury, one of two national science and innovation campuses, the Digital Transformation event gave the region’s business community a chance to find out first-hand all about the Made Smarter programme.

Over 60 delegates attended the half-day session, drawn from across Liverpool and Cheshire’s manufacturing, technology, engineering, skills, professional services and business support sectors.

The event was introduced by Alain Dilworth, the Made Smarter North West Programme Manager. He explained how the definitions of Industry 4.0 are constantly evolving and that the event was to explore the opportunities that increased digitalisation could offer the region’s manufacturers and supply chain.

Reinforcing Alain’s point about the potential of new technologies, Tim Andrews, a senior consultant at the Manufacturing Technology Centre, talked about overcoming barriers to adoption and highlighted how companies can already begin to ‘self-optimise’ by collecting and analysing data from their production lines.

Tim was followed by a presentation from Pete Cornwall from Lancaster University Management Schools (LUMS). LUMS have developed a bespoke leadership course which supports manufacturers looking to invest in 4.0 processes and Pete explained how people and skills are as vital to the adoption of new production techniques as the technology itself is.

The floor was then given over to SME manufacturers and other companies based in Liverpool City Region who had already seen the benefits of introducing more digital technologies into their production processes or client service offer.

These included Adam Kelly from Abbey Group, one of the first businesses in the North West to be awarded Made Smarter match funding.

In addition, the audience heard from Stephen Greer from Brainboxes, Michael Gilbert from CNC Robotics, Claire Holt from Hosokawa Micron, Mike Todd from Digital Training Solutions, James Dearing from RS Clare & Co, and Andrew Borland from the Virtual Engineering Centre.

These sessions looked at some of the valuable insights which had already been gained by each respective company who were all on a ‘digitalisation journey’ themselves in order to try and boost productivity, optimise efficiencies and drive growth.

The event, on May 22, concluded with Julian Ford, one of Made Smarter’s Industrial Digitalisation Technology Advisers, who gives advice and support to SMEs interested in getting involved with new methods of manufacturing but are not sure where to start.

He said of the Digital Transformation event: “The Liverpool City Region has a proud tradition of innovation, and the production of high-quality goods and services, and this was illustrated by the calibre and dynamism of the businesses we had supporting us as Sci-Tech Daresbury.

“What also came across was that while there is clearly an appetite for more smart technologies such as additive manufacturing, data monitoring and analytics and robotics, many businesses are not sure where to start.

“That’s where Made Smarter comes in, and it was great to be able to share with companies from across the Liverpool City Region more details of what we do, how we can help, and how to get involved.”

Any company interested in the Made Smarter business support programme can find out more at www.madesmarter.uk