A Lancashire manufacturer has moved its main premises to Preston, using digital support from a University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) business programme to map out the move virtually while in lockdown.

Granite House, which manufactures granite and quartz worktops, was already planning to move part of its operation from Southport to Preston, and required extra support to keep the expansion on track during the lockdown.

When the team was unable to visit the new factory to map out the move, they approached Digitalplus, a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funded project run by UCLan, to help use digital technology to create a digital twin so they could plan the entire move online.

By scanning the Preston factory while it was empty, the Digitalplus team was able to create an exact replica of the floor space on a computer, including lighting, doors, windows, electrical cabinets and internal structures.

Using this alongside 3D scans of the company’s current machinery allowed the team to introduce work stations and processes throughout the workshop, allowing the management team to determine the best layout while working from home.

The team then incorporated extra features including walkways, pipes, fencing and drains to create a workable demo of how the new factory would operate, and the best possible layouts available for the floor space.

The virtual factory was then incorporated into virtual reality headsets, enabling management and the company’s 55 members of staff to test the flow of the site before it was installed.

As a result, the company was able to fit out the new factory first time, reducing costly moving costs and ensuring the layout was in the best state without any extra modifications needed.

Geoff Hill, marketing director at Granite House, said: “It is was a pleasure working with the talented and professional team at Digitalplus. Their use of cutting edge technology enabled us to accurately plan the layout of new our premises and has saved us from making costly mistakes.”

Danny Livingstone, ERDF project manager, Digitalplus, added: “As a team we are constantly looking at new and innovative digital technology to improve the way we deliver our project to clients”.

Digitalplus provides a range of creative, marketing and technical specialists, to support Lancashire businesses to embrace digital technology to attract new customers and increase the workforce.

The support is available and free to any Lancashire businesses with fewer than 250 employees trading business to business with an annual turnover not exceeding £43m (€50M) or an annual balance sheet total not exceeding £37m (€43M).

To find out more about Digitalplus call 01772 895855 or email business@uclan.ac.uk.

More details on eligibility can be found at www.uclan.ac.uk/business.

Digitalplus is a University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) project, part funded by the European Regional Development Fund and supported by Boost; Lancashire’s business growth hub.