Manufacturers in Lancashire, supported by Made Smarter in their drive to digitalise, are upskilling over 800 workers to create the teams of tomorrow.

The Made Smarter Adoption programme in the North West has worked with more than 1,200 businesses since 2019, supporting them to introduce digital tools and technologies to help boost productivity and growth, and navigate the impact of Covid-19.

Among these, 160 businesses have secured matched funding to develop 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.

These manufacturers are upskilling 1,822 roles to meet the demands of these emerging technologies and ensure successful digital transformation. They include 50 Lancashire businesses upskilling 807 jobs.

Challenges of digitalisation

But SME leaders are also navigating the cultural challenges of digitalisation: good digital leadership; bringing the team along on the journey; effective communication of the benefits of change; capturing the technical skills and know-how of older workers before they leave the industry; attracting new digital talent into the organisation; and plugging skills gaps.

Made Smarter is supporting Lancashire manufacturers in a variety of ways to meet these challenges, including organisation and workforce development (OWD) advice to enhance business performance through people, and a leadership programme designed to equip managers and directors with the strategic view and the skills needed to pursue smarter manufacturing. Digital technology internships are helping embed digital natives with fresh perspectives into a business, while digital transformation workshops can identify the challenges associated with going digital and develop a bespoke roadmap for technology implementation.

Nutree Life, a food manufacturer based in Burscough, Lancashire, was supported by Made Smarter to invest in state-of-the-art automation and control technologies which enabled high volume, high speed and accurate production and laid the foundations for a network which captures data for further analysis.

The digitalisation has resulted in 25 workers being upskilled into technical operators, team leaders, and new management roles.

Patrick Mroczak, Co-Founder and CEO, said:

“Digitalisation is a journey. Once you take that first step your mind is opened and you want to delve deeper.

“Our entire workforce has gone to another level of working since the arrival of these new technologies. Now, because they run these processes, they are coming up with ideas to take it further.

“With the increased productivity and greater efficiency, I have been able to create dozens of new jobs, adding brain power to a broader team, and upskill a significant number of them. This process has created a much more profitable business and much happier staff.”

Ruth Hailwood, Organisational and Workforce Development Specialist Adviser for Made Smarter, said:

“Choosing and implementing the right technologies and solutions is only one part of digitalisation.

“Technologies are tools, but digitalisation is all about connecting systems and processes and sharing data to inform decisions made by people.”

“Empowering staff on the front line is vital to a successful digital transformation, so manufacturers need to have or work to create a culture that is open to change and looking to grow and innovate. This will ensure the buy-in and support of the team, which alongside the right skill sets, good digital leadership, and effective communication, will make sure everyone shares the same vision and people can reap the benefits of using these new tools effectively.

“Doing a skills audit is key to identifying where people need development with a view to future-proofing the organisation. This can also identify and unlock the hidden talent that already exists in the business or focus on capturing technical skills and know-how in a veteran employee.”

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