North West manufacturing SMEs have invested £5.4m in new tech, supported by £1.6m of funding from national industrial digitalisation program Made Smarter.

The Made Smarter North West pilot is working with SMEs to help them introduce digital tools and technologies to help boost productivity and growth.

The support for local manufacturing SMEs includes expert impartial advice and one-to-one support, digital roadmapping workshops to help manufacturers transform their business, eight-month leadership and management training programmes offered in partnership with Lancaster University, and funded three-month student placements.

Sixty two of businesses have been supported with impartial, specialist technology advice and have also secured matched funding, and with this support are forecast to deliver an additional £52m in gross value added (GVA) for the North West economy over the next three years.

SME applicants are developing projects involving the adoption of a range of industrial digital technologies, including data analytics, AI, AR, industrial IoT, 3D-printing and robotics to solve business challenges across a range of manufacturing functions.

Liverpool-based Engineering business Abbey Group is projecting a 22 per cent increase in turnover, a 41 per cent increase in profit and is creating 30 new jobs by 2022, investing in a real-time machine monitoring and an AI planning solution.

James Tanner Joinery, based in Kendal, will double its production capacity and profits after investing in an Industry 4.0-ready, five-axis CNC machine and software.

MSM aerospace fabricators in Manchester is predicting 20 per cent growth after support from Made Smarter to adopt digital twin technology.

Michael Pedley, Managing Director of the firm said that without the support it would not have committed to the same level of simulation.

“Our plan was always focussed on design as a discrete project,” he said.

“This extra investment means we get maximum value from the technology in the future. It also means that we could do it immediately rather than delaying - propelling us forward by years."

Donna Edwards, programme director for the Made Smarter North West pilot, added: "Over the last year the Made Smarter team has engaged with hundreds of makers from every corner of the region.

"We have found a great enthusiasm about the benefits of adopting new digital technology tempered by uncertainty of how to go about it.

"It's clear that the SMEs need the specialist advice and insight to help them select the right approach for their business, how much to invest and which technologies will bring the greatest benefits.

"This is exactly how Made Smarter can and is helping businesses across the region.

"Made Smarter is relevant for any North West SMEs employing less than 250 staff who make, create, manufacture or engineer. The interest we have received in the first year has been incredible. I urge local businesses to get in touch and find out how digital technology can transform their business."

The £20m pilot programme was launched in November 2018, becoming operational in January 2019, and runs until March 2021.

Juergen Maier, former CEO of Siemens and co-chair of the commission, said: "When we launched Made Smarter in November 2018 our ambition was to kick start a new industrial revolution for the manufacturing sector and turn the UK into a world leader in digital technologies.

"I am thrilled that so many manufacturers in the North West have grasped what I believe is a once in a generational opportunity to boost productivity, create high value and highly paid jobs of the future. Our task now is to scale this up and see what other regions can learn from the great work that's already being done here."