Lancashire digital transformation scheme hits 200 businesses mark

The latest tranche of companies getting help from a scheme to digitise Lancashire industry include an eco-plastics manufacturer, a munitions maker and a potato producer.

By Tim Gavell
Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 12:30 pm

The Made Smarter programme helping manufacturers boost productivity and growth using digital tools has reached a major milestone, having now backed its 200th technology project.

The latest businesses in Lancashire to secure support from the Made Smarter Adoption programme include: Sonaspection International (Morecambe); Aerolux (Blackpool); Empire Cartridges (Preston); Dan Hurtley ltd (Lancaster); Bloom-In-Box (Burscough); and Fylde Fresh and Fabulous (Weeton).

Empire Cartridges, an ammunition manufacturer, based in Preston, has invested in a six-axis cobot and process control technology to automate a previously manual task.

Hannah Reardon of Bloom-in-Box of Burscough

Andrew Bond, chief executive, said: “By adopting Industry 4.0 automation we have been able to increase quality control, reduce manual handling and upskill our workforce from simple box fillers to cobot programmers.”

Bloom-in-Box, a manufacturer of eco-friendly plastic products, based in Burscough, has invested in an electrical injection moulding machine which increases production speed and quality, enabling the business to increase production capacity by between 25-40 per cent.

David Reardon, director, said: “We believe that investing in the next generation of moulding machines will develop a more digitalised manufacturing environment aimed at improving efficiency, expanding production capacity, and generating more revenue. This will allow us to expand and invest in new ideas, create jobs and develop more environmental products.

"Made Smarter has accelerated our ambitions by years. Its support has really driven forward our plans to design and manufacture plastic products with more than just one life.”

Donna Edwards of Made Smarter

Meanwhile, some businesses which have already experienced the benefits of the government funded and industry-led programme are now taking the next step on their digitalisation journeys. They include: Len Wright Salads (Tarleton); Inscape Interiors (Chorley); Nutree Life (Burscough); and Pendle Doors (Blackburn).

Launched in 2019, the Made Smarter Adoption programme in the North West has now supported 161 businesses with £3.9M matched funding for 201 projects, leveraging £10.5M of private sector investment.

This includes 51 businesses in Lancashire who have secured grants worth £1.25M for 63 technology projects, valued at almost £5.3M after private investment.

Some manufacturers are developing projects using emerging 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.

Andrew Bond Empire Cartridges of Preston

Across the North West, this transformative technology adoption is forecast to create 990 new jobs, upskill 1,845 existing roles, and deliver an additional £162.4M in gross value added (GVA) for the North West economy.

In Lancashire 373 new jobs will be created, 843 existing roles will be upskilled, and an additional £61M in gross value added (GVA) for the region’s economy.

Since 2019 Made Smarter has engaged with 1,266 businesses in the region to help them introduce digital tools and technologies to help boost productivity and growth and navigate the impact of Covid-19.

Over 80 per cent of SMEs working with Made Smarter to adopt cutting-edge technologies have seen a boost in productivity.

Donna Edwards, Programme director for the Made Smarter Adoption programme in the region, said: “Surpassing the milestone of 200 funded technology projects is a significant achievement and there is much more to come.

“Industry 4.0 is the future of manufacturing. Through it, the entire sector can reap endless rewards that will ultimately lead to considerable – and sustainable – growth.

“Over the last two and half years we have developed a programme of wide-ranging support which cuts through the jargon to provide honest, impartial advice to help businesses identify the most effective digital tools, innovation and skills needed to make an everyday difference to their operations.

“I am delighted so many manufacturing and engineering businesses of all sizes, from across all sectors, have realised the benefits of digital technology.”