Digital technology has the potential to transform manufacturing and engineering in the West Midlands, but many businesses in the sector have yet to take advantage of new innovations for a variety of reasons.
A new £1.9 million scheme, Made Smarter, can help these businesses use emerging technology through grants, upskilling, and leadership training.
Barry Jones, West Midlands Made Smarter Industrial Digital Technology Specialist, gave a talk at Subcon 2021 – one of the biggest subcontract manufacturing supply chain shows in the country – about new technologies and how businesses can use Made Smarter to integrate them into their operations:
“Made Smarter is a fantastic scheme which can transform manufacturing and engineering businesses in the West Midlands, and it was a pleasure to speak to Subcon’s attendees about the initiative and answer their questions.
“Digital technology is evolving all the time, and it is crucial that manufacturing and engineering businesses in the West Midlands are able to harness it and use it to move their businesses forward.
“In my presentation, I described these new technologies as ‘Industry 4.0’ – essentially a fourth ‘leap forward’ in technology dating back from the Industrial Revolution.
“Technologies which feature as part of Industry 4.0 include 3D printing, augmented and virtual reality, big data, artificial intelligence, systems integration, cyber security, wearable technology, and advanced robotics.
“This new era, brought about by information technology and tools like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, now requires us to think about how the drive to machine learning and smart manufacturing will require companies to look to the future with a different perspective.
“The harnessing of the information provided by these technologies represent a significant underused asset to businesses. Adopting new technologies will raise UK productivity, create new, highly skilled jobs, and will strengthen UK supply chains. Over the next 10 years, it could be many billions of pounds to the economy.
“While some larger firms have been able to make great strides using these new technologies, many smaller companies either may not know how to adopt them to their advantage, or may not be able to afford to do so.
“That’s where Made Smarter comes in. The scheme provides support for businesses which are unsure about where to start when it comes to adopting these innovative methods.
“Made Smarter can help with funding for state-of-the-art equipment or specialist advice – up to £20,000 of match-funding is available.
“We offer ‘digital workshops’, where we comprehensively assess a business’s digital capabilities and give advice and recommendations on what the business should do next.
“We can also help individuals develop digital leadership skills so they have the knowledge and confidence to drive their business forward by utilising new technologies.
“And we can also help businesses secure digital technology internships where graduates or postgraduates are matched with a business to help technology adoption.
“Adopting new technology need not be overwhelming – we can guide businesses through the first steps and show them just how beneficial making a concerted effort to use these new innovations can be.
“We had quite a few businesses sign up to Made Smarter after my presentation and Q&A session with our panel, and we hope to see even more do the same in the coming months.”
The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub is leading the one-year Made Smarter scheme with the region’s other Growth Hubs in Greater Birmingham and Solihull, the Black Country, Worcestershire, The Marches, and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire on behalf of the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The West Midlands Growth Hubs are working closely with the West Midlands Combined Authority and their strategic partners WMG, at the University of Warwick, and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry.
Businesses can sign up to Made Smarter by visiting madesmarter.uk