Made Smarter has launched an innovative, streamlined process to enable more SME manufacturers to speed up their digital transformation.

Digital transformation workshops are designed to accelerate manufacturing growth by identifying digital tools and technologies that can maximise operational processes and enhance business growth.
Working with a Made Smarter adviser, the fully-funded workshop, bespoke to individual business needs, involves two online sessions, a two-hour diagnostic of the business’s product, services, processes and people, and a one-hour ‘findings’ presentation to make recommendations for practical solutions to overcome business challenges.
The workshop’s output, together with subsequent sessions with Made Smarter digital technology advisers, are used to develop a digital transformation strategy tailored to the needs of the business.
It will include an easy-to-use guide for decision-makers with recommended first steps, a technology roadmap, and information about how to get further support from the programme such as funding for digital tools.
There will also be a printable wall graphic to share with the wider workforce to bring everyone along on the journey.
51 companies from Cheshire and Warrington, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Liverpool City Region have either completed or signed up to the workshops since they were launched in August. They include: 
GenerationJuice is a manufacturer of juice dispensers, based on The Wirral. Co-founders Karen Cunningham and Simon Edwards said: “We are in the process of scaling up the business. Adopting the right technologies at the right time is pertinent to that journey. We are optimistic about what the Made Smarter programme can offer us and look forward to helping co-create a digital roadmap with its team of advisers.”
R&E Bamford is a specialist manufacturer of pigeon corn mixtures, bird and small animal feeds, based in Leyland. Pauline Cadwell, Financial and Procurement Manager, said: “As part of Bamford’s growth strategy we wanted to look at all areas of our business to improve efficiencies and productivity whilst maintaining the highest levels of quality and service.
“We signed up to Made Smarter’s digital transformation workshop to identify any investment that is needed in digital technology to maximise operational efficiency.
“We found the process engaging and very interesting. The workshop covers all areas and the processes involved in workflow. This gave us a clearer vision and full focus on what is needed. We now have a detailed digital roadmap that enables Bamford’s to plan moving forward a more digitised approach giving the efficiencies needed in a sustainable way.”
Multiwood Products, a distributor and producer of kitchen door and components based in Bury. Ben Allan, Creative Director, said: “The digital transformation workshop helped identify systems and processes that could be improved to help drive the success of the business. “These ranged from continuous improvement methods through to reviewing and introducing new management processes. Made Smarter also helped create a roadmap that will guide the company towards achieving some of its goals, specifically associated with digitalisation.”
Arden Dies, based in Stockport, has been a leader in the die-making and packaging industry in the UK for more than half a century. Sarah Poynter, Operations Manager, who has also signed up to the Made Smarter Leadership Programme, said: “Arden Dies has been at the forefront of innovation and technology adoption but recognises the need for continuous improvement in its processes and its people. We are delighted to be working with Made Smarter to develop digital transformation as part of our business strategy.”
Made Smarter technology expert Kevin Smith, one of the specialists running the new workshops, said: “The use of technologies is becoming essential in order to cut costs and enhance the customer experience. Without capitalising on digital tools, SME manufacturers risk getting left behind.
“A digital transformation workshop will ultimately help a business gain a competitive advantage.
“As advisers we cut through the jargon to provide honest advice to help the business identify the most effective technologies to overcome their operational challenges. We take a holistic view of the business, and demonstrate the steps required in order to achieve a move to digital – it’s a quick way of gaining real, valuable insights.
“We have designed these workshops in a way that requires minimal time investment for manufacturers to turn the actions into results, while still allowing participants to focus on the day-to-day operations of the business.”
The workshop will also identify other ways the Made Smarter programme can support a manufacturer’s transformation including: the trailblazing Made Smarter Leadership Programme delivered in partnership with Lancaster University, that helps develop the skills and confidence to pursue smarter manufacturing; fully-funded digital technology internships to help implement projects and bring a fresh perspective and new skills into the business; specialist advice about workforce development and skills; and funding for new digital tools and technologies such as data and systems integration, robotics and automation, or additive manufacturing.
The new streamlined digital transformation workshops build on the success of the programme’s earlier face-to-face workshops, which helped makers during the first 18 months of the North West adoption pilot.
Donna Edwards, programme director for Made Smarter North West adoption pilot, said: “Upgrading to new technologies can seem like a complex and daunting task. SMEs can miss out on significant improvements to their operations. With a bespoke digital manufacturing roadmap we are able to provide the manufacturers a vision of how to move forward progressively and sustainably.  
“The challenges created by Covid-19 offered us an opportunity to review how we can best help SME manufacturers ensure digital is a key part of their business strategy and take that first step to digital transformation.
“Our face to face workshops were a huge success and have made a substantial difference to many of the region’s makers. 
“I am delighted that we have been able to adapt by redesigning and streamlining the workshop process to make it simpler, faster and more effective, and deliver it online.”