Processing innovation

UK government-backed national industrial movement helps bakery and snacks SMEs target growth through digitalisation

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Going digital does not have to be a complex and daunting task. Pic: Made Smarter
Going digital does not have to be a complex and daunting task. Pic: Made Smarter

Related tags Made Smarter digitalisation Simply Doughnuts digital tools

In today’s overcrowded food space, SME producers risk getting left behind if they don’t capitalise on digital tools.

Made Smarter is a national industrial digitalisation movement designed to drive productivity and put the nation at the forefront of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

The £20m partnership between government and industry rolled out its Made North West pilot programme 18 months ago to provide match-funding, specialist advice, student placements and leadership training to over 3,000 SMEs in the region.

One such business benefitting from the campaign is Blackburn-based Simply Doughnuts, a  manufacturer of fresh, long-life doughnuts with a 27-day shelf life.

The programme is again hosting its popular workshops – transitioned online from the initial face-to-face format – to give SMEs based in Cheshire and Warrington, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and the Liverpool City Region the opportunity to learn the strategies to support the adoption of hi-tech and digitally-based manufacturing techniques into their own production processes.

A vision to move forward

“Upgrading to new technologies can seem like a complex and daunting task. SMEs can miss out on significant improvements to their operations,”​ said Donna Edwards, programme director for the North West adoption pilot.

“With a bespoke digital manufacturing roadmap, we are able to provide the manufacturers a vision of how to move forward progressively and sustainably.”

The workshops encompass the Made Smarter Leadership Programme – developed in partnership with Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) – to help SMEs confidently pursue smarter manufacturing processes. They also explore digital technology internships to bring a fresh perspective and new skills into the business; offers specialist advice; and provides information on how to get funding from the programme for new digital tools, such as data and systems integration, robotics and automation, and additive manufacturing.

Holistic view, honest advice

“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.”

The fully-funded workshops involve 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 challenges.

The output – together with subsequent sessions with Made Smarter digital technology advisers – are used to develop a digital transformation strategy tailored to the specific needs of the business.

Upon completion, the SME will be provided with a printable wall graphic to ensure everyone in the company is brought along on the journey.

“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,”​ added Edwards.

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