SME manufacturers supported by Made Smarter are using technology to save pounds and the planet. Businesses working with the technology adoption programme are investing in new machinery and digital tools to make their buildings, equipment, manufacturing and transport processes more efficient, use less energy, and produce less waste.
Additionally, some manufacturers are supplementing this with measures like switching to LED lighting in their factories to slash electricity bills; and investing in renewable energy sources and biomass boilers to power their plants.
As a result, manufacturers are reducing costs, boosting profit margins, and increasing competitiveness, helping them navigate the impact of the Covid-19 crisis, and paving a path to recovery and growth with a new resilience.
The 187 technology projects supported by Made Smarter are forecast to deliver an additional £147.8M in gross value added (GVA) for the North West economy over the next three years.
The drive towards a more sustainable approach to manufacturing is reducing the businesses’ carbon footprint and impact on the environment, helping the UK achieve its ambitious net zero target by 2050.
Donna Edwards, North West Adoption Programme Director at Made Smarter, said: “Climate change can no longer be ignored. The manufacturing industry, together with the transport and storage industries, produce 15% of the UK’s greenhouse gases.
“Manufacturers are facing pressure to become more sustainable from their own employees, customers, the government, investors, and wider communities.
“Technology has played an incredibly important part in enabling businesses to navigate the pandemic and recover. There is no doubt that digital tools are also key to addressing the challenge of decarbonisation and help the UK achieve its net-zero aim.
“Digitalisation offers a huge opportunity for manufacturers to deliver operational efficiencies, decarbonise heat and power, optimise design and materials, and improve logistics and transport, benefitting their business, their bottom line and the environment.
“It is encouraging that so many Made Smarter supported manufacturers have started this journey and found the sustainability sweet spot between these economic, social, and environmental goals.”
Creative Apparel, a Stockport based clothing manufacturer, has ambitious plans to build a new state-of- the-art factory combining renewable energy sources and full digitalisation where a central IT system drives and measures smart machinery, linking production through to its customers and supply chain.
Made Smarter is supporting data and systems integration to automate the process from receiving orders right through to production management and dispatch; and the development of a bespoke software which uses artificial intelligence (AI) tools to respond quicker and more effectively to fast fashion trends.
Creative Apparel’s ambition is to quadruple production capacity, increase productivity by 30%, and reduce waste by 20%.
Managing Director Phil Millar said: “The fast fashion industry suffers from a reputation as one of the most damaging to the environment due to the amount of waste generated during the production process and the throw-away nature of many of the products. We want to help address that by becoming a leader for change in the sector by putting sustainability at the heart of our production processes.
“By introducing digital technology and tools that reduce waste and consume less energy we want to prove that you can help save the planet and can save money.
“Accessing support from Made Smarter is helping us accelerate faster towards our vision.”
Bloom-in-Box, an eco-friendly plastics manufacturer based in Burscough, is using robotics and process control technology to increase productivity by at least 25% and improve quality control, reliability and repeatability when moulding components, reducing the number of rejects and waste.
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 environmentally friendly 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.”
Bloom wants to move towards carbon neutrality with a focus on its machinery and investing in renewables like solar panels.
“We have always invested in electric moulding machines because they use up to 80% less power compared with counterparts,” David added. “Software managing drives and motors in the new machine will reduce energy use by up to 20%. This is a huge saving in both CO2 and the energy bill.”
Crystal Doors, a manufacturer of bespoke vinyl wrapped furniture components based in Rochdale, has engaged with Made Smarter’s digital transformation workshop process to identify the opportunities for technology to overcome the business challenges.
The fully-funded bespoke process involved working with an impartial adviser to analyse the business’s product, services, processes and people, and develop a digital transformation plan tailored to the needs of the business.
Crystal Doors also tapped into Made Smarter’s digital technology internship programme, which links tech savvy students and postgraduates with SME manufacturers.
Crystal is using the three-month funded intern to implement a network of sensors that will give the business full visualisation to gain insights into how its machines are performing and identify potential efficiencies.
Ben Horn, Digital Transformation Programme Manager, said: “We have been on a journey towards carbon neutrality since 2015 and are on course to achieve that ambition by 2022. We want to prove that becoming carbon neutral is possible for SMEs not just for the big companies, and that it is an approach that can be cash flow positive.
“By capturing data from all your operations, you can create a full picture that is not just estimation or guesswork, but cold hard facts that allows you to make informed decisions that enable a more efficient factory and positive for the environment.
“Working with Made Smarter has really given us the confidence that we can make these advancements and still have a profitable future.”
DA Techs, a Chorley-based alloy wheel refurbishment specialist, also worked with Made Smarter on projects to capture operational data to enable full visibility, and identified efficiencies which enabled the business to expand capacity by 55%.
Jamie Baxter, Director, said: “While our motivation is increasing efficiency and profitability, becoming a greener, more sustainable business is an additional benefit.
“Working with Made Smarter changed our mindset. Once you start to see gains, sometimes big, sometimes granular, you start looking for more.”
Other Made Smarter supported manufacturers are using technology to reduce their transport emissions.
The Cumbria Clock Company, a clock repair and restoration specialist based in Penrith, is introducing a bespoke digital management system to give the business oversight with the ambition of increasing productivity and efficiency, cutting costs and reducing its carbon footprint.
Keith Scobie-Youngs, Director, said: “This new system will significantly improve our efficiency to plan routes and combine service visits with call backs and inspections, and reduce annual mileage by 30,000. This would not only save a significant sum of money, but reduce its emissions by 11%, the equivalent to 12 tonnes of carbon, which is very important to me.
“Made Smarter has not only accelerated that to now but opened our eyes to so many possibilities which could transform our business from reactive and regular service and repair to a proactive data-driven service provider.”
Parity Medical, a manufacturer of mobile wireless computer carts and specialist clinical computing devices based on the Wirral, is also expecting to reduce travel time, costs, and carbon emissions by 11%.
Working with Made Smarter, it has invested in an off-the-shelf software package which will enable sales staff and customers to have a meeting using an online virtual showroom. The solution also integrates with the company’s administrative, sales and production systems.
Parity Medical believes the solution could reduce travel by 30,000 miles and cut its carbon emissions by 11 tonnes per year. It will also significantly accelerate the initial sales demonstration process from two days to just one hour.
Steve Wood, Managing Director, said: “The technology will transform our sales process, removing delays and errors, allowing us to get it right the first time – which will make us significantly more efficient. This will increase productivity and accelerate the business’s growth.
“The reduced travel translates into lower carbon emissions at a time when sustainability is increasingly important to the industry.”
As well as offering free, impartial expert advice, Made Smarter has produced a free guide to help SME manufacturers take their first steps in reducing carbon emissions and become more sustainable.