The scheme helps businesses boost productivity and growth using digital tools. Small to medium-sized manufacturers across sectors have secured £4.6M matched funding for 241 projects, worth £16M after private sector investment.
The Government-funded and industry-led initiative said the 200 business milestone had been hit in part by the engagement of food and drink manufacturers.
Among the latest wave of manufacturers to use technology to benefit their business were: Ennerdale Brewery, a craft beer maker in Rowrah; English Lakes Ice Cream in Kendal; and Firstplay Dietary Foods, a low protein product maker in Stockport.
Fitzpatrick Bourne Flexible, which makes filter materials for pyramid tea bags in Rossendale; Morrow Brothers, a brewery container repair and refurbishment specialist in Chorley; Mantle Packaging Machinery, a food packaging machinery manufacturer in Clitheroe; and CoolKit, a specialist manufacturer of temperature controlled vehicles in Burnley, had also benefited.
Earlier this year it was revealed that potato producer Flyde Fresh and fabulous, chocolate manufacturer Ye Olde Friars and cake and pudding maker Classic Desserts were among the latest businesses to sign up to the north west Made Smarter Adoption programme.
Kendal Nutricare, based in Kendal, which makes nutrition products including infant formulas and baby cereals, used Made Smarter's digital internship programme to prove the business case for employing a data analyst to harness the value of data collected in its factory.
Grant Remington, projects & contracts manager, at Kendal Nutricare said: "The internship through Made Smarter was a roaring success. He analysed our site data highlighting areas to improve. Made Smarter then supported us to invest in a data and systems project for a new ERP system to control the site, monitor stock levels and give the business an enriched way to forecast, which we have started to implicate.”
Dewlay Cheesemakers, based in Garstang, invested in a new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system to manage all its factory processes including purchasing, sales, bill of materials, production scheduling. It introduced touchscreens and mobile scanners to manage the flow and usage of stock throughout the factory.
Ben Ardern, financial controller at Dewlay Cheesemakers, said: “This has allowed us to greatly improve our traceability of products, as well as having up to date production information and more accurate stock. The data captured also allows the business to better see factory efficiencies and yields.
“The funding from Made Smarter allowed the business to look at a wider range of product offerings and choose the system that was the best fit for the business. Without this, and the uncertainty that the pandemic brought, the business may not have taken the plunge to make such a wide impacting change.”
Small to medium-sized manufacturers across sectors that have secured £4.6M have included technologies that integrate systems, capture and analyse data, and even create simulations of their plants and processes to increase efficiency and reduce waste.
Meanwhile, 3D-printing, automation, and robotics are being used to solve business challenges and meet increased demand.
These investments are forecasting the creation of 1,177 new jobs and 2,205 upskilled roles, and are forecast to deliver an additional £192.9m in gross value added (GVA) for the North West economy over the next three years.
Launched in the North West
Juergen Maier CBE, co-chair of Made Smarter, said: "We launched Made Smarter in the North West three years ago with the ambitious aim to kick start an adoption programme for digital technologies among small and medium-sized enterprises, strengthened by leadership training and harnessing talent within universities.
“It is clear from the unequivocal success we are seeing in the North West, and the positive effect adoption programmes in the West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber, and the North East are having that we are starting to grasp the multitude of opportunities that innovation and digital technologies offer.
"It is clear that for the UK manufacturing sector to thrive and become a world leader, we now need to roll out Made Smarter nationwide and with a stronger ambition.”