Two food businesses are among the first recipients of the Made Smarter Awards which recognise excellence in manufacturing.
The scheme was launched to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Made Smarter adoption programme, a government-funded and industry-led initiative helping SME manufacturers to digitalise, decarbonise and drive growth.
158 businesses representing every section of the North West and a range of sectors have been recognised for their approach to digital transformation.
There are three levels of certification; bronze, silver, and gold, all of which are awarded depending on a recipient’s engagement and advocacy of the programme.
Among the first 19 ‘gold’ award winners are Firstplay Dietary Foods, based in Stockport, and The Bury Black Pudding Company, based in Bury. Silver awards have been given to 40 companies and bronze awards to 158.
Firstplay Dietary Foods, makes a range of low protein products such as breads, baking mixes, snacks and pasta for people with Phenylketonuria (PKU) and other metabolic conditions which leaves people unable to eat protein without damaging the brain and nervous system, which can lead to learning disabilities.
Made Smarter helped the business invest in new digital machinery, increasing its blending capacity, while replacing a manual weighing and packing process with automation.
As a result, the business has increased production capacity 10-fold, reduced human error and waste, and is forecast to increase turnover by 30%.
“For a small business like ours digital transformation is quite an overwhelming concept. Made Smarter’s support has been extremely valuable in helping us understand that solutions to our challenges exist and are within reach,” commented Tom Fletcher, Managing Director, Firstplay Dietary Foods. “We are thrilled to receive this award and will display it as a reminder of how far we’ve come and where we are heading.”
Speaking on the awards, Donna Edwards, Director of Made Smarter’s North West adoption programme, said: “The Made Smarter adoption programme is a huge success story for UK manufacturing. It has inspired leadership and evoked change in hundreds of businesses through technology and new skills.
“Digital transformation can be hard, particularly in the current climate and given the challenges the sector has faced in recent years, so it is right we recognise the hard work, dedication and forward-thinking nature of these businesses and their employees. They have embraced digitalisation to become a leading example of UK manufacturing excellence.
“We are delighted to launch our first Made Smarter Awards and hope that recipients will wear them like a badge of honour to inspire others around them.”
To date, the North West programme has provided support to over 2500 businesses. Its advisors have imparted expert, impartial technology advice and digital transformation workshops to help create a digital roadmap, skills support and leadership training, and grants towards technology projects.
Some businesses have adopted technologies that have enabled them to integrate systems, capture and analyse data, and even create simulations of their plants and processes. Others have adopted 3D-printing, automation, and robotics to solve business challenges and meet increased demand.
These investments in digitalisation have reportedly created 1300 new manufacturing jobs, upskilled 2400 existing roles and added over UK£209M in GVA for the North West economy. Businesses are also benefitting from improved productivity and revenue, increased exports and lower energy bills, and a reduced carbon footprint.
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