SME manufacturers, supported by Made Smarter in their drive to digitalise, are upskilling workers to create the teams of tomorrow. Brainboxes is among more than 1,200 businesses working with the Made Smarter Adoption programme in the North West to introduce digital tools and technologies to help boost productivity and growth, and navigate the impact of Covid-19.

Among these, 160 businesses have secured matched funding to develop projects using technologies which enable them to integrate systems, capture and analyse data, and even create simulations of their plants and processes. Others are using 3D-printing, automation, and robotics to solve business challenges and meet increased demand.

These manufacturers are upskilling 1,822 roles to meet the demands of these emerging technologies and ensure successful digital transformation. SME leaders are also navigating the cultural challenges of digitalisation: good digital leadership; bringing the team along on the journey; effective communication of the benefits of change; capturing the technical skills and know-how of older workers before they leave the industry; attracting new digital talent into the organisation; and plugging skills gaps.

“There was scepticism among our production staff about what a robot would do to their livelihoods, but the Made Smarter team were extremely good at helping us understand what the benefit was and communicate that to our workforce,” Luke Walsh, managing director of Brainboxes, said. “Now my production staff are not saying to me ‘the robot has taken my job’ but suggesting where the technology could also be adopted. Taking the right approach has converted digitalisation sceptics into champions in our business.”

Made Smarter is supporting manufacturers in a variety of ways to meet these challenges, including organisation and workforce development (OWD) advice to enhance business performance through people, and a leadership programme designed to equip managers and directors with the strategic view and the skills needed to pursue smarter manufacturing. Digital technology internships are helping embed digital natives with fresh perspectives into a business, while digital transformation workshops can identify the challenges associated with going digital and develop a bespoke roadmap for technology implementation.

“Technologies are tools, but digitalisation is all about connecting systems and processes and sharing data to inform decisions made by people,” Ruth Hailwood, organisational and workforce development specialist adviser for Made Smarter, said. “Empowering staff on the front line is vital to a successful digital transformation, so manufacturers need to have or work to create a culture that is open to change and looking to grow and innovate. This will ensure the buy-in and support of the team, which alongside the right skill sets, good digital leadership, and effective communication, will make sure everyone shares the same vision and people can reap the benefits of using these new tools effectively.”

Read more of our news stories here!