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New digital skills grow Cheshire and Warrington manufacturing

Business Support News
Technoprint have completed the leadership programme

3 SME leaders become first to complete innovative Made Smarter Leadership Programme, delivered by Lancaster University Management School

Cheshire and Warrington business leaders are now armed with the vision and the skills to pursue smarter manufacturing after completing Made Smarter’s innovative leadership programme.

The three leaders of SME manufacturers, based in Cheshire, are among 10 from the North West who are the first to graduate an innovate programme run in collaboration with Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) and Made Smarter, the industry and government partnership driving manufacturing productivity and growth through digital technology.

The 8-month programme involved a mixture of workshops, site-visits to other manufacturers, including Veka, Hosokawa Micron and Senator, who are already on the journey of adopting digital technology, and special project sprints – delivered by Siemens Digital Industries – to test new ideas.

Delegates unanimously agreed that the programme had given them the impetus to take vital time away from the business to develop the strategic view to support the adoption of hi-tech and digitally-based manufacturing techniques into their own production processes and taught them how to successfully bring employees and other stakeholders along on their digital transformation journey.

The cohort from Cheshire included: Alan Ryan, Managing Director of Technoprint, based in Winsford; Gerry Weston, Peter Phillips, IT Director for Abbey England in Knutsford; and Alex Lattimer, Sheet and Specialty Materials Director for Flexitallic in Ellesmere Port.

Peter Phillips from Abbey England, a manufacturer of leather and brassware for the equestrian and leather goods market, used the programme to aid structural changes in the company and identify new methods of 3D scanning and 3D printing which could half the company’s manufacturing lead time.

He said: “The leadership programme has been an inspirational experience. It isn’t often you get the time to step away from the business to think about how you are running it. SMEs tend to operate in an isolated bubble. It was a valuable experience to meet other leaders from different types of businesses and seeing how they do things and feeling reassured that even much larger organisations have the same challenges. For any other SMEs wondering where to start with digitalisation, I absolutely recommend this programme. Not only does it arm you with the basics about the technologies that could help you, but it gives you the tools to bring them into your business.

Alan Ryan, Managing Director of Technoprint, a printer specialising in supplying patient information leaflets to the pharmaceutical industry, said: “This programme enabled me to get away from the office once a month to meet with and network with like-minded people and talk through our challenges and ambitions. Through the programme we have developed a shared vision and strategy which gives purpose to every decision we make. We have adopted new technologies which will clean up our data and eliminate manual processes which have hampered accurate decision-making. We also have a vision to move from just a manufacture to a service company, integrating with our customers and supply chain – something I never thought possible before I started the leadership programme. I would encourage other SME manufacturers to use this programme as a starting point. Industry 4.0 sounds big and scary to most small and medium business, and it’s easy to bury your head in the sand. This programme gives you the opportunity to talk through your fears, arm yourself with vital knowledge and understanding to make sensible decisions about the future of your business – to start small and gather momentum.”

The programme kicked off with a two-day residential to enable the cohort to get to know each another and introduced the principles behind responsible leadership and what this means to their business.

Over the course of the eight months delegates attended six workshops led by both academics delivering leading edge thinking and business practitioners demonstrating adoption in real business settings.

The workshops topics included: setting the strategic context; stakeholder engagement; audit processes; performance management; scoping and leading change; and implementing change.

During the programme, delegates attended three site visits and workshops with manufacturers who have already adopted new technologies.

Through the programme delegates would also embark on ‘sprints’ where they would test their ideas with another delegates’ business to build engagement and learning from each other.

Donna Edwards, Director of the North West Made Smarter pilot, said: “I’m delighted that the Made Smarter Leadership programme has made such a positive impact on the first cohort of business leaders in the North West. It has given leaders crucial time out of their business to reflect on the bigger picture and share ideas and experiences alongside their peers in manufacturing. They have been taught about the wide-ranging digital tools available to them and the potential impact they can have on their business’s growth and competitiveness. This pioneering group of leaders have been able to create a digitalisation strategy to explore how technology can improve business performance, as well as develop the leadership skills needed to manage operational change and employee expectations.

Professor Angus Laing, Dean of Lancaster University Management School, said: “The feedback from the first cohort of the Made Smarter leadership programme has been incredibly positive, re-enforcing Lancaster’s outstanding reputation for devising and delivering world-class business leadership development. Via a mixture of workshops delivered by academics and experts in the digitalisation and leadership, and site visits to companies, including Veka, Hosokawa Micron and Senator, where delegates were able to see advanced technology in practice, participants have been empowered to transform their individual businesses.”

Registration for the next Leadership Programme is now open. Applicants have until January 29th to apply ahead of induction on February 25th.

Find out more about the leadership programme here

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