A Kendal manufacturer is tapping into digital talent to help put technology at the heart of its growth plans.

With many internships and placements being delayed or cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, Made Smarter – a national movement helping manufacturers in the North West to adopt digital technologies – is bucking the trend by offering undergraduates, masters and PhD students, and graduates from UK universities an opportunity to gain hands-on experience.

Kendal Nutricare, which makes nutrition products including infant formulas and baby cereals, has been able to use the intern programme to prove the business case for employing a data analyst to harness the value of the data being produced in its factory.

Alex Taylor, 22, of Kendal, is a recent masters graduate in intelligence systems.

He applied his knowledge of artificial intelligence and machine learning to the role.

Grant Remington, projects and contracts manager, said: "Over the years we have invested in leading edge machinery as part of our digitalisation journey.

"We knew there was a lot of valuable data coming out of our processes but didn't have the time or expertise to capture and analyse it.

"Alex has been a great asset to Kendal Nutricare, collating our onsite data, analysing and highlighting any data spikes we have accrued, enabling the correct departments to rectify ongoing issue.

"His work has highlighted bottlenecks which are causing production downtime and resulted in immediate opportunities to reduce our energy bills.

"The programme offered us the opportunity to trial and test the benefits of introducing the new role of data analyst into the company."

Alex said: “I was able to help the business achieve real results which was hugely satisfying.

"So often internships require a significant sacrifice from a student or postgraduate where you are working effectively for free to get that experience on your CV.

"With Made Smarter you get paid, which really take the pressure off and feels much more like a real job.”

Made Smarter, the industry-led, Government-backed national movement, has a wealth of students and graduates ready to take up the 480-hour internships which can be carried out through full-time or part-time options.

Donna Edwards, programme director for Made Smarter, said: “It has been fantastic to see so many talented students and post-graduates helping to realise the technology ambitions of many of the region’s SME manufacturers.

“It’s a win-win for the interns and manufacturers. Students and graduates gain industry knowledge, transferable skills and real-life experience, while being paid the national living wage, and businesses can benefit from a fully funded digital native to help them to understand how new technology can transform production.

“Internships and work placements are a vital tool for students making that transition from university to employment.

“The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of opportunities, and a lot of uncertainty as to what will be available in the future.

“Made Smarter has been successful in linking digital technology interns to manufacturers all over the North West and I would encourage undergraduates in their second and third year, postgraduates at any stage of their course and recent graduates from any UK university to register their interest.”