SME manufacturers in the North West are using data and system integration technology as the driving force behind their digital transformation and growth ambitions, new analysis from Made Smarter reveals.

More than half (159) of the 275 technology projects supported by Made Smarter’s North West adoption programme, including 23 in Cumbria, focussed on digital technologies which connect disparate systems and unify data residing in different sources.

As a result of integrating systems and consolidating data sources, business leaders have achieved real-time visualisation of their processes, been able to spot trends in production and labour, correct maintenance and quality issues, and minimise safety, business risk and operational downtime throughout their production.

One in five are adopting robotics and process control automation, while seven per cent are investing in Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), using sensors to collect critical production data to gain valuable insights about the efficiency of operations.

Others are adopting additive manufacturing to reduce waste and fast track prototyping, while some are using immersive technologies to add value to their services.

Alain Dilworth, Programme Manager for the Made Smarter’s North West adoption programme, said: “Data and analytics are central to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, so it is encouraging that so many of this region's makers are embracing the opportunities that these tools offer.

“Capturing the data from across their processes and bringing it all together in one place is a vital first step for many manufacturers looking to solve problems and recognise opportunities. It also becomes a platform for the next step, one which some are already taking, is to analyse the data using artificial intelligence.”

Among those reaping the benefits are The Cumbria Clock Company in Penrith, which maintains 1,000 church and public clocks. The solution has increased productivity and efficiency, cut costs and reduced its carbon footprint.

The benefits of technology adoption will be showcased by Made Smarter’s team of experts at the forthcoming Smart Factory Expo in Liverpool, the industry's biggest free-to-attend digital manufacturing show running on Wednesday and Thursday (November 16 and 17).

Alain Dilworth said: “The Made Smarter team are relishing the opportunity to demonstrate the impact of our grant funding, skills training and leadership advice on the 2,500 businesses we have helped over the last four years and start conversations with a whole host of SME manufacturers about how we can help them.”