Lancashire manufacturers urged to take strategic approach to digital transformation

Manufacturers in Lancashire are being urged to take a strategic approach to modernising with digital technology, or face being left behind.

Wednesday, 25th November 2020, 7:00 am

Research by Made Smarter has revealed that Lancashire manufacturers are risking wasted time, money and effort adopting digital technology without a strategic plan for digital transformation.

A survey exploring the awareness, attitudes and approach to digital technologies of 201 SMEs found huge appetite and motivation to introduce new digital tools into their operations.

Three quarters (75 per cent) claimed to have adopted new technology in the last three years, compared to 12 per cent who had not invested.

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Donna Edwards from Made Smarter

This was highest among micro-businesses (60 per cent).

But the survey also highlighted the lack of a strategic approach to technology with 55 per cent admitting technology was not part of their future vision and growth plan.

Further probing found that business leaders were more likely to upgrade existing technologies to maintain continuity rather than to improve productivity.

The research suggests too few are approaching the opportunities and challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in a planned, strategic manner.

Manufacturers must take a holistic approach to modernisation says Made Smarter

Donna Edwards, programme director for the Made Smarter North West pilot, says the answer to a successful digital transformation is a holistic approach.

“What is clear from our survey is that manufacturers recognise that digital tools and technology are essential to remain competitive, cut costs, increase growth, and enhance the customer experience, and without capitalising on the opportunities digital technology offers, they risk getting left behind,” she said.

“But it is also clear that too many makers have employed technology without the technical understanding of which areas to focus on first – which leads to disparate, disconnected equipment, and increases the risk of wasted time, money and effort.

"Whilst digital tools enable opportunities, it’s how we choose to use these that determines their success.”

Despite the clear appetite for technology adoption, barriers remain. The survey found the biggest were insufficient capital (50 per cent) and a need for guidance (44 per cent).

Many businesses also cited a lack of time as a reason why they hadn’t obtained business support or funding.

Made Smarter was designed to overcome this by helping manufacturers to navigate through complex technology advice and decisions. For more information visit

The initial registration with Made Smarter only takes five minutes. A three-hour digital transformation workshop will identify core challenges, provide a bespoke digital manufacturing roadmap, and pinpoint other ways that Made Smarter can support a maker’s digitalisation.

Glyn Jones, Service Delivery Director at BAE Systems and Chair of the Made Smarter Pilot Steering Group, said: “Using technology, manufacturers will become faster, more responsive and more efficient. This will play a vital role in delivering the recovery we so badly need in the wake of the pandemic and ensure our place at the heart of future manufacturing.

“The restrictions COVID-19 placed on all businesses have challenged us to make the previously impossible, now possible. Technology sceptics have now become champions. So-called ‘traditional’ industries have demonstrated a forward thinking mindset.

“Overcoming challenges has been as much about how we think differently as introducing new technologies, but one has to come with the other to be successful.”

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