Made Smarter North West reveals a fresh cohort of leadership programme graduates

Food and drink manufacturers are now empowered with the vision, skills and drive to pursue smarter manufacturing through Made Smarter’s innovative leadership programmes.

Made Smarter, a government-funded industry-led initiative to increase technology adoption among SME manufacturers, offers funded access to its Leading Digital Transformation (LDT) programme and Leading Change for Digital Champions (LCDC) programmes.

So far 125 participants, hailing from across the spectrum of the manufacturing workforce, from managers to production operatives, have graduated from the programmes.

Among the latest to graduate from the LDT programme are: Tom Fletcher, managing director of First Play Dietary Foods, a specialist food manufacturer, based in Stockport; and Graham Sarath, director of strategic growth at Happy Drinks Company, a manufacturer of clean-label soft drinks, based in Bootle.

LDT, which is delivered over three months with Manchester Metropolitan University (Manchester Met), blends face-to-face workshops, online webinars, case studies to see technology in action, and a site visit to PrintCity, Manchester Met’s 3D additive and digital manufacturing centre. Since last year, the programme has turned 34 delegates into digitally-informed, empowered leaders, armed with a bespoke digitalisation strategy.

LCDC is delivered using a bite-size, blended approach consisting of two face-to-face workshops, online coaching, a site visit to an SME manufacturer to see the impact of digital change first-hand, as well as a chance to see the latest digital technologies at an Amazon fulfilment centre. The programme has so far created a network of 29 advocates to guide others and support the impactful and lasting changes digital technologies will bring.

This is in addition to the 62 business leaders equipped with new digital skills through Made Smarter’s trailblazing leadership initiative run between 2019 and 2023.

Manufacturers across the North West are now being encouraged to register their interest for the next series of programmes.

Commenting on his experience, Tom Fletcher from First Play said: “The leadership programme helped me identify the need for embedding digital champions across the business to smooth the change we are undertaking. It has also taught me of the value of engaging with stakeholders outside the business. The time away from the hustle and bustle of manufacturing has also been important. It has enabled me to reassess and refine our mission, vision and values. Lots of things have changed in the last few years and we are moving into an important period of growth.

“As we start to look forward to new technologies, this leadership programme has been really helpful in cementing our strategy. I just wish I had done it earlier.”

Meanwhile, Graham Sarath at Happy Drinks said: “The leadership programme has been fantastic. It has highlighted the importance of planning and strategy, specifically when identifying and engaging with your internal stakeholders.

“That was a light bulb moment. Getting your team on board with change so they felt they owned it as much as you did, has had a huge impact. Inclusion and communication is vital for the next stage of our digital transformation.”

Ruth Hailwood, Made Smarter’s organisation and workforce development specialist adviser, said: “Our Leading Digital Transformation programme and Leading Change for Digital Champions programmes work hand in hand to support SME manufacturers to take their entire organisation and people through digital transformation successfully and maximise the opportunities for their business.”

To learn more about how Made Smarter supports SME manufacturers to become digital leaders download our white paper.

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