“There is no doubt that without investing when we did, in the way that we did, with the help from Made Smarter, we would not be able to cope with this unprecedented increase in demand.”
Made Smarter, a scheme designed to help SMEs move towards automation and digitalisation has found a foothold in the food and drink industry. The scheme offers advice and support to businesses across any industry to assist the digitisation process. Some food companies that have found success with the scheme include Classic Desserts, Simply Doughnuts, the chocolatier Ye Olde Friars, protein bar manufacturer Nutree Life, and Lancashire Farm Dairies, among many more.
Donna Edwards, director for the Made Smarter adoption programme in the North West, said:
“We have been surprised by the level of interest from the food and drink sector. We thought we would have more interest more quickly from automotive, aerospace and chemicals, but the food and drink sector has been really positive and found us quickly. We think some of the reasons for that were that the sector does not have specific programmes targeted at it, whereas other sectors do and have done for a number of years.”
Patrick Mroczak, the co-founder and CEO of NutreeLife, spoke about the benefits that investing in automation via Made Smarter had for his business:
“With other food producers cutting ranges to focus on volume, customers are looking for alternatives, which has created an opportunity for us. Orders from all areas of the business have increased, which means we are producing more. There is no doubt that without investing when we did, in the way that we did, with the help from Made Smarter, we would not be able to cope with this unprecedented increase in demand.”
Made Smarter’s pilot originated in the north west of England in 2018. Since then, it has rolled out to Yorkshire & Humber, the West Midlands and the North East, with the hope of nationwide expansion if further government funding is secured.
The scheme focuses on the dual power of technology and upskilling in order to drive the automation process: “The pilot trials a number of things,” said Ms Edwards. “We have a leadership and management programme in partnership with Lancaster University Business School to help leaders get that knowledge and understanding to give them the confidence to start to look at how they could apply technology in their business. We also have an internship programme, where we are using graduates who are undertaking technology-related subjects. That could be robotics, data, IT and how we place them in SMEs to work with them to identify areas where they could adapt technology, but also to work with the workforce to upskill them to be able to use that technology once it’s in place.”