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Blease Engineering helps Made Smarter reach major milestone

A Warrington manufacturer has helped Made Smarter’s trailblazing technology adoption programme in the North West achieve a major milestone.

Three years on from its launch, the government-funded and industry-led initiative helping SMEs drive growth and decarbonise through digitalisation, has now supported its 200th business.

Blease Engineering, a manufacturer of precision machine components, sub-assemblies and fabrications in Warrington, has already experienced the benefits of Made Smarter support, but is now taking the next step in their digitalisation journey, using technology.

Coupled with support from Made Smarter to introduce technologies to reduce paper-based and manual systems and integrate its factory, Blease has adopted new inspection technology.

“With the help and advice of Made Smarter we have been able to imbed a layer of digitalisation that has transformed what we do here,” Andrew Franchi, Managing Director said. "It has given us the confidence to pursue continuous improvement and drive efficiencies throughout the business - one step at a time.”

22 SME manufacturers in the Cheshire and Warrington region have now secured £461k matched funding for 26 projects, worth £1.1M after private sector investment. 

These investments are forecasting the creation of 77 new jobs and 173 upskilled roles, and are forecast to deliver an additional £13.5M in gross value added (GVA) for the Cheshire and Warrington regional economy over the next three years. 

Technologies that integrate systems, capture and analyse data, and even create simulations of their plants and processes, are being used to drive efficiencies and reduce waste. Meanwhile, 3D-printing, automation, and robotics are being used to solve business challenges and meet increased demand.

Donna Edwards, Director of the Made Smarter Adoption Programme in the North West, said: 

“Over the last three years we have worked extremely hard to drive digital technology usage among makers across the North West. We have engaged with 1,381 SMEs in the region to help them start their digital journey by providing them with specialist advice to help them select the right approach, level of investment and tools for their business.

“We have seen huge success with Made Smarter-supported businesses reporting growth, productivity and efficiency gains, as well as upskilling their workforce and creating new high-value jobs. We’re also playing a crucial role in helping the UK grow sustainably and reach its ambitious aim of net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050. 

“Digitalisation enables businesses to find the sustainability sweet spot between these economic, social, and environmental goals. We look forward to continuing our drive to enable hundreds more manufacturers in Cheshire and Warrington, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, and Liverpool City Region to learn how digital transformation can help them recover, grow, and create resilience.”

Since launching in 2018, Made Smarter has engaged with 1,381 businesses from every corner of the region to help them introduce digital tools and technologies to help boost productivity and growth, navigate Covid-19, and tackle climate change.

Made Smarter has provided £4.6M matched funding for 200 businesses to invest in 241 projects, worth £16M after private sector investment, which will potentially create 1,177 new jobs, 2,205 upskilled roles, and an additional £192.9M in GVA.

670 have reaped the rewards of intensive support including expert, impartial technology advice, 248 have used digital transformation workshops to help take their first steps to transform their business, and 56 business leaders have developed the vision and the skills to pursue smarter manufacturing through the Made Smarter Leadership programme, developed in partnership with Lancaster University. 

Meanwhile, manufacturers have benefited from funded digital technology internships which offer students and graduates paid placements to work on live technology projects. 

Over 80% of SMEs working with Made Smarter to adopt cutting-edge technologies have seen a boost in productivity, while others have benefited from increase in revenue and exports, job creation and providing new skills to workforces, as well as improved visibility and enhanced integration with supply chains. More than 25% reduced their carbon emissions, while others cut energy bills, reduced waste, and became more environmentally sustainable.

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