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Manchester Metropolitan University and The University of Liverpool join Lancaster University in supporting SME manufacturers to gain digital leadership skills to grow their organisation through technology

An innovative leadership programme equipping business leaders with the vision and the skills to pursue smarter manufacturing is being rolled out to leading universities in the North West.

The Made Smarter Leadership Programme, developed in partnership with Lancaster University Management School (LUMS), is a blend of workshops, site visits to SME manufacturers who are already on the journey of adopting digital technology, facilitated-learning sessions, and special project sprints to test new ideas.

With 22 leaders already empowered to transform their individual businesses, Lancaster University is readying for its third intake on October 22, while the University of Liverpool and Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) will begin delivering the programme on November 4 and 12 respectively.

The roll-out gives more SME leaders, based in Cheshire and Warrington, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and the Liverpool City Region, the opportunity to learn the strategies to support the adoption of hi-tech and digitally-based manufacturing techniques into their own production processes. It also explores organisational culture and how to engage and enthuse employees and other stakeholders about their digital transformation journey.

Sarah Poynter, operations manager at Arden Dies, the Stockport-based die and tooling manufacturer, has signed up for the programme.

She said: “As a company we are at the start of a transformational journey. We have always invested in the best technology and machinery, but there are historic challenges that need our focus if we are to capitalise on the next stage of our growth.

“I was drawn to the Made Smarter Leadership Programme because it combines leading academic expertise with practical activities to apply that knowledge into our business.

“I am looking forward to connecting and collaborating with other leaders from different types of business and learning how they do things.

“Digitalisation should be the focus for all manufacturers and this programme is the perfect place to start.”

With social distancing measures likely to stay in place for the foreseeable future, the programme will initially be delivered predominantly online with a view to move to face-to-face workshops when this is safe to implement.

These include seven workshops led by both academics delivering leading edge thinking and business practitioners demonstrating adoption in real business settings.

Through the programme delegates will also embark on ‘sprints’ where they would test their ideas with employees from the business to build engagement and learning from each other.

Site visits will also be conducted virtually, until it is safe to do in-person.

For the Lancaster cohort they include Runcorn-based Hosokawa Micron, a manufacturer and supplier of powder processing systems and equipment which has transformed its production performance through the application of digital technologies, and Veka, a Burnley-based manufacturer of PVCu window systems.

The Liverpool cohort will also gain vital insights from visits with Hosokawa Micron as well as The Materials Innovation Factory, the centre of excellence at the University of Liverpool which is part-funded by Unilever and provides a collaborative workspace for academics and industry to share open innovations, robotic tech and digital capabilities to accelerate R&D.

Manchester Metropolitan University will be working with Hoskawa Micron, and additionally with Bindatex, an advanced manufacturing business based in Bolton, who have already benefited from the Made Smarter programme, introducing data analysis technologies for enhanced production tracking. MMU will also inspire the cohort by showcasing some of the local initiatives including the 3D printing at PrintCity and the AI Foundry.

Donna Edwards, director of the Made Smarter North West adoption pilot, said: “The Made Smarter Leadership Programme has been a success story, giving 22 of the region’s leaders the vital tools and insight to accelerate the adoption of advanced digital technologies within their business.

“The roll out of the programme means more SME manufacturers will have the opportunity to take time out of their business to reflect on the bigger picture and share ideas and experiences alongside their peers in manufacturing, and then return to their own business and develop a digital strategy to create growth and efficiencies.”

Professor Angus Laing, Dean of Lancaster University Management School, said: “To secure the roll out of this innovative programme we developed in partnership with Made Smarter further reinforces Lancaster’s outstanding reputation for devising and delivering world-class business leadership development.

“While the way that the programme is taught has changed, with sessions being completed virtually, the  feedback from delegates is that the new approach has worked very well. In fact, we hope that the flexibility offered by the new format will encourage more leaders to sign up.”

Dr Benito Giordano, Senior Lecturer in Innovation Management and lead academic on the Made Smarter programme at the University of Liverpool, said: “We are very pleased to be involved in delivering the Made Smarter Leadership Programme along with colleagues from Lancaster and MMU.

“This is a great opportunity for us to work closely with a cohort of innovative local small and medium sized businesses to help them deliver digital transformation to drive further growth.”

Mandy Parkinson, Head of Business and Public Engagement at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “The Made Smarter Leadership Programme will provide vital support to business leaders at such a critical time. Since 2015, Manchester Metropolitan has supported more than 1,000 SMEs in areas including growth, innovation and resilience and we are looking forward to seeing the difference our range of expertise will make to many businesses across the region.

“This innovative programme builds on our expertise in delivering practical programmes aimed at helping business owners to successfully develop their company and grow themselves as modern leaders.”

Registration for the next Leadership Programme is now open. For more information or to apply for your place visit madesmarter.uk

Why not join our informal Q&A session with our Made Smarter project team, to help you find out about the programme and how it can support you and your small business? It’s on 4, November at 12.30.

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