The director of a firm which designs and manufactures accessories for 4x4 vehicles has spoken about how the migration from paper to digital has transformed her business.

Julia Buchanan, director of N & J Aluminium Linings, based in Clitheroe, said her firm had always been reluctant to engage with digital transformation but after undertaking a leadership programme with Made Smarter, feels she’s now armed with the vision, skills and drive to pursue smarter manufacturing.

Ms Buchanan said: “Digital transformation was something we had been reluctant to engage with, having grown used to the paper-based ways of doing things.

“Made Smarter has changed all of that.

“We have engaged in digital projects which will improve our sales order and quotation; upgraded our design software; and invested in a design apprentice.

“Meanwhile, the leadership programme has taught me about the importance of involving the whole team in identifying improvements because their working perspective is as valuable as our management perspective.”

N & J Aluminium Linings, is among the latest 125 companies to graduate from the Leading Digital Transformation (LDT) programme run by Made Smarter, a government-funded industry-led initiative to increase technology adoption among SME (small and medium sized enterprises) manufacturers.

LDT, which is delivered over three months with Manchester Metropolitan University, 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.

Meanwhile, the Leading Change for Digital Champions (LCDC) programme 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 warehouse.

Since launching in 2019, Made Smarter has supported 2,500 manufacturers in the North West to access expert, impartial technology advice, digital transformation workshops to help take that first step to transform a business, and support with technology adoption projects.

It has also supported 284 businesses with skills and leadership advice and training.

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

Ruth Hailwood, Made Smarter's organisation and workforce development specialist adviser, said: “Made Smarter has taken a people-first approach to helping SME manufacturers adopt technology tools to take their businesses forward.

“Ultimately, accelerating changes to leadership and skills within the industry, especially with SMEs, will make the biggest difference to achieving successful digital transformation and reaping the benefits for UK manufacturing economically, socially and environmentally.”