A manufacturing firm in Liverpool City Region has signed up to a business-led programme which aims to use digital technology to boost growth and success. By implementing advances in data analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), 3D-printing and robotics, firms can enhance their profitability and competitive edge. The investment is expected to bring extensive benefits including improved productivity and revenues, increased export sales, job creation, providing new skills to workforces, integration with supply chains and reduced environmental impact. Blends Holdings, based in Knowsley, is among 11 businesses in the North West which are set to introduce advanced manufacturing methods. The businesses which operate in the food and beverage, engineering, healthcare and agriculture sectors, will benefit from the £20 million Made Smarter Programme, which will help them to grow by adopting new digital technologies. Minister for Business and Industry Nadhim Zahawi said: “The Made Smarter Programme is enabling manufacturers across the North West to access advanced digital technologies with the aim of driving growth and increasing productivity while reducing costs – all part of our ambition to make the UK a global leader in shaping how the modern world does business. “The 11 new companies announced today will not only reap the benefits themselves, the investment will support a multi-million-pound boost to the local economy, keeping the region at the forefront of the latest innovations. They join 24 businesses who have received project funding to date, and I would urge others to follow in their footsteps.” For these 11 businesses alone, the Made Smarter business support programme could deliver an additional £13M in gross value added (GVA) for the North West economy over the next three years. Over the last 21 years, Blends Holdings has established itself as one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of specialist food ingredients. It is investing in Industry 4.0 technologies to kick start the next stage of its growth. Michael Rowark, Operations Director, said: “A digital software package to handle and manage the stock, process and accounts information would replace highly manual – often duplicated – tasks of data recording and entry into a single operation ensuring high efficiencies and accuracy of the current state of the production process for the business. “This system will also provide the support needed to automate future processes that we want to explore, such as automating their bottling lines, and forms the backbone for our future digital expansions.” The new firms to sign up to Made Smarter follow a pioneering tranche of nine manufacturers already part of the pilot, which aims to engage with over 3,000 manufacturing SMEs in the North West. Donna Edwards, Director of the Made Smarter North West pilot, said: “I am thrilled to welcome another tranche of SMEs to the Made Smarter pilot. “Working with business we have found that they are enthusiastic about the benefits of adopting new digital technology. Often, they need funding support, but also the specialist advice and insight to help them select the right approach for their business. “This is exactly how Made Smarter can and is helping businesses across the region. “It’s been interesting to see the range of businesses and sub-sectors the successful applicants have come from and the technologies they have selected. “Made Smarter is relevant for any North West SMEs employing less than 250 staff who make, create, manufacture or engineer and I urge local businesses not to miss this opportunity. Register today for a fully-funded audit of your operations.” Simon Reid, Head of Advanced Manufacturing at the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “It is great to see companies like Blends Holdings embracing digital technologies and I am delighted they have joined a cohort of over 300 SMEs in the Liverpool City Region implementing 4IR technologies to improve productivity, improve efficiency and become more resource efficient” “It is also pleasing to see companies from Knowsley, one of the areas within the Liverpool City Region with the greatest concentrations of manufacturing and engineering businesses, getting on board with Made Smarter.” “Any Liverpool City Region based manufacturing or engineering SME that would like to explore using digitisation to improve business processes, and ultimately improve profitability, can access support from Made Smarter via their local Growth Hub representative. “We have made a great start but we would like to see many, many more.” Up to 600 North West firms will also qualify for more in-depth support including mentoring from senior industry figures, a leadership and management programme specifically designed to support leaders to implement digital change, and match-funded grants towards the cost of new software or hardware.