Two furniture manufacturers are among 60 firms pursuing smarter manufacturing through Made Smarter’s innovative leadership programme.

Pendle Doors, based in Darwen, Lancashire, and Inscape Interiors, a manufacturer of commercial cubicles, washrooms and fitted furniture, based in Chorley, Lancashire, were among the trailblazing businesses to embark on the programme.

Sixty digital leaders now have the vision and the skills after managers and directors at SME manufacturing companies completed the Made Smarter Leadership Programme through the Lancaster University Management School (LUMS), the University of Liverpool (UoL) and Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).

The programme encourages current and future leaders to develop a new way of looking at their business and create a clear strategy to enable the adoption of digital technology, including how that can drive the net zero agenda.

It uses a blend of workshops delivered by academics and experts in digital and leadership, 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.

The programme also uses peer-to-peer coaching to create a trusted network of leaders, many of whom have remained in close contact.

With 60 SME leaders now empowered to transform their businesses, manufacturers across the north-west of England are now being encouraged to register their interest for the next intakes, starting on January 11 at Lancaster University.

“I am delighted that the Leadership Programme has helped create 60 new digital leaders by giving them 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,” said Donna Edwards, director of the Made Smarter Adoption Programme in the north-west.

“I would encourage SME manufacturers to make contact with Made Smarter to find out how we can help with leadership development, skills, and how to adopt technology the right way.”

The programme, which takes place over eight months, includes seven workshops led by both academics delivering leading edge thinking and business practitioners demonstrating adoption in real business settings.

Delegates will also embark on ‘sprints’ where they will test their ideas with other business leaders to build engagement and learn from each other.

“We know that digitalisation is going to be important for the future and that is what’s going to give us scalability and sustainability,” said Paul Mills, strategy director of Inscape Interiors, commenting on his company’s participation in the programme.

“Small companies know digitalisation is important but don’t know how to hang it all together. There are disparate silos, and we are wondering how you join the dots. Site visits are really important because what you have is a company that has gone through the process and can show you the route.”

“When we co-created the Leadership Programme with Made Smarter, our hope was to create a space for leaders to build their confidence, capacity and capability, to identify, test and adopt new technologies,” said Professor Angus Laing, dean of Lancaster University Management School. “It is clear from the feedback from so many of the leaders who have now embarked on this programme that they have reaped great benefit.”