Caption: From the left, Lorna Varney (Marketing Executive, Made Smarter West Midlands), Jit Gatcha (IDTS, Made Smarter, Black Country and Wolverhampton), Sarah Gambrall (Project Lead, Made Smarter West Midlands), Paul Sullivan (IDTS, Made Smarter, Coventry and Warwickshire) and Martyn Mangan (IDTS, Made Smarter, Worcestershire)

Digital technology specialists have been appointed across the West Midlands to boost productivity and growth as part of the £1.9 million Made Smarter programme.

The five experienced digital experts will be sharing their knowledge to improve the digital skills of employees to make a difference to the day-to-day operations of small and medium sized manufacturing and engineering businesses through a variety of ways including reducing costs, improving manufacturing times or helping to win more overseas contracts.

The region is divided into six Growth Hub areas. The Marches will be covered by Digital Technology Specialist Barry Jones, Worcestershire by Martyn Mangan, Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire by Tim Kirby, the Black Country by Jit Gatcha, Coventry and Warwickshire by Paul Sullivan and Greater Birmingham will be covered by Paul, Martyn and Jit.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub is leading the one-year Made Smarter scheme with the region’s other Growth Hubs in Greater Birmingham and Solihull, the Black Country, Worcestershire, The Marches, and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire on behalf of the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The West Midlands Growth Hubs are working closely with the West Midlands Combined Authority and their strategic partners WMG, at the University of Warwick, and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “There are tens of thousands of people employed by small and medium sized manufacturers in the West Midlands, and this digital support should help them and their employers adapt to new and smarter ways of working, securing jobs and businesses for the future.

“After the devasting impact of the pandemic on our economy, it’s exactly this kind of support that will help our region’s businesses and the people they employ, recover and seize the new opportunities that digital technology provides.”

Paul Sullivan’s career over the last 40 years has been in business development across a variety of sectors working with some of the most iconic brands in the world – including Jaguar, Aston Martin and Bentley – and he has extensive experience in body structure and new vehicle development from concept design to product launch.

Paul has worked closely with many Government bodies especially in international trade and he has also worked with the UK Growth Hubs, The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce where he has been a board member and President for over 20 years.

“West Midlands SMEs are very enthusiastic about Made Smarter as it gives them a route to examine their strategy towards adopting digital technologies,” he said.

“The majority of companies need support in developing a strategy in readiness for Industry 4.0 and want to just understand what that means.

“We have some of the world’s leading R&D centres here in the Midlands and it is important to share their knowledge within the SME community to ensure they are operating with the latest machinery and software. The impartial advice given is critical, as we find SMEs have differing needs in their digital journey.”

Craig Humphrey, managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said: “Made Smarter is a significant investment into our region’s manufacturing base aimed at making them more competitive, productive, resilient and efficient.

“We have put together a team with an excellent pedigree and deep understanding of manufacturing processes that covers the whole of the West Midlands.

“Their knowledge will support businesses with the adoption of digital technology and more importantly the ability to translate that technology into a language that the sector understands at a local level.”