A manufacturer of creative interiors for nightclubs and festivals is predicting it will bounce back stronger, thanks to the support of a technology adoption programme they undertook during lockdown.
Visual Architects creates extravagant and eye-catching designs for events like Park Life and Creamfields, brand launches for Adidas and The Hut Group, as well as bars, restaurants and hotels.
But with the event industry in disarray from the pandemic and global lockdowns, Visual Architects used the opportunity to regroup, consolidate operations and create a plan for the future, with the support of Made Smarter, the industry-led government-funded programme.
Using Made Smarter’s Digital Transformation Workshop process, Visual Architects created a digital roadmap, which highlighted opportunities from the adoption of robotics, additive manufacturing and virtual reality technologies to resolve its main business challenges.
With further support it invested in robotics, transforming its design and manufacturing capability and bringing in-house 70% of its production.
The Hyde-based business can now work at much greater speed, reducing what would previously have taken seven days down to one, and has increased production capacity significantly.
The robotics also allow limitless customisation and improved product and design, enabling Visual Architects to reach new export markets and at least double its sales over the next three years.
With most Covid rules in England now lifted, Lefteris Angelidis, Managing Director of Visual Architects, is positive about the business’s recovery and plans for growth.
“Made Smarter has been rocket fuel for our company,” he said “Its support through the pandemic and the devastating year for the events industry has helped us create a roadmap, invest in new technology and embed skills which we have no doubt will enable us to bounce back stronger and go to the next level.”
Lefteris believes that the timely and involved support from Made Smarter has accelerated its digitalisation by three years.
“Working with Made Smarter has been amazing from the start,” he said. “The pandemic has been very difficult, but reflecting on what we have achieved in the last year, it turns out that this has been the pause that we needed to set in motion our plans for the future.
“The impartial mentoring at every stage has been fundamental in developing a plan of where we want to be over the coming years.
“I could have spent years on my own and never got close to what we’ve achieved. Now with the event industry geared to open up again, we are in a really good position to drive forward our ambitions.”
As a first step, Visual Architects invested in a 7-axis Kuka CNC machining robot to bring key elements of the manufacturing process in-house, reducing overheads and increasing profit. The technology enables greater accuracy and efficiency, reducing wasted materials and energy consumption, and allows faster turnaround times and safer delivery of projects, improving customer satisfaction.
“Advanced robotic sculpting technology turns any idea into a reality,” Lefteris explained. “Whether a design or new concept, we can now build sculptures, décor, prototypes, models, art or other installations to an unparalleled level of precision. It has replaced the need for products crafted by human hand. This means we will be able to create in the digital 3D space and realise our design exactly as intended. This transforms our process from an art into a science, while retaining our company values of creativity.”
Further steps will be investing in Additive Manufacturing technology to rapidly test ideas and concepts at a lower cost. Meanwhile, VR headsets will allow customers to experience design concepts in first person prior to construction.
Through Made Smarter’s Digital Technology internship programme, which matches students and graduates to businesses deploying technology projects, Visual Architects took on four digital natives, three of whom have now secured permanent jobs, taking the total headcount to 36.
Lefteris said: “Our aim is to become global experiential event creators with a manufacturing base in the UK which is capable of making cutting edge, high end products and new creations and innovations.
“Design and production are changing not only in clubs and festivals but across all sectors of work life and business, and we are in a position to push this even further.
“Working with Made Smarter has empowered a forward-thinking can-do culture in the business.”
Donna Edwards, North West Adoption Programme Director at Made Smarter, said: “We are delighted to have provided such valuable and timely support to Visual Architects during what has been an incredibly difficult period for their business and the wider event industry.
“Visual Architects is a superb example of a Made Smarter-supported business which has identified the value technology and digital skills can bring to its operations. It has used the last 18 months to regroup and power forward with its digital transformation.
“They are among hundreds of manufacturers in the region grasping the opportunities offered by Made Smarter which include expert, impartial technology advice, digital transformation workshops to help take that first step to transform a business, a leadership programme, and funded digital technology internships.”