Caption: Craig Humphrey, managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub

A £1.9 million scheme to encourage West Midlands manufacturing and engineering firms to adopt cutting-edge digital technology and boost productivity will have a strong presence at a huge industry conference.

Made Smarter is helping SMEs in those sectors upskill staff, access grants, and create clear action plans to ensure they adopt emerging technology to improve their businesses.

And Made Smarter will be represented at Subcon 2021 – one of the biggest subcontract manufacturing supply chain shows in the country – to speak to firms directly.

It will be held at the NEC in Birmingham from Tuesday, September 14 to Thursday, September 16, and features a wide range of exhibitors, expert panels and speeches from industry leaders.

Made Smarter will have a stand at the prestigious event, and Barry Jones, a digital specialist appointed by Made Smarter West Midlands, will hold a presentation and take part in a Q&A session on the first day, along with fellow experts Nasar Jockey from WMG, University of Warwick, and Tim Andrews of the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC).

Barry Jones will highlight how SMEs in the West Midlands can utilise emerging technologies – such as augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, wearable technology, and advanced robotics – to their advantage.

He said: “My role is to share my knowledge with SMEs about what new technologies are out there, and how they can use them to massively improve their business, whether that’s through increased output, better efficiency, or enabling them to expand.

“I’ll be speaking about some of the major advances in a wide range of fields and the tantalising possibilities it gives the region’s SMEs.

“It might seem overwhelming at first, but Made Smarter is here to help these businesses understand the new technology and how they can start using it for their benefit.

“Subcon will be a brilliant way to get in front of all sorts of manufacturing and engineering firms and highlight how useful Made Smarter is for not only their business, but the West Midlands as a whole.”

Nasar Jockey, Principal Engineer at WMG, University of Warwick adds: “My role at Made Smarter is to get to understand quickly an SME’s operations, identifying challenges and bridging the gaps with affordable data driven digital solutions to kickstart their digitalisation journey and provide the biggest sustainable bottom-line impact.

“As a Chief Engineer for Made Smarter I am also responsible for overseeing the relevance, lucidity and timeliness of our reports and recommendations made to SMEs at various stages of their digitalisation journey, enabling them to take maximum advantage of the Made Smarter programme.”

And Tim Andrews, Senior Adviser at MTC, added: “As part of the Made Smarter team, our Technology Advisors are helping businesses identify the most appropriate digital technologies to support their business goals.

“We’re really looking forward to meeting with manufacturers across the region and working with them to realise the benefits from digitalisation.”

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.

Craig Humphrey, managing director at the CWLEP Growth Hub, said: “We’re very pleased to be attending Subcon this year – it will give us a superb platform to show all sorts of key players and West Midlands SMEs what an important scheme it is.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for SMEs in the advanced manufacturing and engineering sectors to adopt new technology to drive themselves and the wider economy forward.

“We look forward to seeing plenty of firms at Subcon, and we look forward to speaking with them about how Made Smarter can improve their business.”