New digital skills grow Lancashire manufacturing

Delegates of the Made Smarter Leadership Programme during a visit to Veka.
Delegates of the Made Smarter Leadership Programme during a visit to Veka.

A Lancaster business leader is now armed with the vision and the skills to pursue smarter manufacturing after completing Made Smarter’s innovative leadership programme.

Chris Mayne from Forsberg Services is one of 10 SME leaders from the northwest who are the first to graduate an innovate programme run in collaboration with Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) and Made Smarter, the industry and government partnership driving manufacturing productivity and growth through digital technology.

The eight-month programme involved a mixture of workshops, site-visits to other manufacturers, including Veka, Hosokawa Micron and Senator, who are already on the journey of adopting digital technology, and special project sprints - delivered by Siemens Digital Industries - to test new ideas.

Delegates unanimously agreed that the programme had given them the impetus to take vital time away from the business to develop the strategic view to support the adoption of hi-tech and digitally-based manufacturing techniques into their own production processes and taught them how to successfully bring employees and other stakeholders along on their digital transformation journey.

Chris Mayne, operations director at Forsberg Services, an engineering business which manufactures high-precision navigation solutions for the automotive, container ports, telecommunications and defence sectors, said: “The programme has enabled me to bring different projects together under one strategy. It has enabled me to create a framework which links all departments to the same purpose.

“Being able to take time out of the business, to take an outside perspective has enable me to look at problems a different way. This programme has given me the tools to go back to the business and solve the problems that have been nagging me.

“I would recommend this programme to SMEs because it will help leaders identify the priorities to make those incremental improvements.”

The programme kicked off with a two-day residential to enable the cohort to get to know each another and introduced the principles behind responsible leadership and what this means to their business.

Over the course of the eight months delegates attended six workshops led by both academics delivering leading edge thinking and business practitioners demonstrating adoption in real business settings.

The workshops topics included: setting the strategic context; stakeholder engagement; audit processes; performance management; scoping and leading change; and implementing change.

During the programme, delegates attended three site visits and workshops with manufacturers who have already adopted new technologies.

Through the programme delegates would also embark on ‘sprints’ where they would test their ideas with another delegates’ business to build engagement and learning from each other.

Donna Edwards, director of the North West Made Smarter pilot, said: “I’m delighted that the Made Smarter Leadership programme has made such a positive impact on the first cohort of business leaders in the north west.

“It has given leaders crucial time out of their business to reflect on the bigger picture and share ideas and experiences alongside their peers in manufacturing. They have been taught about the wide-ranging digital tools available to them and the potential impact they can have on their business’s growth and competitiveness.

“This pioneering group of leaders have been able to create a digitalisation strategy to explore how technology can improve business performance, as well as develop the leadership skills needed to manage operational change and employee expectations.”

Prof Angus Laing, Dean of Lancaster University Management School, said: “The feedback from the first cohort of the Made Smarter leadership programme has been incredibly positive, re-enforcing Lancaster’s outstanding reputation for devising and delivering world-class business leadership development.

“Via a mixture of workshops delivered by academics and experts in the digitalisation and leadership, and site visits to companies, including Veka, Hosokawa Micron and Senator, where delegates were able to see advanced technology in practice, participants have been empowered to transform their individual businesses.”