SME support on AMRC North West radar

08 July 2021

The University of Sheffield AMRC North West has won additional funding to provide rapid and flexible support for hundreds of SME manufacturers across Lancashire.

The AMRC North West's RADAR programme (Rapid Digital Assist Programme) aims to enhance the competitiveness and productivity of the county's small and medium sized businesses. It will run until the end of February 2023, engaging in collaborations with 200 eligible manufacturers.

In the 2017 Made Smarter Review it was identified that the North West of England has the greatest manufacturing output, producing nine per cent of the UKs total exports. However, it also revealed that the GVA per job was lagging behind the rest of the UK by a huge £6,000.

RADAR, which has been funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), will help manufacturing SMEs develop new products and manufacturing processes through the application of rapid, flexible digital manufacturing techniques.

Melissa Conlon, commercial director at AMRC North West, said: “We are very pleased to be awarded this additional funding to work with more Lancashire SMEs. There is a definite correlation between GVA and productivity.

“The use of software, automation and connected manufacturing equipment will enable manufacturing processes to be rapidly accelerated, creating the catalyst for a step change in productivity and profitability."

Through RADAR, the AMRC North West aims to help Lancashire’s SMEs bridge that gap and help companies introduce Industry 4.0 technologies into their processes with less risk. Melissa Conlon, AMRC North West.

She said resource efficiency through digital technology adoption will improve sustainability and contribute to the move to zero carbon manufacturing, ensuring SMEs can compete in increasingly environmentally aware and competitive global markets.

“Whilst many manufacturers are being encouraged to think big and embrace digital technology within their operations, many are not yet fully ready to implement cutting edge technology," said Conlon.

“For some, there are a number of initial steps to take before any Industry 4.0 implementation.

“These steps can typically include production optimisation activities such as lean methodology and waste reduction/elimination, and implementation of Industry 3.0, such as basic automation and numerical control.

“Through RADAR, the AMRC North West aims to help Lancashire’s SMEs bridge that gap and help companies introduce Industry 4.0 technologies into their processes with less risk.”

An artist's impression of the soon-to-be completed AMRC North West facility.

AMRC North West, which is part of the UK's world-class High Value Manufacturing Catapult network of research centres, has already worked with more than 170 Lancashire SME manufacturers since 2019. Some of the projects it has been involved in include:

  • Pendle Doors approached AMRC North West requiring a drill fixture that would guarantee the correct angle a pin would go into wood. The team created and designed a prototype using one of its vast range of additive manufacturing printers.
  • Mike England Timber wanted to alter and reconfigure its factory layout. Using the fully funded ERDF SME assist programme, the AMRC North West team used specialist REVIT software to create a factory plan and virtual reality fly-through. This enabled the business to visualise the new layout, as well as having exact dimensions and machines plotted into the facility.
  • NIS in Chorley, manufacturers of large pieces of bespoke equipment, wanted to visualise how its designs would look and how structures would interrelate prior to manufacture. Working with the AMRC North West virtual reality team, the business found it possible to immerse itself in the design, simulating the final build.
  • DA Techs in Adlington needed to gather data and information from its processes. The AMRC North West mapped out the workflow processes and identified how it could use sensors and the internet of things to capture the data in one place.

Conlon explained that many organisations struggle with new technology insertion into their manufacturing enterprises and that AMRC North West will help overcome the challenge of integrating smart manufacturing and big data for both new and old capital equipment.

It is able to provide support by identifying the need for improvement, developing the business case for investment, in-house versus vendor implementation/training and the effect on the workforce, as well as productivity and cost implications.

The AMRC North West team is based in a new purpose-built £20m research facility on the Samlesbury Aerospace Enterprise Zone. The new ERDF-funded RADAR programme will provide a dedicated team at AMRC North West that will develop rapid, flexible digital manufacturing programmes that Lancashire SMEs can use to improve productivity and competitiveness.

For further information on RADAR and how the AMRC North West team can help you, contact Nick Hall, Business Engagement Manager, on 07510 409646 or email

This story was originally published in Lancashire Business View

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