Something went wrong with the connection!

UK SME manufacturers in the food and drink sector prepare for digital future with leadership programmes

 Breaking News

UK SME manufacturers in the food and drink sector prepare for digital future with leadership programmes

UK SME manufacturers in the food and drink sector prepare for digital future with leadership programmes
March 18
10:30 2024
Spread the love

UK food and drink manufacturers have been empowered with the vision, skills and drive to pursue smarter manufacturing through Made Smarter’s innovative leadership programmes. Made Smarter, a government-funded industry-led initiative to increase technology adoption among SME manufacturers, offers funded access to its Leading Digital Transformation (LDT) programme and Leading Change for Digital Champions (LCDC) programmes.

So far 125 participants, hailing from across the spectrum of the manufacturing workforce, from managers to production operatives, have graduated from the programmes.

Among the latest to graduate from the LDT programme are: Tom Fletcher, Managing Director of First Play Dietary Foods, a specialist food manufacturer, based in Stockport; and Graham Sarath, Director of Strategic Growth at Happy Drinks Company, a manufacturer of clean-label soft drinks, based in Bootle.

LDT, which is delivered over three months with Manchester Metropolitan University (Manchester Met), blends face-to-face workshops, online webinars, case studies to see technology in action, and a site visit to PrintCity, Manchester Met’s 3D additive and digital manufacturing centre. Since last year, the programme has turned 34 delegates into digitally-informed, empowered leaders, armed with a bespoke digitalisation strategy.

LCDC is delivered using a bite-size, blended approach consisting of two face-to-face workshops, online coaching, a site visit to an SME manufacturer to see the impact of digital change first-hand, as well as a chance to see the latest digital technologies at an Amazon fulfilment centre. The programme has so far created a network of 29 advocates to guide others and support the impactful and lasting changes digital technologies will bring.

This is in addition to the 62 business leaders equipped with new digital skills through Made Smarter’s trailblazing leadership initiative run between 2019 and 2023.

Manufacturers across the North West are now being encouraged to register their interest for the next series of programmes.

Commenting on his experience, Tom Fletcher from First Play said: “The leadership programme helped me identify the need for embedding digital champions across the business to smooth the change we are undertaking. It has also taught me of the value of engaging with stakeholders outside the business. The time away from the hustle and bustle of manufacturing has also been important. It has enabled me to reassess and refine our mission, vision and values. Lots of things have changed in the last few years and we are moving into an important period of growth.

“As we start to look forward to new technologies, this leadership programme has been really helpful in cementing our strategy. I just wish I had done it earlier.”

Meanwhile, Graham Sarath at Happy Drinks said: “The leadership programme has been fantastic. It has highlighted the importance of planning and strategy, specifically when identifying and engaging with your internal stakeholders. That was a light bulb moment. Getting your team on board with change so they felt they owned it as much as you did, has had a huge impact. Inclusion and communication is vital for the next stage of our digital transformation.”

Since launching in 2019 Made Smarter has supported 2,500 manufacturers in the North West to access expert, impartial technology advice, digital transformation workshops to help take that first step to transform a business, and support with technology adoption projects. It has also supported 284 businesses with skills and leadership advice and training.

Ruth Hailwood, Made Smarter’s Organisation and Workforce Development Specialist Adviser, said: “Made Smarter has taken a people-first approach to helping SME manufacturers adopt technology tools to take their businesses forward. Technology tools bring change to the way day to day work is done and this change needs to be led to make sure the people in the business are ready to use these tools to maximise the benefits for the business and realise the potential of their people.

“Our Leading Digital Transformation programme and Leading Change for Digital Champions programmes work hand in hand to support SME manufacturers to take their entire organisation and people through digital transformation successfully and maximise the opportunities for their business.

“Ultimately, accelerating changes to leadership and skills within the industry, especially with SMEs, will make the biggest difference to achieving successful digital transformation and reaping the benefits for UK manufacturing economically, socially and environmentally.”

To learn more about how Made Smarter supports SME manufacturers to become digital leaders download our white paper.


Pictured L to R: Graham Sarath, Director of Strategic Growth at Happy Drinks Company, and Ruth Hailwood, Made Smarter’s Organisational Development Specialist Adviser.

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/fdbusiness/public_html/wp-content/themes/legatus-theme/includes/single/post-tags.php on line 5

About Author



Related Articles

Food & Drink Business Conference & Exhibition 2016

find food jobs

The Magazine

F&D Business Preferred Suppliers

New Subscriber

    Subscribe Here