A new guide aims to inspire manufacturers to explore technologies from automation to artificial intelligence (AI) to improve efficiency.

The white paper on “powering the digital transformation of SME manufacturers” has been produced by Made Smarter, the government-backed and industry-led technology adoption programme in north-west England.

The free-to-download document covers existing technologies such as software, industrial IoT connectivity, automation and robotics, 3D printing and cyber security as well as emerging digital tools such as AI and digital twins – the virtual representation of a physical object or system.

It has been published with support from: the University of Salford’s state-of-the-art for automation and robotics, the North of England Robotics Innovation Centre (NERIC); PrintCity, Manchester Metropolitan University’s 3D printing facility; the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Liverpool; the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) North West; and the Hartree Centre at Sci-Tech Daresbury in Cheshire.

Tabs Khojani, business development manager at NERIC, said: “NERIC and Made Smarter share the view that the benefits of adopting robotics and automation in the manufacturing sector are clear. Automation can help to address skills shortages, improve quality and efficiency, increase productivity, and gain a competitive advantage.”

Donna Edwards, director of Made Smarter’s North West Adoption Programme, added: “Over the last five years, technology has shown its true colours in the form of growth, investment, employment, productivity and a competitive advantage. The race is now on to fully capitalise on the opportunities that exist, as well as those on the horizon. Business leaders therefore need the skills, knowledge and experience to respond to this rapid change.

“Demonstrating these technologies in action is vital to Made Smarter’s success. We are enabling people to get their hands on these technologies by connecting SME manufacturers with each other and building relationships with leading technology institutes. This way we can ensure we keep a finger on the pulse of emerging technologies to help the sector thrive and be competitive.

“This new white paper brings all those elements together into a useful and simple-to-understand guide which business leaders and digital champions can download and share with their teams. We hope it is the starting point for further conversations with the Made Smarter team.”