Digital Catapult, the UK authority on advanced digital technology, has partnered with five leading technology companies and six pioneering SMEs to solve critical supply chain challenges facing small-to-medium sized manufacturers across the country. As part of the Made Smarter Innovation | Digital Supply Chain Hub, the initiative will fund and facilitate the development of pioneering solutions to remedy significant industrial challenges, with a view to driving economic growth and advancing the UK’s manufacturing sector.
The competition will fund the development of advanced digital solutions with up to £100,000 for each tech company to deploy their solutions into the supporting manufacturer’s businesses who will receive £25,000 to bolster this activity.
To maintain the UK’s position as number nine in the world in terms of manufacturing output, the challenges identified in this programme will be key to ensuring that manufacturers can look to innovation as a means of improving efficiency and achieving sustainable growth. These challenges include:
- improving compliance and reducing the administrative burden on SMEs in the FMCG industry through the use of digital and paperless systems, supporting export growth through improved compliance to export regulations.
- reducing waste in the textile industry through the use of digital infrastructure to explore the diversion of waste to secondary markets.
- providing visibility of inventory levels and/or delays in supply to enable better planning and prioritising by the SME manufacturer in the automotive industry.
- understanding the true costs of purchasing materials so the SME manufacturers can make better decisions around sourcing and reduce their overall input costs.
The project comes as a recent survey from Make UK and BDO highlighted the challenges currently facing UK manufacturers, with output growth for 2023 expected to be at -0.3%. Supply chain pressures were outlined as a key challenge for medium-sized firms, with continued disruption and increased costs at home and abroad stalling business growth.
The programme will help to address these challenges outlined by manufacturers by developing solutions to real-world industrial challenges in the manufacturing space, and will look to leverage emerging technologies that can be deployed at scale, to sharpen the UK’s manufacturing edge. This includes solving industrial challenges by utilising artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, internet of things (IoT) technologies, and blockchain.
Tim Lawrence, Director of the Digital Supply Chain Hub said, ‘With around 250,000 SME manufacturers in the UK, it’s important that the work that we do as part of the Digital Supply Chain Hub backs these organisations as we introduce advanced digital tools to the supply chain. We’re excited to work on this initial rollout and look forward to introducing the solutions developed to the wider SME community in the coming months.’
William McColgan, Director of McColgans said, ‘We are at a very deliberate inflection point in our growth journey where we have to challenge every process and every piece of work we are engaged in and find ways to improve efficiency and productivity so that we can compete in new markets against established manufacturers. No function or department is exempt, and we need to explore technologies to remove duplication of effort and streamline processes in our supply chain.’