SME manufacturers in the furniture sector are the latest to secure backing from Made Smarter’s trailblazing adoption programme.

Weaver Dane, Saxon Furniture, Neal Jones Furniture, Evertaut and Contour Campervan Furniture are among the latest wave of businesses starting their digitalisation journey to benefit their bottom line and the environment.

It means 300 businesses have now received matched funding from the government-funded, industry-backed initiative, to adopt technologies as diverse as sensors, robotics, 3D printing and artificial intelligence (AI).

Contour Campervan Furniture, a campervan converter and designer and manufacturer of bespoke furniture, has adopted CNC machinery with Made Smarter’s support.

Co-founders Caitlin Green and Tom Lake said: “This technology has enabled us to bring production of our birch plywood campervan furniture in-house. We can now produce more, have improved quality control over our product, and are able to innovate and create new products much more quickly. This has helped us to create jobs, made us a more profitable company and significantly reduced our lead times for our shipped flat-pack campervan furniture.”

Saxon Furniture, sofa and chair manufacturers, based in Bolton, invested in automation to improve its cutting process.

Roger Little, Operations Director, adds: "This project will ensure that we continue to upskill our workforce, as well as improving our efficiencies in the cutting department.

"The entire process from the initiation of the project through to the finalisation has run extremely smoothly, Made Smarter has been a pleasure to work with and the guidance that they have given has been invaluable to the success of this project."

Evertaut, manufacturers of stadium and auditorium seating, based in Blackburn, is targeting significant growth in global markets by investing in new software which connects disparate systems and enables real-time visibility of all operations.

Chris Smalley, Co-owner, said: “The gains of this new technology are quite staggering. We are going to have real-time access to production data for the first time. This will undoubtedly contribute to the growth of the business. We couldn’t grow at the rate we are predicting without investing in new technology, and we have Made Smarter to thank for that.”

Weaver Dane, a bespoke kitchen and bedroom furniture manufacturer in Northwich, has been supported by Made Smarter to invest in data and systems integration technologies.

Paul Dodd, Managing Director of Weaver Dane Ltd, said: “Digital transformation and investing in new technologies can be challenging, but from the very first meeting, Made Smarter has made it simple. 

“They helped us identify future objectives and create a digital roadmap. We were then able to access grant funding to fast track our investment in a 3D furniture design solution by 18 months. This technology has made us more efficient, productive and no doubt will result in being more profitable. It has allowed us also to venture into new locations, which in return will create new jobs and our existing workforce has definitely been upskilled."

The 350 technology projects backed by Made Smarter over the last five years, are forecasting the creation of almost 1,600 new jobs and over 2,850 upskilled roles, and are set to add £242m to the economy over the next three years.

With the Government committing to continue the North West adoption programme as part of a UK rollout, manufacturers are being urged to connect with Made Smarter to access the funded support on offer. This includes digital transformation workshops to create a digital roadmap, impartial and expert technology advice, leadership and skills training, as well as grant funding for digital internships and technology projects.

"I am incredibly proud of what the Made Smarter team has achieved over the last five years," says Donna Edwards, Director of the Made Smarter Adoption Programme in the North West. "These milestones are simultaneously a moment to celebrate, as well as a reminder that our work is by no means done. 

“Our mission is to engage with the thousands of manufacturers out there who we are certain could benefit from our support. As such we are redoubling our efforts to reach more businesses, and to inspire and inform them about the benefits of technology adoption.

"For many this may be helping them take the first step to digitise manual and paper-based systems or using sensors to capture vital production data. But for others with a digital infrastructure in place, they may be ready for more sophisticated, boundary-pushing technologies such as analytics, machine learning and AI, which are evolving at unprecedented speed.

"Digital isn’t coming – it’s arrived. Adopting technologies at the right time and in the right way is the key to unlocking real benefits for industry, society and the planet."