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Forging Futures: A Digital Manufacturer’s Guide Round Up 

This year’s Leap Day brought a unique opportunity for Yorkshire’s manufacturing leaders to gather at Bruntwood SciTech’s Platform in Leeds for our ‘Forging Futures: A Digital Manufacturer’s Guide to 2024’ event. With an extra day on the calendar, this event served as a springboard for manufacturers in Yorkshire to leapforward and unlockthevastpotential of digital transformation. 

The New Face of Marketing in Manufacturing​ 

With a prompt start, we delved into our first panel, which featured an insightful discussion on the latest strategies and trends in marketing for manufacturing companies. Chairing this panel was Jessica Farrow, Head of Digital Communications and Insight at Halston Group. Our panellists included: 

  • Louise O’Brien, Managing Director of Greyhound Box 
  • Jonathan Culley, Sales Director of Verallia UK 
  • Nathan Swinson Bullough, Managing Director of Imageco 

Marketing Strategies and Segmentation 

Our panellists began by discussing their marketing approaches, emphasising the importance of tailoring messages to different customers. They also hinted to how marketing has helped propel their manufacturing businesses to the next level.  

“There are printers everywhere that do a lot of cheap and cheerful jobs, and that’s how we initially pitched ourselves. I never thought we could elevate to compete with some of the best in the UK.”

Nathan Swinson-Bullough, Imageco

Social Media 

The conversation touched on the significance of social media platforms like LinkedIn for engaging with customers and showcasing their brand’s personalities. They also mention the use of website content, blogs, and videos to communicate key messages effectively with their audiences.  

Differentiation and Competition

Marketing is seen as a tool for differentiating themselves from competitors, particularly through highlighting sustainability initiatives and unique value propositions. Our panellists also acknowledged the value of working with external marketing agencies to access a broader range of skills, tools, and expertise, which has helped them adapt to the fast-paced changes in digital marketing and differentiate themselves from their competitors. 

Sustainability as a Marketing Focus

Sustainability emerged as a central theme throughout the discussion, with panellists underscoring their commitment to reducing environmental impact and integrating sustainable practices into their manufacturing processes. All three panellists emphasised that marketing plays a crucial role in communicating these sustainability initiatives to customers, helping to highlight their environmental stewardship and differentiate themselves from competitors. By showcasing initiatives such as using recycled materials, reducing carbon emissions, and implementing energy-efficient technologies, they aim to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers and align with the growing demand for sustainable products.  

Nathan touched upon the importance of avoiding ‘greenwashing’ and ensuring that sustainability claims are backed by genuine efforts and certifications. Through transparent communication and engaging storytelling, businesses can strive to build trust and credibility with their audience, fostering a positive brand image that resonates with consumers who prioritise sustainability in their purchasing decisions. 

Video Content

Following on from this, the discussion emphasised the importance of using videos and animations as effective marketing tools. Our panellists highlighted their versatility in capturing audience attention and conveying complex messages. They noted how such visual content, ranging from product demonstrations to animations, can be used across various platforms such as websites and social media to drive engagement and reinforce brand identity. Through compelling storytelling and informative visuals, companies aim to create memorable experiences for viewers and increase brand visibility. 

Advice for Manufacturers

The discussion concluded with a Q&A for manufacturers considering marketing, emphasising the need for patience when seeking results, social media best practices, finding the right marketing partner, and embracing new ideas and technologies. 

Support for Manufacturers Looking to Implement Digital Solutions​

Following our first panel, our second discussion revolved around the support and resources available for businesses, particularly SMEs looking to adopt digital technologies in manufacturing and engineering.  

Sue Cooke, Chief Executive at 3M Buckley Innovation Centre chaired this panel which featured insights from: 

Available Resources and Support

The panel highlighted various resources and support available, such as access to advanced technologies like robotics, additive manufacturing, and AI through industry facilities. They also mentioned free technical taster events and training opportunities provided by organisations like manufacturing trade associations – available across Yorkshire. 

Challenges and Barriers

The discussion touched upon the challenges faced by SMEs, including skills acquisition, fear of technology, and time constraints for training. Our panellists emphasised the importance of understanding business needs before investing in technology. 

There’s a lot a fear around tech and we want to break that down by giving people access.

Mark Lewis, West Yorkshire Manufacturing Service

Culture and Leadership

Panellists stress the significance of organisational culture and leadership in embracing change and upskilling the workforce. They advocated for continuous improvement and change management to drive digital transformation effectively. 

Addressing Data Overload

There was an acknowledgement of the challenge of data overload and the importance of establishing modern BI architecture to leverage existing data effectively before adding more data through digital initiatives. 

Integration and Intermediary Solutions

Finally, the panellists concluded by recognising the need for intermediary solutions to bridge the gap between low digital readiness levels. The final thoughts summarised the need for integration of existing systems with digital technologies as a critical step towards successful digital transformation. 

Keynote: The Challenge of Traceability 

Our keynote session was headed by Nicole Ballantyne, Head of Customer Success at Mestec. In her session, Nicole delved into pivotal topics such as traceability, digitalisation, and the hurdles encountered by manufacturers in embracing new technologies. 

She began by outlining the progression of Mestec, which provides cloud-based manufacturing execution software, highlighting its capacity to streamline operations and furnish real-time insights. Nicole also touched upon the integration of disparate systems and the paramountcy of data-driven decision-making. 

Moreover, Nicole gave examples of industries served by Mestec, including food production, server manufacturing, and medical devices. She illustrates how their software facilitates traceability and quality control across these sectors. 

Finally, Nicole mentioned Mestec’s emphasis on labour productivity and clarified their workshop initiative designed to educate manufacturers about the advantages of their software. 

The Future of Compliance and Regulation​

Our concluding panel of the day was a myth-busting session around the anxieties on how digitalisation may bring about new regulation challenges for the manufacturing sector and to best prepare for compliance in a digitalised future. 

Chaired by Sam Sleight from Made in Yorkshire, our panellists included: 

Data Governance and Compliance

The conversation delved into the importance of data governance and compliance, especially in terms of using software solutions for data capture, ESG reporting, and technology contracts. Recommendations from the panel included selecting software partners aligned with compliance needs and integrating internal processes with software tools. 

Digitalisation in Manufacturing and IoT Risks 

The discussion covered the adoption technologies in manufacturing and the associated risks, both physical and digital. Topics include cyber insurance, third-party risks, and the need for human oversight alongside automation. 

Manufacturing is a traditional industry. There’s the old generation and the new generation. We often think about insurance from an old-fashioned point of view. But not a lot of manufacturers insure their digital risks.

Neil Grimshaw, Ravenhall Risk Solutions 

Employee Training for Security Awareness 

The importance of cybersecurity awareness training for employees was emphasised, covering both generic cybersecurity and physical security aspects. The discussion highlighted the role of employees as the first line of defence against cyber threats. 

Insurance Coverage for Cyber Attacks and Supply Chain Risks

The need for cyber insurance coverage was discussed, along with the growing trend of supply chains requiring proof of insurance. There was a focus on understanding and mitigating risks across the value chain, especially in the context of ESG reporting. 

Ethical Use of AI

The conversation touches on the ethical implications of AI usage, including unconscious biases in algorithms and the responsibility of manufacturers to deploy AI ethically and compliantly. Human oversight was deemed essential in ensuring AI tools produce desired outcomes by our panel. 

Insurance Considerations in Acquisitions

Finally, the impact of compliance and digital security practices on the risk assessment of companies during acquisitions was explored. It was stated that companies with robust compliance and security measures may present fewer risks but still required thorough due diligence. 

Thank you for joining us! 

We sincerely thank everyone who attended our manufacturing event. We also appreciate the invaluable contributions of our remarkable speakers. The enthusiasm created from the discussions and the exchange of innovative ideas continue to resonate with us – and we hope they resonate with you too.  

Interested in more manufacturing events? Join West Yorkshire Manufacturing Services for their Digital Series of Events. Explore more here.

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