Knutsford business leader pioneers new Industry 4.0 leadership programme | Knutsford Times

Knutsford business leader pioneers new Industry 4.0 leadership programme

By on August 5, 2019

Cheshire business leaders are the first in the country to embark on a trailblazing leadership programme designed to equip them with the vision and the skills to pursue smarter manufacturing.

They are part of the Made Smarter Leadership Programme, run in collaboration with Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) and the government-backed £20m Made Smarter initiative for North West manufacturers.

Alan Ryan, Managing Director of Technoprint, based in Winsford, Gerry Weston, Operations Director for DT Engineering in Widnes, Peter Phillips, IT Director for Abbey England in Knutsford, and Alex Lattimer, Sheet and Specialty Materials Director for Flexitallic in Ellesmere Port are among 12 business leaders from across the region who have embarked on an eight-month leadership programme involving a mixture of workshops, site-visits to ‘smart’ SME manufacturers around the region and facilitated-learning sessions.

They undertook their first site visit to Runcorn-based Hosokawa Micron Ltd, a manufacturer and supplier of powder processing systems and equipment, which has transformed its production performance through the application of digital technologies, allowing them to see a smart factory in action.

During the programme, participants will enhance their leadership capacity to enable them to take a strategic view required to adopt hi-tech and digitally-based manufacturing techniques into their own production processes.

They will also gain insights into undertaking an audit to reveal how digital-ready their business currently is, how to measure the true impact and value of any changes they make to the way they work, and how to successfully bring employees and other stakeholders along on their journey of business transformation.

Other parts of the programme, which will be delivered jointly by LUMS’ academic experts and business leaders already using smart technology, will include special project sprints to test new ideas.

Donna Edwards, director of the North West Made Smarter pilot, said: “I’m delighted to see that the Made Smarter Leadership Programme delivered by Lancaster University Management School is already having a positive impact on its first cohort of business leaders in the North West.

“The programme is a unique opportunity for manufacturers who want to accelerate the adoption of advanced digital technologies within their business.

“Crucially, it allows leaders to take time out of their business to reflect on the bigger picture and share ideas and experiences alongside their peers in manufacturing. This will help them return to their own business and develop a digital strategy – which has been identified as something many businesses lack, yet it is essential to create growth and efficiencies.”

Professor Angus Laing, Dean of Lancaster University Management School, said: “Lancaster has an outstanding track record in devising and delivering world-class business leadership training. Many of the successful methods we have developed have been embedded into this new programme and tailored specifically to address the aspirations of the Made Smarter initiative.

“It has been designed to empower participants to transform their individual businesses through the use of highly advanced manufacturing methods.”

Andrew Stephenson, Minister for Business and Industry, said: “This new collaboration between Made Smarter and Lancaster University is a fantastic opportunity for these 12 business leaders to develop their skills, get expert guidance and advance further the North West’s reputation for advanced and smart manufacturing.

“Supporting growing business directly on the ground through Made Smarter is a vital part of our modern Industrial Strategy, building on this country’s strong manufacturing heritage and delivering highly-skilled jobs for the future.

“With the Made Smarter pilot set to add up to £115million to the North West economy, I look forward to seeing how the 12 business leaders completing this course will transform and grow their companies as a result.”

Alan Ryan, Managing Director of Technoprint, a printer specialising in supplying patient information leaflets to the pharmaceutical industry, said the programme had been broad, relevant and helpful.

“Seeing what you can achieve through digitalisation is mind-blowing and exactly what we want to aim towards,” he said. “I’ve also been impressed with the emphasis on the role of people in this journey, which is important.

“The most significant attribute that I am finding is how powerful it is to have a group of other manufacturers all at the start of their journeys, working through this together. It has been very inspiring.”

Gerry Weston, Operations Director for DT Engineering, a Widnes-based specialist manufacturer of crane and lifting equipment, said: “Forming a digital strategy is something we are looking at as a business and this course is helping with that.

“The key things I have learnt so far is that digital transformation can’t be done overnight. It’s a gradual process.

“It is also a journey that goes beyond the usual soundbites about Industry 4.0 and terms like VR, AR and robotics. There are simple processes in a vast pool that you can take on board to make a difference to your business.”

Peter Phillips, IT Director for Abbey England, a Knutsford-based manufacturer of leather and brassware for the equestrian and leather goods market, said: “We have started to engage with Made Smarter on some potential technologies, so thought this programme was a good idea.

“The early part of the programme has been fantastic focussing on the digital strategy and preparing us for the more technological aspects. I can already see things that will benefit us and that we can apply to our business.

“Our manufacturing business is quite backwards technologically, because we are a traditional manufacturer, so we realise we have a long way to go, but we are taking small steps.”

Made Smarter includes match funding opportunities and the provision of dedicated technical and business support for SMEs adopting digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Industrial Internet of Things, 3D-printing and robotics, to support advanced manufacturing.

Companies interested in registering or wanting more details should visit

For more details on the Made Smarter Leadership Programme at Lancaster University Management School, visit

About Lucy Thorpe

Lucy Thorpe is a freelance journalist who writes for the Knutsford Times - covering stories and news in and around Cheshire and Greater Manchester. If you've got a story to share, or would like to speak to Lucy, please email

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