Business Matters: Why manufacturers need to digitalise | Blogs

Mike Brook, Business Growth Advisor at the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority, explains why manufacturers need to go digital.

“There is no alternative to digital transformation. Visionary companies develop new strategic options – if you don’t adapt, you will fail.”

– Jeff Bezos, Amazon

“Whether or not you agree with Jeff Bezos, he’s certainly right. Digital transformation is the future and manufacturers who have adopted digital technologies are seeing significant improvements in efficiency, performance, productivity and reduced energy costs.

“The global pandemic has proven that companies can transform their operations in a matter of weeks through the adoption of digital technologies. Whether it was offices communicating with customers and employees remotely via digital platforms and video calls, schools and colleges conducting classes online, or supermarkets massively increasing their online ordering and delivery capabilities to meet demand, suddenly we were all forced to work digitally on a daily basis. The pandemic has also been a catalyst for some manufacturers to think they need to do things differently if they haven’t already.

One such company was White’s Bakery in Barnsley. The company has an 88-year history of manufacturing quality baked goods primarily for the educational market. When lockdown hit and schools and colleges closed, the market collapsed overnight.

White’s Bakery’s management team saw this as an opportunity to refocus on what they do and how they do it, and to explore greater use of digital technologies. The company contacted us at the South Yorkshire Growth Hub to join the Made Smarter program and the White’s Bakery management team was able to begin leadership and management coaching and Lean 6Sigma Green Belt training.

The coaching program gave White’s Bakery the tools to become leaner, more productive and a stronger company for the future.

Through Made Smarter, we also provided digital roadmapping support to enable White’s Bakery to integrate new technologies into the business to make it leaner, increase automation and use less energy. The nature of the business meant the baking process used a lot of energy, but better use of technology and the automation of some processes meant the time spent using the ovens was reduced to a single shift.

We were also able to provide intensive technical support to White’s Bakery to help the company formulate a strategic plan to increase sales of their products across the UK and double sales in the next three years.

In addition, the company received a software grant to automate the H&S food safety system and capital grants to purchase new automated equipment through funding from Made Smarter.

It is fantastic to see that White’s Bakery has done so well as business has now recovered to pre-Covid levels, is enjoying better profitability and sales are now on track to surpass £3m this year .

Funding for digitization

Made Smarter now has £4.9m in funding available for manufacturers in this region to initiate and embrace digitization. There are many different reasons for manufacturers to turn to new technologies: a shortage of labor may limit their production, or rising energy costs could mean they need to maximize resource use. Through Made Smarter, manufacturers can explore options to automate specific processes or optimize shifts to maximize energy use and significantly reduce costs.

So where do companies start?

Digitization may be a daunting prospect for some manufacturers, but it doesn’t have to be. The starting point is to visit the Made Smarter website, where you can test your company with the Digital Self Diagnostic Tool. Made Smarter can then put the company in touch with a digital support specialist who can advise them on the options available depending on where they are in their journey.

In addition to Made Smarter, there are other programs that can support companies in implementing digitization. These include Help to Grow, two government-backed programs designed to help entrepreneurs and managers better understand and embrace digitization; the Sheffield Innovation Program which connects SMEs with academic researchers and university institutions; and productivity grants are available with advice and support from the South Yorkshire Growth Hub.

To register and for more information, please visit

For Growth Hub support and guidance visit