Lancashire 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.

Paul Mills, Strategy Director of Inscape Interiors, based in Chorley, and Chris Mayne, Operations Director for Forsberg Services in Lancaster, 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 the University of Lancashire 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 Commission 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.”

Paul Mills, Strategy Director of Inscape Interiors, a manufacturer of building interiors, said: “We know that digitalisation is going to be important for the future and that is what’s going to give us scalability and sustainability.

“Small companies know digitalisation is important but don’t know how to hang it all together. There are disparate silos, and we are wondering how you join the dots.

“Visits like this are really important because what you have is a company that has gone through the process and can show you the route.”

Chris Mayne, Operations Director for Forsberg Services, an engineering business which manufactures high-precision navigation solutions for the automotive, container ports, telecommunications and defence sectors.

“This programme has come at the right time because over the years I have been implementing a digital strategy for the business and it has taken a while to build the processes and the structure and get the people in the right place. Now we are starting to get that momentum and have started to roll our digital systems.

“What I want to get out of this programme is how all the pieces fit together and make sure our journey – where we are going over the next two, three, five years – is articulated properly across the staff.

“In the past we’ve tried to shoehorn in systems that teams weren’t ready for, so understanding your processes, what you do, and why you are doing it, is fundamental to them making the digital system work.

“I would recommend any SME out there consider this course. It’s not just ‘here’s what digital data means’ and you go on your way. They’ve built the course around leadership and strategy – the bigger picture – which is key. Visits to best practice companies like Hosokawa put digitalisation into perspective.”

Made Smarter includes match funding opportunities and the provision of impartial technical advice 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

Image caption: Left – Right, Chris Mayne (Forsberg Engineering), Iain Crosley (Hosokawa Micron) and Paul Mills (Inscape Interiors)

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