The future of manufacturing was the theme of an exclusive event designed to support Greater Manchester’s manufacturing businesses.

Oldham Athletic’s Boundary Park stadium hosted GM Business Growth Hub’s ‘Manufacturing Our Future’ event, which was attended by nearly 200 manufacturers, supply chain partners, industry leaders, innovators, and business support providers.

The event featured an all-day exhibition where 45 exhibitors showcased their work; a manufacturing champions panel discussion; a roundtable and a number of workshops.

A team of advisors were on hand to offer advice on everything from finance and funding; skills; apprenticeships; sales and marketing; exporting; innovation, digitisation and sustainability.

Anne Campion, head of manufacturing at the GM Business Growth Hub, said the ‘Manufacturing Our Future’ day had been a huge success.

“The purpose of the event was to celebrate all things manufacturing and to discuss and share all of the challenges we have in the manufacturing sector,” she said.

“Technology is incredibly important. It’s the root to some elements of productivity including automation and use of robotics but more importantly, doing things quicker, better, faster will lead to that productivity improvement and economic growth.”

Campion said a range of fully-funded support was available to manufacturers and urged them to get in touch.

“We’ll work with companies on where they are and where they want to be depending on their goals and opportunities,” she said.

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Campion said manufacturing and business advisors would visit businesses and create tailored packages of support to increase profitability.

One of the main platforms of the day was a Manufacturing Champions panel discussion for a number of specially invited manufacturers.

Manufacturing Our Future’ event

The speakers were Rachel Eyre, head of advanced manufacturing and low carbon at MIDAS;  Dharma Nurse, innovation development manager at GM Business Growth Hub; David Wright, international trade adviser at the Department for Business and Trade;  Anne Campion, head of manufacturing at GM Business Growth Hub, and Neil Eccles, head of innovation at Rochdale Development Agency, who spoke about Atom Valley.

They were joined by Amy House, director of the Green Economy; Lisa Riley, director of The Manufacturing Institute; Kevin Smith, lead technology adoption specialist at Made Smarter;  Ali Tanvir, business advisor, The Growth Company; and Rob Woollin, industrial engagement manager at Rochdale-based AMPI.

David Wright estimated that only a quarter of manufacturers export and said technology was taking away some of the obstacles out of the process.

He gave the example of Burnley-based business Fort Vale, which completed a world-first in September when a valve it manufactured arrived in Singapore and the whole order was handled digitally, rather than via physical customs documents.

Lisa Riley spoke about the importance of the Shingo Model in manufacturing, highlighting the importance of culture to organisational improvement.

Ali Tanvir, business advisor at The Growth Company, said apprentices were the perfect solution to manufacturers struggling with an aging workforce.

Earlier several manufacturers took part in a roundtable to discuss some of the challenges facing the sector.

Sarfaraz Akram, chief operating officer of Rochdale-based Lancashire Farm Dairies, revealed they’d doubled their turnover to £80m without a significant increase in staff by investing heavily in automation.

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Paddy Dyson, marketing manager of HMG Paints, said they’d placed a lot of emphasis on developing their own staff, highlighting the fact that four of the company’s six directors had risen up through the ranks after starting their careers at the company.

Richard Hagan, managing director of Crystal Doors, said manufacturers had to embrace new technology like AI or risk being left behind.

They were joined by Paul Carrington, managing director, Aqua Check; Jeremy Kemsley-Pein, director, Heatsense Cables;  Zoe Brimelow, brand director, Duo UK; Pete Connor, director, Pure Fabs; Daniel Holmes, managing director, Silcoms; Lynn Kerfoot, managing director of Newland Engineering; Claire Watson, managing director of AirMatic; Paul Simkiss, owner, Simkiss Control Systems; Graham Stubbs, managing director, Dean Group International; and Kashif Ashraf, Oldham President of GM Chamber of Commerce.

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