The Nursery Kitchen is set to join a group of nine other businesses who will start a pilot digital technology programme. This programme, which represents a collaboration between government and businesses, will move the company away from using outdated process and paper-based systems and help them to boost productivity through technology.
The Nursery Kitchen supplies around 15,000 meals per week for nurseries based in the UK. They are looking at 12 key advanced manufacturing methods, which include artificial intelligence (AI), the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) robotics, and 3D printing.
The Made Smarter North West Pilot is a £20 million investment scheme which will provide dedicated technical and business support for the qualifying small to medium-sized enterprises. It also includes match-funding opportunities to help encourage more investment.
The Nursery Kitchen, which is based in Liverpool, will make the resource planning aspect of the company more integrated and automated. They will also take stock control and client ordering online, helping to reduce their overall administrative burden. This will also eliminate some elements of human error, and will also ensure that they are always in compliance with the food safety standards which are becoming increasingly strict.
The company has also stated that they intend to take on more staff, so look out for new food jobs here. They will want to expand their ranges as well as bringing more customers on board with what they can do.
Victim of its own success
“From cottage industry caterer to food manufacturer, our business has become a victim of its own rapid success,” said Jane Gordon, the sales and marketing manager for The Nursery Kitchen. “We recognise that the barrier to more efficient processes and controls, as well as growth and increased productivity, is an absence of integrated digital technologies. The Made Smarter support programme has come along at a crucial moment for the Nursery Kitchen and will help secure its future.”
The pilot scheme is not just limited to this one business, or the others who have already signed up. The hope is that it will be able to engage more than 3000 SMEs in the manufacturing sector in the North-West, which may include some of the food companies who are recruiting with us here. This will add around £115 million to the total value of goods and services that the region can produce if all goes according to plan.
It is expected that as many as 600 firms will qualify for in-depth support, which includes mentoring from senior figures in the industry as well as a leadership and management programme to help implement digital change. Grants for new equipment can also be included.
This is only a small selection of the companies that will be helped, with many others looking to have less in-depth support – perhaps focused on assistance with getting grants and using them, where a technological knowhow is already in place or has begun to be built. It will depend on the current status of the companies who are accepted.
Donna Edwards is the director of the Made Smarter North West pilot. She said: “I am delighted that the Made Smarter pilot has now supported the first successful SME applications including The Nursery Kitchen. Often, SMEs need funding support, but also the specialist advice and insight to help them select the right approach for their business. This is exactly how Made Smarter can and is helping businesses across the region. It’s been interesting to see the range of businesses and sub-sectors the successful applicants have come from and the technologies they have selected.”