VEKA Group’s Head of Technical Paul Kennington has spoken at an event for North West SME manufacturers, promoting the benefits of embracing more digital technologies.

Made Smarter, the government-backed £20m business support programme co-hosted the event with Lancashire’s Boost business support service, at Preston’s County Hall.

As a manufacturer known for innovation, and a major employer for the region, VEKA Group was proud to be involved in supporting and educating other local businesses. The introductory morning gave the Lancashire’s business community a chance to find out about the Made Smarter programme and more than 100 delegates attended the half-day session from across the manufacturing, technology, engineering, skills, professional services and business support sectors.

Following an introduction to the event and overview of the Made Smarter initiative and its aims, the floor was then given over to manufacturers who have already seen the benefits of introducing more digital technologies into their production processes.

VEKA Group’s Paul Kennington described how the need for clients to be able to offer something to differentiate themselves from competitors – combined with the commercial risks associated with developing new tooling – had encouraged VEKA Group to adopt a more digital approach, embracing advanced 3D-printing systems and innovative manufacturing methods.

Paul explains: “The investment in new technology, like 3D-printing, is only a fraction of the cost of more traditional prototyping, and yet the impact has been genuinely transformational in the way we do business.

“Technologies like this create opportunities for us to develop simple solutions, such as jigs to help with manufacturing processes, to more complex components allowing customers to incorporate a physical part into their design before committing to further investment in development. This is yet another demonstration of the VEKA Group’s continued commitment to providing industry-leading support for our customers.”

At the event, Paul was able to physically illustrate the ‘Made Smarter message’ by showcasing a fully functioning window – which looked just like a traditionally fabricated PVC-U frame –  before revealing that it had been produced by a 3D-printer.

Afterwards, he said: “VEKA Group has always been proud of its ability to anticipate and adapt to changing industry demands and stay at the forefront of technological innovations in manufacturing. We operate the country’s most technically advanced PVC-U mixing plant right here in Burnley, and we are committed to ‘staying ahead of the curve’ and constantly improving efficiencies to ensure our customers can do the same.

“It was a pleasure to help support an initiative that will allow more manufacturing companies across the North West embrace digital technologies with confidence, and potentially enable these smaller businesses to flourish and expand as VEKA has continued to do over the decades.”

Alain Dilworth from Made Smarter particularly wanted to thank the Lancashire firms that presented to the delegates: “Their stories of how they had boosted productivity, won new orders, gained a competitive edge and had grown their companies by embracing more digital technology is at the heart of what Made Smarter is all about.”