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Getting started with Shoestring

Shoestring activities help build relationships, and digital skills both internally and externally, and also develop a company’s knowledge and expertise in digitalisation through experimentation. By deploying a low-cost Shoestring solution a company also sees improved productivity.

Starter solutions with hands-on training

If you are a UK manufacturer and want to get started quickly with digitalisation, try the Shoestring starter solution package and see first-hand how digitalisation improves productivity, contributes to sustainability goals whilst also introducing digital skills within your workforce.

Collaboration opportunities

Solution Providers

Regional organisations


With technology moving at pace and pressure to embrace digitalisation increasing, Shoestring recognises that senior managers in manufacturing welcome the opportunity to discuss the challenges their companies face and see how these can be solved easily and affordably with the plethora of off-the-shelf technologies. 

The Shoestring workshops bring together groups of managers to discuss the business challenges they encounter today, both externally with peers (in the awareness/ requirements workshops) and internally with colleagues (in the in-company specification workshops). 

Starter solution cohort workshops: The cohort workshops, as part of the Starter solution packages, enable operations and management employees from a group of 3-5 companies to learn together as they each build and deploy a starter solution in their factory.

To date over, 400 companies have helped Shoestring to collate its catalogue of 39 ranked business needs. As more companies and regional and trade organisations recognise the value of Shoestring, demand for requirements / awarness workshops for specific sectors and regions has increased.  

These workshops (which can be run both online and face to face) help organisations, networks and companies realise how their group’s specific challenges can be addressed via small scale digital solution areas. In addition, they can profile their sector’s needs against the national needs of the industry. 

>> View a previous Shoestring requirements workshop

Finding the opportunity to reflect on your company’s needs can be difficult. Shoestring offers an easy way to gather together senior and junior staff to discuss their thoughts and views on the company’s business priorities.  

By using an online Shoestring selection and specification workshop, guided by a Shoestring  facilitator, companies work through the challenges they face which are then matched to Shoestring digital solution areas.  

A series of evaluation exercises enables participants to rank their top three challenges, so that they can prioritise which one will be easiest to implement. In the second part of the workshop, a more detailed analysis provides a full specification for the chosen solution area, which in turn will deliver a Bill of Materials listing all the off-the-shelf technology required as well as a specification for the software output.  

Small- and medium- sized manufacturers who have conducted the in-company specification workshop have found the process invaluable in itself: 

“To be given a safe space (for employees) to have these kinds of conversations, share thoughts, ideas and crucially, align themselves and end up facing in the same direction is hugely powerful, the value of which is not to be underestimated.”

Alex Campbell, Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service. 


Hackathons offer a great opportunity for companies, organisations and education providers to give staff, members or students a creative ‘away day’ during which they explore ways to improve their working environment, whether that involves automating processes or collating information so that it is easier to find.  

Shoestring hackathons are ideal to help uncover and develop people’s digital skills. These alternative ‘away-days’ can stimulate new ideas as well inspire company staff, apprentices and students.  

Shoestring runs face-to-face and online hackathons. Both types illustrate how small groups can use the Shoestring approach to develop innovative ways of employing off-the-shelf technologies to improve manufacturing processes, whether in the office, or on the factory floor. 

A Shoestring guide to running hackathons enables companies and other organisations to run hackathons for their company employees, members or students – either independently or with some support from the Shoestring research team.  

The last hackathon in October 2020 was run by the universities of Cambridge and Nottingham and attracted over 100 participants.  

>> Read about the 2020 Hackathon

Get involved

For more information on workshops and hackathons and how to join.