Scotland’s regional scoping pilot completes

Shoestring has completed its first regional scoping pilot, paving the way for the next phase of the programme in Scotland which looks at how to expand the initiative to reach more manufacturers.

Supported by Scottish Enterprise, and its partners, Shoestring completed its first regional scoping pilot at the end of 2022 in Scotland. Aiming to understand how to enable a low cost, tactical approach to digital manufacturing which will be applicable to SMEs within a region, the pilot trained a group of experienced manufacturing practitioners from the Scottish Enterprise’s Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service (SMAS), National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) and the Advancing Manufacturing Centre, Fort William (AMC), deploying Shoestring solutions in two small manufacturing companies.

The training involved learning how to support companies through the innovative Shoestring process by delivering a series of short workshops. This is the first time that professionals outside the research group have been trained up and facilitated Shoestring workshops. The Shoestring requirements workshop helps businesses identify and prioritise areas where digital solutions can improve their operations, Shoestring Selection & Specification workshops get together a small group of employees in a company to choose a solution and work out what it needs to deliver in a structured way. The facilitation training was conducted by Shoestring experts from the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Manufacturing.

The founder of Shoestring, Professor Duncan McFarlane said:

It was great to partner with Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, NMIS, SMAS and other local organisations to pilot our new training material, deploy solution pilots and learn how best to embed the Shoestring approach. We know the impact that Shoestring can have in small companies and want to scale up rapidly so we can reach as many as possible."

Deployed solutions included a job tracking system in a battery manufacturer in Thurso and an equipment monitoring solution at additive manufacturer Orthogonal Engineering. After the pilots both companies were enthusiastic about the potential of Shoestring to help their company start digitalizing. John Niven from Orthogonal documented his experience on LinkedIn and found that his Shoestring solution quickly produced benefits in saving manufacturing time and reducing waste. Nigel Scott, from Denchi Group, believes Shoestring will help their company develop a more proactive, creative culture.

Jerome Finlayson, Head of High Value Manufacturing at Scottish Enterprise, commented:

The Digital Manufacturing on a Shoestring pilot project enabled us to understand how best to use the methodology to help companies deploy low-cost, low-risk ready-made digital solutions to improve their processes and productivity. The participating employees quickly developed skills to put solutions in place and optimize these for their business needs. With the companies already looking at what they can digitise next, as well as the financial and operational benefits realised by both companies, there’s clear evidence that the Shoestring approach works.”

The next phase of the programme is to determine how best to expand the initiative to reach more small manufacturers in Scotland.

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