Three Cumbrian manufacturing firms are among 11 in the North West signed up to a programme which aims to use digital technology to boost growth and success.

Bell Mount Farming, in Penrith, Bells of Lazonby, and Eggbase, in Sedburgh, are set to introduce advanced manufacturing methods, thanks to the Government’s £20 million Made Smarter programme.

The programme says that by implementing advances in data analytics, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, Industrial Internet of Things, 3D printing and robotics, firms can enhance their profitability and competitive edge.

Nadhim Zahawi, Minister for Business and Industry, said: “The programme is enabling manufacturers to access advanced digital technologies with the aim of driving growth and increasing productivity while reducing costs.

“The investment will support a multi-million-pound boost to the local economy, keeping the region at the forefront of the latest innovations.”

Family bakery Bells of Lazonby wants to automate its portioned cake with a bespoke solution featuring robotic as part of its growth strategy.

Michael Bell, managing director, said: “We have invested heavily in new products and our new brand Bells and Whistles.

“Our sales have grown tremendously in the last 24 months and are in danger of having to turn new customers away due to the inability of our production facilities and processes to cope with any increased throughput.

“The robot installation would improve the speed of production and move staff from the cutting area to other areas in the bakery.

“The new technology will improve processing time and reduce wastage leading to increased profitability, enabling the company to become more competitive.”

Bell Mount Farming produces eggs for the Lakes Free Range Eggs brand. Owners David and Helen Brass want to adopt big data and analytics technology to boost egg production by ensuring the conditions are optimal for free range hens.

David said: “At present, there is no real time data collection system in place across the UK laying flock to monitor egg laying hens.

“The matched-funding will enable our ambitions to invest in a free range egg management system to monitor the health of hens using sensors to optimise welfare and egg production.

“This will provide a first step in the collection of a unique data set that will be shared by industry stakeholders, improve performance, welfare and aid research into the industry’s most pressing problems.”

Eggbase is a software specialist innovating in the collation and sharing of data from the egg and poultry industry. It wants to increase the quantity and improve the quality of that data using digital technologies.

Anne Fleck, managing director, said: “This will improve bird welfare, decision making, innovation and transparency through the sustainable use of digital technology.

“Agri-IT will play a major role in being able to feed the world’s growing population through efficiency of production.”

Donna Edwards, pilot director, said: “Made Smarter is relevant for any North West SMEs employing less than 250 staff who make, create, manufacture or engineer and I urge local businesses not to miss this opportunity.”

Jon Power, internationalisation manager at Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “By becoming a testbed for new types of technologies and advanced processes, the region’s manufacturing sector will increase productivity and drive forward Cumbria’s economic prosperity.”