Success Stories

NGF Europe Limited

IN4 has supported NGF Europe Limited with expanding its knowledge of industry 4.0 technologies to help bridge the gap between its corporate IT network and the manufacturing sector. Through training with IN4 Access, Peter Lai, Continuous Improvement and 4IR Manager at NGF, learnt that the technologies available from AWS (Amazon Web Services) could be the solution to the issues that the business faced.

Phase one

Peter and IN4 Group developed several proofs of concept (POC) with the first iteration looking at the use of a low-cost IoT device (Raspberry Pi) to view a temperature sensor online.

Through IN4’s AWS re/Start bootcamp, junior engineer Rimsha Tariq worked on an industrial project with NGF and used her skills training to develop and analyse the data of the low-cost device on a mobile phone. Rimsha not only gained technical skills in cloud computing and coding but also learnt useful personal development and soft skills that helped to improve her business mindset.

Rimsha’s input was vital to the success of phase one of the NGF journey, resulting in her securing a full-time role with the company as a continuous improvement technician.

Phase two

Three to six months later, Peter and the NGF team worked closely with IN4 to develop a POC working with big data, to use Power BI to see how they could interpret two years of data more efficiently and cost-effectively. Further low-cost IoT devices were created to continue measuring temperature sensors and measure kilowatt usage.

The first time they used AWS, they joined an industrial dataset with a manufacturing dataset and rolled out the communications platform, QuickSight, which had issues with not being user friendly enough or aesthetically pleasing. They configured sensors to send live data to their IoT and experimented with an AI camera to create a database twin of the current systems and practices – the architecture was laid in this phase.

Phase three

This began with the creation of pivotal dashboards, where more sensors were required. Following the success of the work with Rimsha, the NGF team continued to work with graduates from IN4’s AWS re/Start bootcamp to support their digital journey.

IN4 introduced NGF to several companies, including CloudRail and IFM, which would further support its development. This was a huge breakthrough as a lot of the machines that are used in production and manufacturing are relatively outdated – so, communicating with these devices accurately is a real issue and can potentially impact whether the product can go ahead or not due to the cost.

The third phase is the most important as the team discovered that they could begin to use the data from previous data sources and gain some real value from their findings.

A successful journey

Peter was a champion in implementing these systems at NGF and its entire digital transformation journey took just two and a half years to complete. The NGF blueprint mapped out an efficient process, spanning across work, tools and skills.

Rimsha provided vital support to NGF by helping to accelerate its digital adoption. She joined the NGF team and filled the digital skills gap in the organisation with her unique industry 4.0 skill set, work experience and understanding of AWS technologies.

 

“With the direction and speed the world is moving in, these are the skills we need. Through completing a journey like this, companies can identify the gaps in skillsets and understand where their efforts need to be directed, and who can pick up the missing skills.”

Peter Lai, Continuous Improvement and 4IR Manager at NGF

Crystal Doors

IN4 has been working closely with manufacturer Crystal Doors to deliver industrial projects and as a result, it has employed Ben Horn as a full-time digital champion and Lewis Cookson as an engineer intern to help accelerate its digital transformation.

The employer

Crystal Doors, based in Rochdale, has been manufacturing bespoke vinyl wrapped doors and accessories for kitchen, bedroom and bathroom retailers for over 25 years.

Ben Horn, Digital Transformation Programme Manager at Crystal Doors, was placed by IN4 in July 2020. Ben, 25, from Preston, has a Masters in Robotics from the University of Central Lancashire and after training with IN4, was fast-tracked as a Cloud Engineer, accredited by Amazon Web Services. He was trained in client project management, worked on digital manufacturing projects, and progressed to be customer-facing, gaining skills in business development and marketing.

Two IN4 AWS re/Start graduates worked with Ben on manufacturing projects and following their success, Lewis Cookson has joined the team as a Digital Transformation Engineer intern to continue driving forward the company’s adoption of digital technologies.

The challenge

The first project looked at the development of a RFID (radio-frequency identification) tracking system for the manufacturing process so that data, such as the time of delivery, can be captured at each stage of production to improve efficiency. The second project looked at the monitoring of machines over 10 years old, which have sensors for health and safety but don’t offer any big data information so they can’t give an understanding of predictive maintenance or volumes of work.

The solution

The graduates looked at tracking materials throughout the production process with RFID tagging so that all the data during the manufacturing process is then updated onto the RFID chip at every stage. This creates two-way visibility for both the business and its customers, so they gain an understanding of where each product is in the process. They can then feedback to customers, carry out their analysis as well as push data to the RFID chip.

For the machine monitoring project, they took an old packing machine and researched how to retrofit it with sensors that would allow the business to monitor it like an industry 4.0 machine. They then researched how they would build a software platform on the AWS infrastructure so that the machines could be monitored and controlled remotely.

The benefits

Richard Hagan, Managing Director of Crystal Doors said: “The quality, calibre and enthusiasm that the IN4 graduates have shown throughout their projects has been absolutely fantastic.

“We didn’t have the funding, time or the resources for the projects that we wanted to do, but it was made possible through IN4, who added so much value to our work. They did a deep dive into the technologies available to us so now we are much better placed to move forward with our digital transformation.

“The RFID and sensor projects have now gone live when we normally would have been sitting on them for another six months, this opportunity is enabling commercial companies to catapult projects that they should be working on, with a faster and more immediate impact.

“Employing staff like Ben and a junior engineer intern to support with digital transformation has more than educated me in the latest technology, it’s broadened my network. Ben has made a big impact in such little time, he has already made massive inroads with introducing digital technologies and cost-saving efficiencies, I’m really pleased to have been given the opportunity to employ him through IN4.

“Having the ability to take talent out of postgraduate education and straight into projects lessens the risk for employers. We’ve now got IN4 Talent to help place digital champions within a company with the expertise you need to advance the adoption of digital technologies – this is a brilliant opportunity to develop our future leaders.”

crystal doors

Inscape Interiors

Inscape Interiors, based in Chorley, Lancashire, is a manufacturing joinery company with over 25 years of experience working in the commercial construction industry.

As part of the AWS re/Start bootcamp, graduate engineers undertake commercial projects with North West employers, and work on digital manufacturing projects to drive digital transformation within businesses such as Inscape.

Following the successful delivery of projects, Inscape has hired bootcamp graduate Ben Dale as Technology Administrator.

IN4’s specialist digital skills training programme works like a bridge to connect Lancashire employers like Inscape with talented home-grown graduates such as Ben.

Local collaboration

Alongside IN4 Group’s Skills City bootcamps, it has a ground-breaking joint venture business with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), dedicated to enabling industrial digital technology adoption by upskilling manufacturing and engineering teams through IN4 Access, a disruptive innovation applied learning accelerator.

Having previously partnered on IN4 Access, BAE Systems based at Samlesbury, Lancashire, is providing significant sponsorship in support of the AWS re/Start bootcamp which is nurturing 150 local graduates each year into Junior Cloud Engineers, accredited by The Institution of Engineering and Technology and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Prof Andy Schofield, Technology Delivery Director at BAE Systems, said: “Ultimately, IN4’s Skills City bootcamps are part of a series of initiatives all focused on delivering benefits for the North and building capabilities fit for the next century.”

Mo Isap, CEO of IN4 Group, said: “Being Lancashire born and bred, I made a commitment to nurture local talent and activate the spirit of collaboration to enable local manufacturers like Inscape to adopt digital technology, and this mission has created a perfect storm, illustrating the power of Lancashire.

“This is the perfect example of how collaborations between universities, SMEs, large enterprises, government investment and local talent can really make a difference and drive digital transformation in the region.

“I’m really proud of how the IN4 team and our partners have come together to support incredible local graduates like Ben on their journey into employment and ambitions for a career as cloud and digital engineers.

“Ben will be further accelerating digital transformation for an SME manufacturing business that is not only going to increase its productivity but will further help Lancashire in its economic prosperity.”

Local talent: Ben Dale

Ben, 27, has a Masters in Chemistry from Lancaster University and lives in Lancaster with his wife Laura and two children, Emilia, four and Gabriela, one.

He joined the AWS re/Start bootcamp and supported BAE Systems with its Factory of the Future project, which gave him a valuable insight into the advanced manufacturing and technology sector.

Prior to the bootcamp, the dad of two felt the stress and pressure of looking for a job during the pandemic and planning out his career path after completing his degree.

Ben said: “I’ve got a young family and I wanted to settle down in a stable career in Lancashire, so the digital sector seemed like a safe area to be in, particularly after the impact of Covid-19, there’s still a huge demand for it.

“I’ve always been interested in a digital career, but I didn’t really have the skills or the background to pursue it. My confidence was boosted by the bootcamp, the AWS qualification and IN4’s strong industry connections through my placement with BAE Systems, have led me to the job that I’ve now got with Inscape.

“Without IN4’s support, I think I would still struggle to get the kind of job in data and cloud computing that I wanted. Moving into a digital career was made possible by IN4 and has helped me to get a job I really want.”

Digital manufacturing

Inscape has a proprietary software application within the business that has been developed over the last 15 years, but it has recently run into difficulties which they weren’t able to solve internally. The software doesn’t use modern technology and it wasn’t scalable in the way that they wanted it to help the business grow.

Talent development

The IN4 bootcamp graduates learnt about the software and gained an understanding of how Inscape wanted to use it within their business.

Paul Mills, Strategy Director of Inscape Interiors, said: “One of the difficulties that we’ve had, particularly as a small business, is that it’s very hard to understand the potential solutions that are available and with the graduates’ knowledge, we were able to very quickly identify some of the more technical issues with our software, the age of the languages and how we were developing it.

“The graduate engineers were able to propose solutions on how we could migrate existing software in stages across to AWS, in a way that we hadn’t even thought possible.

“We felt it was a very big problem that we had to solve, but actually the graduates and IN4 team allowed us to understand that we could run it alongside our existing software so we wouldn’t be at risk. If we hadn’t had that knowledge and expertise to help us through the process, then I think we would have really struggled.”

Commercial innovation

Paul said: “My experience of working with IN4’s skills bootcamp has been excellent, they’ve been very collaborative and have people with a great deal of digital experience, who have helped us make significant progress as a business.

“Our relationship with IN4 has had a very significant impact on Inscape, we now know that there is a technology-based resource and expertise that’s very much on our doorstep which provides a whole range of services.

“IN4 can help us understand the problem, they can bring graduates to us through their bootcamps, and they can help propose solutions for our business.

“They have also helped guide us through the recruitment process and have found us Ben, a really talented graduate to join the Inscape team and drive forward our digital transformation.”

LUR

LUR, based at Trafford Park in Manchester, is a leader in the UK traction and rolling stock market. The train overhaul business specialises in the machining of wheels and axles, the assembly of wheelsets and the overhaul of bogies and traction system components for all types of trains.

Established in 2015, LUR created a unique entity with complete control over its supply chain ‘from furnace to fleet.’ LUR is a joint venture between Lucchini RS Group of Italy and Unipart Rail Ltd.

Junior Engineer Rosie Cumming has a BSc in Physics from the University of Manchester and trained with IN4 Group’s AWS re/Start skills bootcamp. After qualifying from the bootcamp as an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner and working on digital transformation projects for LUR during the course, she has secured full-time employment as a Graduate Cloud Engineer with the business.

Rosie has supported LUR with building a data dashboard that they will share with clients. This is something LUR has not had before, and they see this as a great value-add for their customers.

Sean Barson, Engineering Director at LUR said: “We found the support from IN4 Group to be very beneficial as we start on what we see as our digital journey to provide our customers with more digital data, and as we become a more digitised manufacturing company.

“We’re very good at mechanical engineering, but we’re not so good when it comes to the Internet of Things and industry 4.0, this is where we found their support to be excellent. And the knowledge that their junior engineers have in this area has really started to push us along to improve in these areas.”

Poppies Europe

IN4 Group supported graduate Joel Mungie into a Digital Engineer role in the manufacturing industry with St Helens based Poppies Europe.

Poppies Europe is an independent market leader within the paper tableware industry. It manufactures products for both catering and retail sectors, produced under the well-recognised Poppies brand name along with bespoke own labels.

Poppies has a production facility in the North West on a 6-acre site, where all its UK based production is operated, and it can distribute products both nationally and internationally.

Junior engineer: Kelsey’s story

Kelsey Brooks, 21, has joined the IN4 team as a Junior Engineer after graduating from the AWS re/Start skills bootcamp.

Based at HOST, operated by IN4 in MediaCity, Kelsey has been working closely with the team to help facilitate the next cohorts of the bootcamp and DEVA/hack, and support consultancy projects.

Kelsey was working as a freelance audio engineer when she developed an interest in artificial intelligence on the side. She founded a start-up company that uses machine learning algorithms to recognise chords in music, which helps musicians and audio engineers categorise their music libraries. She is really interested in coding, so she started teaching herself new languages and finding small projects to work on.

However, Kelsey really wanted to gain more industry experience, particularly work on real-life projects. Due to coronavirus, her freelance work stopped completely so when she was offered a place on the AWS re/Start bootcamp, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get the experience she wanted and to brush up on her technical skills. Having mentorship from industry and business leaders was also something that really appealed to her.

Kelsey said: “The personal development module was a great way to develop soft skills, gain more confidence, and understand what employers are actually looking for in applications and interviews.

“It also provides the opportunity to work with lots of different industry partners – I had the opportunity to work on a really important industry project with BAE Systems, which I would never have been able to do without IN4.

“The BAE Systems project was a great insight into how companies work in industry and how different the working environment is to university. I originally wanted to work in academia after completing a PhD, but I’ve realised that working in industry feels a lot more impactful to me. This has led to me discovering new career options that I’d never even heard about before I’d joined the bootcamp!

“I feel that I would have had considerably fewer of the skills needed to get my dream job. The combination of technical, personal and business skills that the bootcamp has given me have all contributed significantly to my job search, and I have so much more to talk about at interviews now that I have delivered a major project.

I’ve made lots of contacts with external companies, guest speakers, and other graduates that have given me opportunities that I never had prior to the bootcamp. Finally, working with a recruitment manager has given me great insight into the recruitment process, and helped me to secure job interviews at the end of the programme.

“I never realised exactly how important soft skills are before joining the bootcamp – I understood why soft skills were useful, but I thought that my academic qualifications would be the most important thing.

“I now realise that anyone can learn the hard skills, but having great soft skills is far more important and useful to a recruiter. The bootcamp provided so much support in recognising and developing strengths and weaknesses in our own personal development.

“I’ve had the most amazing time over the past 12 weeks, and I feel so lucky and thankful to have met and worked with so many incredible people. I’ve never felt so supported or represented within a group of engineers and technologists. If you’re a recent graduate, I highly recommend applying!

“After the bootcamp, I feel much more prepared to proceed into employment and I’m really excited to join the IN4 team as a Junior Engineer. I’ve only been with IN4 for a week, but I’ve already had some great opportunities to work with major engineering companies on really exciting projects.

“I love being able to pass on the knowledge I gained from my time in the skills bootcamp to our new cohort of graduates, and to help inspire other engineers from non-traditional or minority backgrounds to work in the technology sphere. The AWS re/start bootcamp has given me so much more confidence, and I’m really excited about my future as a Cloud Engineer!”

Our talent can provide instant project support and we have a range of flexible recruitment options available, including permanent recruitment and a contractor model.

Employers in the North West who are interested in accessing digital talent to support the development of their businesses are welcome to get in touch with the IN4 Talent team at: info@in4talent.co.uk

Junior engineer: Aminah’s story

Aminah Ahmed, 22, has a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Central Lancashire. After training with IN4 Group’s AWS re/Start skills bootcamp, she graduated as an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner and was then supported into a job in the digital technology industry.

Aminah said: “I hope to begin my career in the aerospace industry, particularly the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) and similar technologies in this industry. My dream has always been to work in the space sector and as the idea of an interplanetary civilisation becomes more of a reality, I would love to be part of the team responsible for sending the first humans to Mars.

“Prior to joining the bootcamp, I was applying for various aerospace graduate schemes, but due to a lack of industry experience, I had very little luck and felt anxious about what the future would hold. I joined the AWS re/Start bootcamp as I wanted to gain work experience and focus on my personal development. I believe these two factors were holding me back considerably when it came to securing employment.

“My favourite part of the bootcamp has been working on the client project with BAE Systems. Although nerve-wracking at first, it was an invaluable experience to deliver projects for a high-profile company and take on responsibility in an industrial setting. The work has been challenging and I’ve had to adapt to difficult situations, however throughout this experience, I’ve grown as an individual and become much more resilient. I’ve developed my communication skills and I’m much more confident in my abilities.

“If I hadn’t have participated in the bootcamp, I wouldn’t feel confident in even pursuing my dream career. I lacked confidence in my abilities and myself, and found I rarely took hold of the opportunities available. Having joined the bootcamp, I’ve challenged myself and through this; I have become comfortable with the uncomfortable and it is with this mindset that I hope to achieve my career goals.

“I feel my degree prepared me for employment to some extent as I had sufficient technical knowledge for a career in the aerospace field. However, some aerospace roles, particularly in the space sector, entail skills such as programming which my degree didn’t cover. As a result, I decided to learn how to code outside of my studies as this is skill desired by many industries.

“I find soft skills are often overlooked throughout academia, but I believe these are often the deciding factors for many employers. Having technical ability is a given but being an effective communicator, team worker and leader are skills which are not only of benefit in employment, but throughout life.” 

FreelanceHER 100

FreelanceHER 100 is a fully funded 12-week business accelerator for women working to launch and grow sustainable businesses in digital, creative, media and technology sectors across Greater Manchester.

Its mission is to support a diverse community of women who have the skills to launch and lead businesses in multiple markets from idea and validation to business growth. It’s a safe place to test their ideas, innovate and grow their businesses.

The programme supported 104 women who were impacted by the pandemic. The aim was to help them succeed during challenging times and to empower female freelancers to be strong leaders, create powerful enterprises, and influence and shape the world through their companies.

FreelanceHER 100 delivered impactful, meaningful connections, and value to participants as 97% of the women believe the programme positively impacted their businesses, while over 90% said they couldn’t have received better business support from anywhere else.

Overall, a majority found the programme increased their confidence, management and networking skills – which are all the key elements of growing in business and as an entrepreneur.

The feedback from participants was unanimous, the value they gleaned from peer-to-peer mentoring was what set this programme apart, and unlike anything else, they had experienced elsewhere.

“It was an incredible opportunity; I didn’t know how inspiring and life-changing it would be for me. I’ve worked for myself for 20 years, took time to raise my kids – I didn’t know I had lost my confidence and stalled in my technology understanding. This programme helped me know what I didn’t know,” said Alexandra Hajok, founder of North Arrow Geospatial.

Victoria Bond, CEO of Space HR, said: “I have never experienced group mentoring before I was part of FreelanceHER 100. I couldn’t see how I’d get what I needed out of being part of a group, rather than just being one on one. I was totally WRONG! Imagine if your talent programme wasn’t built around the competition to be the best but was built around a group of people collaborating to achieve more together. That fits my values much more closely.”

AWS re/Start bootcamp graduates

IN4 Group has established its 12-week specialist digital skills AWS re/Start bootcamp as part of Skills City, to help address the digital skills gaps across Lancashire and Greater Manchester by working with employers to recruit digital talent from diverse backgrounds, creating inclusive opportunities for those who may not otherwise have access.

The skills bootcamp is aimed at building an inclusive and diverse global pipeline of new cloud talent by focusing on unemployed and underemployed populations and helping them to launch entry-level cloud careers.

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