Community Spotlight

SMDH Community Spotlight - Interview with Ryan Farren

In the next in our series of spotlight interviews, our Community Lead, Paul McMillan, caught up with SMDH community member Ryan Farren, CEO at’s mission is to redefine the landscape of manufacturing operations through their pioneering Order & Production management technology and smart automation tools. Learn more here!

Hey Ryan - great to speak to you! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My background and interests are fairly simple. Family, Entrepreneurship, Technology, and keeping active. I'm a husband to a very supportive and amazing wife and soon to be parents. I've grown up in a small rural community called Lavey based in Mid-Ulster, Northern Ireland. I started my first business when I was 16 repairing phones, tablets and laptops when they weren't so complex or expensive to take apart. I pursued a degree in Computer Science which is where I learned about the software side of the world. When leaving University I wanted to try and combine my love of business and technology whilst the risk of doing so was still quite low and full time employment didn't seem just as exciting. My father, Patrick, was fully supportive of the idea and wanted to support me as much as he could, so with his background as a technical architect in banking software I took him up on the offer and we started the company as partners - Patrick as our CTO and myself as CEO.

My first sale is a long way from what I am doing now. It was to develop a WordPress Website and combine it with some Digital Marketing PPC services. That project was an eye opener considering we didn't know much about Websites or PPC at the time. We learned from this to focus on what our background and strengths were and built some software packages to sell.

At the same time as the first sale, we got opportunities to work with some small and medium sized organisations (including start-ups) to develop a range of different software solutions. From ordering systems (Think takeaways with mobile apps), booking platforms, Management of Change software and bespoke workflow packages. We have also worked on a few larger public sector projects providing business analysis resources on larger projects and the learnings across everything we've worked on has been expansive.

The bulk of projects I've been involved with, through business analysis or software building, have centred around Manufacturing and Engineering environments. I've seen so many different processes and systems now that very little surprises me. This is what inspired me to build my first real SaaS product - I found a lot of prospects I was speaking to wanted systems bespoke to their workflow, they wanted it yesterday, they wanted innovations and they didn't want to break the bank. Which is frustrating as a business owner as you feel like you can't provide all of those without some sacrifices. Some would say I was targeting the wrong customers, but I believed there had to be a way to help individuals with these requirements and hence I am now very passionate about my Software Product which we have been working on now for a couple of years. To bring it to life, we have been able to combine a lot of the solutions we worked on in the past to productise it and bring a useful product to market.

Outside of work I'm active with my local GAA club playing on 2 sports teams (The sports are called Gaelic Football & Hurling). I'm usually out training/playing 4+ evenings a week and trying to stay competitive with the younger generations. Which is odd saying that as I only turned 30 in 2023, but it helps me to switch off from the day to day of the working world.

Expecting a lot to change now in 2024 as my wife and I look forward to becoming parents and the business starts to develop into its next phase - But both of us are up to whatever challenges 2024 and beyond brings with the support of our wider family and network. 

What do you think the biggest challenges facing SME manufacturers are right now?

There are a number of challenges facing the UK manufacturing industry, but I find there is a key challenge affecting the entire supply chain UK wide - the skills and talent shortage of net new individuals entering the industry. Finding, onboarding and retaining staff is no cheap task in today's world. Hiring individuals with the skills to make decisions on forward thinking innovative improvements is very expensive; and a long time to value when hiring individuals new to the industry with a combined risk they don't know what they don't know yet.

Almost every supplier and OEM in the supply chain is facing competition with industries painted as better paid, better work life balance, better opportunities - causing an inflation effect where every service and product in the supply chain is becoming much more expensive and hammering the bottom line of the SME workshops as they try to keep up with demand.

What do you think the industry needs to do to address those challenges?

I think there has been a lot of work started in this area already which has been good to see. I know locally we have a number of individuals taking the challenge head on. The likes of the MEGA industry-led collaborative network are doing a great job of promoting the sector, and it would be great to see more of these initiatives UK wide. The Department of Economy NI have also launched an all age apprenticeships programme here locally, which is a great way for those who thought they were "past" getting into an industry, or those who want to start a different career get into it. I think as the programme and policies become better understood and refined, combining this with a more informed education of the industry could start to improve the flow of talent to the industry inward. 

What does 'community' mean to you? And what is the role of 'community' in the manufacturing sector?

Forgive the cliché but if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Coming from a small community where I live, you see first hand that a community can mean everything to so many people. It's the people who back you when you're at your worst and cheer you on at your best. You share ideas to better one another and you all have a common goal to make the place a great place to live or participate. Community in the manufacturing sector is not much different. A sector isn't where we live, but we all spend quite a bit of our time here haha. Its role within the manufacturing sector should be to share ideas around solutions for common challenges that can either help drive productivity or revenue growth for everyone. 

What motivated you to join The Smart Manufacturing Community? 

On a personal level, I want to promote myself as a problem solver in Manufacturing. Sometimes online communities are tough, especially when someone has a problem and the only solutions you see might be "Sure give me a call and I can price it for you". But after seeing The Smart Manufacturing Community’s goal, and after reading a few posts from the admins and other contributors, it might be a place to share ideas in an open manner in the hope that it helps the community as a whole. It's how other online communities in the world work. Take software for example. A post on Stack Overflow about a problem you're experiencing, could be tackled by 3 or 4 different anonymous individuals with no expectations of receiving anything other than bettering the community.

I'd certainly recommend The Smart Manufacturing Community to anyone thinking of joining. The admins and individuals contributing are doing everything to better the community. There's a tech directory for those looking to explore tech solutions. There's various topics that can be explored to further your knowledge. 

And best of all you get to connect and interact with like minded individuals.

Do you have any resources that you'd recommend to the community?

I watch a lot of YouTube Videos and one of the guys I find very informative is Walker Reynolds from 4.0 Solutions. He has some great rants and opinion pieces of different areas of technology in the industry, and he also give great advice on how to think holistically about problems.

How can you help others in the community? 

I solve problems and automate systems/processes using software (software that I've built and other off the shelf automation tools). I have a lot of experience in Business Analysis and scoping projects. I'm not 100% sure how I can be really helpful to this community yet, but for now I'm going to try and come up with thought provoking posts and topics to try and prompt questions from folk that I feel I can answer in a helpful way.

And how can others help you?

Reach out to me if you have any project ideas, or want to know more about what I can offer in terms of Job Tracking solutions and systems integration/automations. Apart from that, I'd just like others in this community to feel like it's a safe place to ask questions. That way I, or others, might be able to engage more with everyone. That would be a big help as it would help promote my knowledge in any given area, or correct any bad assumptions I've made along the way. 


To connect with a community of manufacturers and support organisations passionate about supporting one another, join The Smart Manufacturing Community (for free!) here!

Similar posts

Get notified on new SMDH developments

Be the first to know about what's happening in the Smart Manufacturing Data Hub. Sign up today!