The Cutlers’ Company in Sheffield is consulting on only the fourth change in membership rules in its 390-year history - whether to admit makers of ‘soft’ products including digital firms.
The organisation is reviewing its criteria in light of the success of local companies and rise of the ‘Internet of Things’ - machines embedded with electronics, software, sensors and internet connectivity.
When established in 1624, the Company was exclusively for cutlery makers.
Over 200 years later, in the 1850s, it was expanded to include the newly successful steelmen and in the 20th century, all ‘hard’ manufacturing was included.
Now, a proposal has been made to remove the reference to ‘hard’.
Senior Warden Craig McKay said: “I’m excited by it, I think it gives us the opportunity to be incredibly relevant.
“If you haven’t got a digital engineer in the room, you’re not benefiting from the digital revolution.”
The Internet of Things - or ‘Industry 4.0’ when applied to manufacturing - could save up to 40 per cent of costs, he added.
Individuals are eligible for Freedom - membership - of the Cutlers’ Company if they are a director or senior executive of a business making products such as steel, tools, bricks or machines.
“Soft” product manufacturers - including software, food and stationery - can now apply.
Mr McKay, director of steel products firm Evenort, in North Anston, said: “Manufacturers of soft products can apply for Freedom - but the decision rests with the Company.”
Successful digital firms in Sheffield include WANdisco, The Floow and Zoo Digital.