Meeting Challenge with Innovation
With the modern food manufacturing industry constantly facing a treadmill of changes, new regulations and shifts of tastes and trends, how is the sector meeting the latest challenges? We have been speaking to a number of innovative Foodex exhibitors who like nothing better than to roll their sleeves up and problem-solve with a real sense of opportunity and innovation.
Finger on the Pulse
Our exhibitors visit the coalface of production lines and logistics centres on a day-to-day basis across the UK and beyond. They know what manufacturers want and need to be able to do a better job, faster and as economically as possible. So, when asked what they liked about the industry their comments were fresh and relevant.
In2grate (part of the Anisa Group) love being kept on their toes. As leading specialists in ERP manufacturing software solutions, they say, “the best aspect of the food industry is its fast-paced nature, especially in the fresh produce sector. The industry is constantly changing due to new regulations, consumer trends and increases in demand.”
While Nottingham-based L.A.C. Conveyors & Automation enjoy the scope for constant improvement. “Food manufacturing is a vibrant sector,” says Tom Ryland, L.A.C.’s Marketing Manager, “It has enormous amounts of potential for engineering to develop innovative solutions to help control costs through automation.”
And Zeppelin Systems know that in the ever-changing industry, one reassuring thing remains the same “We are always going to need food!” says Neil Brown, Business Development Manager for Foods. “The exciting thing is how as a society our tastes change over the years and how as an industry we need to adapt to this.”
What are the Biggest Challenges?
So, what would our automation experts say have been the biggest challenges for the food manufacturing industry recently?
- Food safety and standards
“With recent scandals involving traceability, one of the biggest challenges food manufacturers are facing is confidently meeting food safety and standards.” say In2grate. “Consumers are demanding to know more information about what they are eating. This puts even more pressure on manufacturers to produce the highest quality goods by complying with increasing guidelines in order to produce safe products and avoid costly recalls.”
- Good quality at a good cost
“One of the major challenges for the food industry is maintaining the highest quality products whilst maintaining value for money and cost competitiveness within the marketplace,” says Nigel Dent, UK Sales Manager at Connected Energy Ltd.
- Keeping up with tastes and trends
“The food manufacturing industry is having to keep a very close eye on consumer trends,” says Neil Brown of Zeppelin Systems. “People’s tastes are changing and becoming more eclectic and it’s important that we stay abreast of what people want so that we can deliver the products they want. And not only do food manufacturers need the end product to look good, taste good and be consistent across each batch, it also needs to be produced quickly to deal with consumer demand.”
“Efficiency and cost control continue to test food manufacturers, but these and other challenges all fall under the banner of 'agility',” says Cedric Hanson of BOC. “Modern food producers need to be able to scale production in line with seasonal demand, accelerate throughput to meet 'just in time' requirements, and keep their methods flexible to test new products - all without adding significantly to their capital expenditure.”
Problem? We’ve got a machine for that!
So how are some of these challenges being met? You only have to walk around the exhibition halls to realise that there is a machine or system for just about every quandary facing producers. Foodex has a solution for just about everything under one roof. Here is what some of our blog contributors have on offer to make things run more smoothly, efficiently, faster and better.
- End-to-end traceability
In2grate say: “To cope with the challenges of the industry, it is important that manufacturers are equipped with the right ERP system. We find it unusual that some fresh produce manufacturers are still struggling with their slow, clunky systems rather than investing in technology built for the digital age. An industry-rich ERP system with in-depth functionality will help increase productivity and visibility throughout your supply chain. Automating key processes will help manufacturers keep up with increased demands, changing trends and regulations in the most efficient way. The industry-specific ERP system In2grate provides for fresh produce manufacturers has integrated end-to-end traceability modules designed to seamlessly help you comply with regulations. The comprehensive Graphical Lot Tracker can reduce recall times from days down to less than two hours while innovative applications such as recipe management and label compliance ensure that food safety regulations are continuously met.”
- Improved pick-and-place units
L.A.C. Conveyors and Automation have been examining processes and procedures in fine detail “with the aim of designing and developing methods of handling that can be automated - not only to reduce labour but also to enhance quality, waste control and improve productivity. L.A.C. have developed a Pick-and-Place Unit after exhaustive investigations across the food industry where these type of units are installed. We have developed a machine that retains the features that users found useful and designed out the problems that they encountered.”
- Even mixing and moisture
Meanwhile: “Here at Zeppelin, we have developed DymoMix which provides food manufacturers with a solution that helps them to increase production, reduce energy consumption and minimize costs for dough production. It works by adding moisture evenly through free falling dry materials. The exciting thing (well exciting to us engineers), is that unlike other systems, this instantaneous wetting process does not require high pressure and can be used with melted butter, fat and liquid additives as well as water.”
- Cryogenic freezing and cooling
And BOC have been busy: “Within BOC and The Linde Group we've been working on a number of cryogenic freezing and cooling innovations; all of which are specifically designed to optimise performance and give manufacturers the production flexibility they need while maintaining product quality. One of our most important new launches: ACCU-CHILL® SC, is a revolutionary sauce cooling method which can increase product throughput by up to five times over traditional methods.”
- Clever use of car batteries
Connected Energy has a clever power solution for managing peak electricity loads for food manufacturing sites and reducing energy bills. Nigel Dent of Connected Energy says, “Through the grid services market, we can provide the customer with a revenue stream by helping balance the electricity grid during peak times. Connected Energy do this by using innovative technology that harnesses the energy of second life electric car batteries for site electric usage and grid balancing.”
The intelligence, solutions, machinery and wonder know no bounds at Foodex this year. There will be a positive fairground of possibility in our exhibition halls. Come along and see automation in action and quiz the specialists with your unique needs. You can also meet our blog contributors at the following locations:
BOC, a member of the Linde Group
Connected Energy Ltd
L.A.C. Conveyors & Automation