Show me a manufacturing business that doesn’t want to achieve improved processes, productivity and profit.
Those three Ps are the cornerstone of any business – from running a corner shop to managing an industrial global giant.
Every chief executive or managing director is looking, or should be looking, to achieve all three off those to remain effective, competitive and highly-profitable.
In manufacturing there is plenty of scope for businesses of all sizes to capitalise given the latest developments and technologies driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
One way is improved automation. I have seen two articles this past week that discuss automation; one shows the success of investing in the technology and the other, which should be of concern, pinpoints how much the UK is lagging behind when it comes to increased automation – especially the food and drink sector.
The first article, in The Manufacturer, raised awareness of the investment being made by Lantmännen Unibake UK at its factory in Milton Keynes. As a result of the growth in the burger market, they are having to ramp up production of their buns. (This also touches on one of my recent articles about being aware of consumer trends.)
The burger market is worth a staggering £3.3bn, with growth in 2017 up 3%, and Lantmännen Unibake UK need to ensure they can meet these demands, so it is investing £1.1m in its bun line.
The changes to the line include a state-of-the-art automated packaging system and quality vision system, which will ensure higher quality standards are met whilst reducing wastage.
This new system is already up-and-running and its impact has been to increase capacity by 10%.
That perfectly illustrates how forward planning, technology and investment does have a positive impact. However, there are not enough Lantmännen Unibake UK’s, which brings me to my second article and the comments from Mike Wilson, business development manager at ABB Robotics, at the recent Foodex event in Birmingham.
He pointed out how the UK lags behind in automation as the UK only has 39 robots per 10,000 workers compared to Germany’s 181. But our continental rivals in France, Spain and Italy have more as do the USA and Japan. This isn’t just him trying to sell more robots but stating the facts that are already out there.
His view, as reported in Food Manufacture, was that UK manufacturing businesses prefer to hold on to older machinery rather than investing in new equipment and technology. It doesn’t have to be radical either, even existing solutions can bring business rapid results through the use of automation.
An example he provided was of pallets still being stacked manually, when this is something that could be easily automated.
Manufacturers are waking up to benefits of automation and how it can potentially revolutionise their businesses and deliver results. It just needs more to grasp the nettle.