Food and drink manufacturers in the Yorkshire and Humber region will benefit from a £1.4M project to improve the take-up of automation, organised by the Centre for Food Robotics and Automation.
The two-year project, InnovateBetter, is supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and will help manufacturers increase production and save money on commodity and labour costs through the introduction of automation, according to the director of InnovateBetter Steve Cann.
"The potential for increased income will be significant," said Cann. "This project has come at the perfect time. With rising commodity prices, the last thing a company wants is waste. Installing automation will help make sure a product is right first time, helping to maximise commodity use."
The project will offer organisations specialist advice and guidance, with dedicated engineers and business consultants helping to provide opportunities to innovate and automate.
Expert engineers will work with companies on an individual basis to evaluate the best direction to take. This could range from the selection of new kit such as robotic pick-and-place equipment, weighing systems and packaging machinery, or a re-think of a firm's current manufacturing process.
"What we will do is give advice tailored specifically for the firm," said Cann. "It does not have to be a robot; it could be something as simple as investing in a more efficient conveyor."
Once a decision on how best to fulfil a company's potential has been made, the engineer will compile and submit a funding application to the ERDF detailing what investment is needed.
There are about 900 food and drink manufacturers in the Yorkshire and Humber region, and although Cann recognised that existing funding would not be sufficient to provide for all of them, he was confident of helping at least 50.
"Realistically we could add a lot of value to 4050 companies. If we ended up with 50 projects in two years that would be great, but we will hopefully engage with 150 companies to offer some form of advice and guidance."