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Robotics workshop to help food firms match Europe

By Mike Stones , 20-Oct-2011

A robotics workshop will take place next month to help UK food and beverage manufacturers catch up with their European competitors.

Unleashing the power of robots could help UK food firms compete more effectively with Europe

Unleashing the power of robots could help UK food firms compete more effectively with Europe

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) is joining forces with the British Automation and Robotics Association (BARA) to stage the members-only event at Coca-Cola Enterprises in Edmonton, North London on Thursday November 10.

The UK lags significantly behind other EU countries, such as Germany, Italy and France in the adoption of robotic technologies, Mike Wilson, director of the Automation Advisory Service [AAS], told FoodManufacture.co.uk.

Shortfall

The UK has only 25 robots per 10,000 employees in non-automotive sectors, according to the International Federation of Robotics. Lack of knowledge and skills, plus an aversion to risk, are blamed for the shortfall, particularly among smaller-scale manufacturers, said Wilson, who is also BARA president.

“The workshop in November will be a great opportunity for FDF members to take stock of the benefits of automation in the food and beverage sector. It will also offer the chance to learn the skills workforces need to take advantage of automation,” he said.

Terry Jones, FDF director of communications, said: “Though UK food and drink manufacturers are already major users of robot applications – we still need to close the gap with our rivals in the rest of Europe if we are to realise our growth potential."

“Such technology may not be right for every company, but it is clearly an important area to promote as we look to boost the competitiveness of UK manufacturing. We are pleased to be working with BARA to make this expertise available to help smaller food and drink companies explore new ways of improving processes and increasing efficiency.”

Impartial advice

To help UK food and beverage firms take full advantage of robotic technology, the government has awarded £600,000 to fund an Automating Manufacturing Programme managed by BARA. The project, which will run until the end of March 2013, will offer independent, impartial advice to assist small- to medium-sized enterprises (SME) adopt automation solutions.

Wilson told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the first applications for funding, including one from a bakery firm, had been received already. For more information about applying for robotics funding click here .

Meanwhile, SME UK food and drink manufacturers are invited to attend Food Manufacture’s free SME Business Leaders' Round Table. It will be staged at legal specialist Eversheds’ Leeds office on November 29.

On offer will be news, views and opinion geared to helping SME food and beverage executives make the best of current business opportunities.

For more information about this free-to-attend event, click here , telephone 01293 610231 or email foodmanevents@wrbm.com.

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