For over 50 years investment in manufacturing has been an issue for the UK economy. The result has been the decline of many industries for which the nation was once a world leader. Now the food sector is coming under considerable pressure from an increasingly global industry. Technological developments -- and investment by global competitors -- are changing the competitive nature of the food market. Our European partners are leading these developments, through increased investment. The result is that the UK is under increasing pressure from lower cost operators even in chilled-fresh sectors as transport and its costs become less significant factors.
Investment in technology -- not just in modern machines -- has led to these improvements for continental suppliers. New ?production systems' are being introduced more frequently than ever before. Generally these enhance the performance of production lines equipped with modern industrial control systems. So European food manufacturers have not only invested in these systems, but have installed new machines or refurbished existing machines to improve manufacturing cell performance. Operational gains from these investments are much greater than solely more consistent quality, better portion control and production rates, etc. They have delivered process visibility to production managers, proactive maintenance information to engineers, control data to quality controllers, and many other extensions to operational information -- the key to continuous manufacturing improvement.
Short-term investor strategies have led to problems in the food industry -- as they did in so many UK manufacturing sectors before. But we don't seem to have learned the lesson. Lack of long-term thinking has been the cause of much of our decline.
Food manufacture has the opportunity to change if it takes note of the signals sooner rather than later. Technology and innovative machine designs are available and return on investment can be justified. Investments also deliver much needed improvements in quality and traceability.
Wake up UK food manufacturers and seek, justify and obtain the investments that are critical to your operations' efficiency and the survival of UK food!
Colin Bravington is UK Business Development Manager, Omron http://www.omron.co.uk