Food firms could treble productivity with lean tools

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Lean manufacturing techniques Lean manufacturing

Food manufacturers could treble their productivity with no new resources by applying lean manufacturing tools, according to Professor Peter Hines, partner at lean consultancy SA Partners.

“Organisations that have done this really well … have trebled the productivity at their sites with no new equipment, no new people, same footprint. So think what would the economics of your facility look like if you produced three times more from the same cost base.

“I would generally say when we have looked in food and drink, there’s usually something in the 10–15% cost savings in the relatively short term to be had. But I think the real benefit is not just creating that capacity, it’s the filling of that capacity with new work, so it’s addressing innovation of new products and innovation in terms of winning business.”

Hines was speaking as a panellist for Food Manufacture Group’s Big Video Debate Keeping lean and green​ at the Foodex 2014 trade show on March 25 at the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre.

Big challenge

A big challenge to overcome when attempting the implementation of lean manufacturing techniques was convincing senior management of doing so, so they would invest more time and resources in the task, said Hines.

A major advantage of implementing automation, which could also increase business efficiency, was that it freed workers up, said fellow panellist Mike Wilson, president of the British Automation and Robot Association.

“Palletising is probably one of the best examples of that,”​ said Wilson, also general industry sales and marketing manager at ABB Robotics.

“There are companies out there that have put palletising systems in that are very successful and the people that were previously putting boxes on pallets are no longer doing that. They’ve been redeployed to do other more interesting, more value-added jobs in the factory.”

For more from the panellists, watch this exclusive video.

Wilson also spoke to in another exclusive video at Foodex​ about the fear factor stopping food and drink processors from committing to automation projects.

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