People and their skills was the “most important piece of the productivity challenge”, Nestlé’s UK and Ireland boss Fiona Kendrick said at its People and Productivity event held at Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs headquarters last week.
Investing in machines would make little difference without having highly-skilled operators, Kendrick claimed.
“There’s a lot of focus on technology and automation, but from our experience at Nestlé, what really matters is the matching of people to that technology,” she said.
“We have to get the best out of that technology and to do that we need to have highly-skilled people.”
Well below its potential
Productivity – the rate of output per hour worked – among UK food and drink businesses is well below its potential, specifically in comparison to some EU counterparts and the US, Nestlé claimed.
If the UK matched the productivity rate of the US, its gross domestic product (overall output) would increase by 31%, equivalent to £21,000 a year for every household in the UK, the government claimed.
Kendrick said there was a premium for people that had the ability to operate the cutting-edge technology that Nestlé has invested in.
Productivity was ultimately about people being supported to carry out their jobs better, more efficiently and having a secure and satisfying career, Kendrick added.
For example, Nestlé invested in improving staff skills and confidence at its Halifax site and has boosted productivity as a result.
Boost in productivity in Halifax
It has reduced the frequency in which a machine used to make Quality Streets broke down from once every eight hours to up to two months.
This has cut material waste by 71.1%, cleaning hours by 82.1% and days working from six to four.
The machine produces 2.5t of sweets an hour.
Chris Atkinson, who leads continuous excellence at the site, reiterated people were the most important factor.
“What did take us seven days – to make those Quality Streets to go into tins – we could now do in three and a half, which allowed those people to have more time to plan and solidify what they were going to do,” he said.