Sandwich manufacturers are ‘cautious’ about technology

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Automation could pose a challenge for sandwich producers
Automation could pose a challenge for sandwich producers

Related tags: British sandwich association

Sandwich manufacturers are “cautious” about being the first to market with a fully-automated sandwich systems.

This is one of the challenges facing the UK sandwich and food-to-go markets in the next 10 years, says a new report launched by the British Sandwich Association (BSA).

In 2015 the BSA set up a steering group to consider the challenges which led, in 2016, to a study by three MBA students at Lancaster University Management School focusing on the role technology is likely to have in the industry over the next decade.

This report draws together the conclusions of the Lancaster study with the work done through a series of interviews, meetings and workshops over 18 months leading up to the publication of this report. The aim of the report is to provoke thought and debate rather than to set out any specific path for the future of the industry.

Factors facing the food industry

The report reveals that there are number of factors facing the food industry which may influence change in the years ahead. It highlights the skills shortages faced by the food industry generally; the costs of meeting ever more demand for healthier and environmentally friendly products; and the cost implications that are implicit in meeting legislative changes, particularly after the Brexit vote.  

It said that other pressures, on the profitability of food businesses, were likely to lead it to seek ever greater efficiencies which new technologies might help to deliver.

Little real automation

The report said: “Reality is that there is little real automation in factories making sandwiches. The bread may be buttered by a machine and carried along a conveyor but the fillings are added largely by hand. Machines only re-enter the picture to cut the sandwich, which is then packaged by hand. Typically, a production line may employ around 20 workers, on shifts.

Although there are some ‘robotic’ lines, these are relatively limited as they currently cannot generally cope with the variability of ingredients and are therefore limited to fillings that can be consistently applied​.”

The report also revealed that while technology could help to resolve many of the issues facing manufacturing, there was equally a caution about investing in the unknown.  

Technology could also help solve the problems of demand forecasting and a general lack of real-time feedback or data on retailer stocks. 

It is intended that this report would be presented to the Association’s AGM/Conference this month with a view to expanding the work in the coming year.

 

Focuses of the report

  • How technological change will affect sandwich and food-to-go manufacturing/making
  • How technological change in manufacturing/making will affect retailers and visa versa
  • How technological change will affect the way consumers purchase in the future
  • How technological change in the retail sector will affect both consumers and manufacturing.

 

Contact British Sandwich Association​ for more information.

Related topics: Fresh produce, Processing equipment

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