Chilled food manufacturer Westmill Foods' Manchester factory was one of a handful of businesses in the industry to take part in the Made Smarter initiative, which seeks to support businesses to improve digital technology and boost growth.
Hertfordshire-based Westmill – owned by Associated British Foods – has been joined by Bell Mount Farms, Blends Holdings, Bells of Lazonby, Lancashire Farm Dairies, Len Wright Salads and The Nursery Kitchen, among other firms from outside the food manufacturing sector.
Through the initiative, Made Smarter offers fully-funded strategic advice, access to leadership development, technical student placements and grant funding to enable food manufacturers – as well as all as other businesses – to boost their competitive edge.
Bell Mount Farming, based in Penrith, Cumbria, produces eggs for the Lakes Free Range Eggs brand.
Using match-funding through Made Smarter, Bell Mount is pioneering bespoke hardware and software that uses sensors and data analysis to try and create and maintain the optimum conditions for egg production and hen welfare.
Liverpool-based colours and flavourings supplier Blends Holdings is investing in new software to kick-start the next stage of its growth process.
"Made Smarter has helped us fund this new technology, which gives us the confidence to drive the business forward,” Michael Rowark, operations director, told Food Manufacture.
“This first step into digitalisation is going to make a significant difference to our entire operation.”
Creating less waste
Len Wright Salads (LWS) has also embarked on an IT data and systems integration project, which will help its factory process, using less energy and creating less waste. The firm manufactures a wide range of produce, including lettuce and tomatoes from its huge site in Tarleton.
Colin Charlesworth, finance director at LWS, said: “Made Smarter has given us the confidence to drive forward this and the future phases of the transformation strategy which won’t just help Len Wright Salads, but secure the long-term economic and environmental sustainability of the salad growing industry in West Lancashire.
“Without Made Smarter investment the business will not be able to afford to undertake this and future phases of the transformation strategy.”
The Nursery Kitchen, which makes home-cooked meals for nurseries from a factory in Birkenhead, has recently received additional funding to allow the company to move from manual paper-based processes to a more automated and integrated resource planning, stock control and client ordering system.
Katy Elliott, owner, said: “[It] has allowed me to make significant changes to our systems and processes, which will improve efficiency allowing us to increase our existing capacity.”