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Enabling process agility and adaptability

28 November 2016

Food Processing spoke to Paul Witherington, UK marketing manager at WAGO, about the current food and beverage landscape and what might be coming in the future from this award-winning company. 

Q. What do you see as the main challenges facing the UK food processing industry at the moment?
One of the biggest challenges facing the industry right now is the growing need for agility and adaptability on the production line. This is being driven by increasing customer demand for larger ranges of products to be available in smaller batches, all while maintaining very short lead times. This necessitates production processes that can be quickly and easily configured and reconfigured with minimum errors and downtime.

Another challenge is the need to stay ahead of increasingly stringent health and hygiene standards. While higher standards are an unquestionably good thing for the industry at large, companies increasingly require equipment that can withstand harsh chemicals and rigorous cleaning without suffering damage. As experts in both interconnection and automation technologies, WAGO is well placed to help food and beverage companies tackle these challenges head on.

Q. What can WAGO offer for the food industry, and what is it doing differently to its competitors?
WAGO’s reputation is built on its strong, safe and reliable interconnection products including rail-mounted terminals and connectors. Our TOPJOB S DIN rail-mounted terminal blocks are 30% smaller than rival offerings, and provide safe, reliable termination of all conductor types using push-in cage clamp technology. This ensures that connections are vibration-proof and free from maintenance.

On the automation side, our modular I/O system is scalable from the smallest device up to the most complex system. With specific modules available tailored to the needs of the food industry our automation solutions, combined with our interconnection technologies, can offer efficiency and productivity gains while reducing downtime for a range of food and beverage applications.

Q. What do you see as the next game-changing innovation for the food industry?
Something we’re very excited about at WAGO is our new DIMA automation system of decentralised intelligence for modular systems, which can offer great flexibility and cost-savings by dividing automation functions between module controls and higher-level control systems. The key difference from other solutions is that it equips automation modules with their own intelligence, and can be quickly integrated into systems or replaced as required, making them flexible and easily reconfigured to allow producers to rapidly respond to changing customer requirements and market conditions.

Q. Any recent UK success stories you’d like to talk about?
A. The DIMA system was won this year’s Food Processing Awards in the Robotics & Automation category, indicating that the system has already been very well received both by our customers and our peers!

Q. What can food processors expect from WAGO in, say, the next 18 months?
In the coming months WAGO will be focussing more on education for food industry professionals. Concepts like DIMA can be highly complex, and while our product support is always on hand, we intend to go further, helping to upskill workforces by providing training events, seminars, white papers and more. Food is one of many sectors that is having to take steps to prevent a skills shortage in the future, and through sharing knowledge and offering opportunities for professional development we can help to ensure that the industry continues to innovate and thrive.

The food industry has embraced automation technologies to a generally greater degree than many other industries, and while products may come and go, knowledge never goes out of fashion. Look out in 2017 for material from WAGO that will help businesses tackle I/O and interconnection issues, promote best practices, and help the food industry retain and build upon its already high levels of engineering expertise while keeping the industry at the forefront of innovation.

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