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Getting a taste of the future

03 April 2017

Graduates from M&S and Bakkavor recently got a taste of the future of food production at the National Centre for Food Manufacturing. 

The University of Lincoln’s National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM) recently held open days for graduates of Bakkavor and M&S. The days formed part of the companies graduate development programmes, which aim to inspire students to think and look into the future of the food manufacturing industry.

The graduates were part of schemes at Marks & Spencer and Bakkavor, and the NCFM hosted separate training days to allow the graduates to experience at first and the technologies that look set to shape the future of food production. As a national centre of excellence for food manufacturing, the Holbeach facility is home to a variety of pioneering robotics and automation systems so offered the perfect venue for this. 

Commenting on the events, Sharon Green, deputy head of NCFM, said: “We are dedicated to supporting the next generation of food manufacturing talent so it was a pleasure to welcome the M&S and Bakkavor graduates to our campus. In the coming years, the projects and technologies we are developing here will transform the sector. By demonstrating the APRIL robotics system, for example, and a new steam infusion cooking method at NCFM, we were able to provide a valuable insight into how the future of the industry will look.”

Technological advances
Colleagues on M&S Graduate Food Technology Scheme and the Bakkavor Graduate Scheme visited the facility to learn how technological advancements could enhance their industry. 

On separate development days, the graduate trainees were introduced to APRIL (Automated Processing Robotic Ingredient Loading) – a ‘robotic chef’ that combines cutting-edge food processing technologies with proven robotic systems to produce high-quality food on an industrial scale.

Developed by OAL, APRIL is a fully automated robotic system that can mix, load and cook ingredients in a manner similar to professional chefs but in high volume. APRIL is designed to help boost production and efficiency while also improving food quality. 

The graduates also learned about advanced steam infusion cooking techniques being developed at NCFM, comparing this to other preparation methods. They were also introduced to IoT-based software solutions designed to boost factory productivity, ensuring compliance and improve efficiency across production lines.

OAL works collaboratively with the NCFM, using its facilities to research, test and develop its processes and solutions working alongside the University and with international manufacturers and retailers.

Commenting on the events, Jake Norman, innovation & marketing manager at OAL, said: “These sessions represent a great opportunity for us to learn what future sector leaders expect from food manufacturing, and allow us to demonstrate how robotics and automation will play a key role. We will soon see digital natives driving the move to paperless systems across the food factory, simply because it’s what they are used to.”


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