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Recognising innovation at the Food Processing Awards

23 October 2017

The annual Food Processing Awards took place on 19th October at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Coventry. The event took on a particularly jovial tone this year, following a successful Appetite for Engineering event. 

Both the new Appetite for Engineering conference venue – at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry – and the event content were heralded as a great success by both sponsors and delegates. So, following a day filled with good business discussions, networking and education, everyone seemed in the mood for some fun.  

When the food had been eaten and the wine quaffed, we turned our attention to the awards presentation. Our event hosts didn’t disappoint, and the brilliant double-act of our presenter, Adrienne Lawler and our own Peter Whitfield was, frankly, hysterical and included possibly the worst-ever impression of The Godfather (you really had to have been there!) 

For many years the Food Processing awards have set out to showcase those innovators who are leading the way in offering cost-effective solutions for the food manufacturing industry. This includes new technology developments, application solutions, and people with great vision. 

This year the winners are
Hygiene & Food Safety: BST Detectable Products. With the number of foreign body contamination incidents increasing there is a need to eliminate sources of foreign body contamination which makes detectable materials vital. The XDETECT metal detectable material has been evolved and refined since its launch in 2009. It has applied to many new products such as boxes, security seals and tie tags. The company has also worked to improve, research and test the material to ensure it continues to meet the need of the food industry. Presenting the award for sponsor GEA, was Peter Swift, head of sales – separation.

Future Factory Enabling Technology: B&R. Orange Box consists of a controller and preconfigured software blocks which enables operators to collect and analyse data from previously isolated machines and lines. The controller is able to collect operating data from any machine to generate and display OEE ratings and other KPIs. Nestle was one of the first users of the system. Ralf Hagen, Nestle Germany has already seen its potential. He said: “We are aiming for intelligent analysis that identifies the root causes of a problem before the problem ever occurs. Over the next four years, we want to get to a place where the machines warn us of an impending stoppage in advance, rather than having to troubleshoot after the fact the way we do now. Eventually, there should be no more unplanned downtime, and the Orange Box will help us increase machine availability and output.” Presenting the award for sponsor, Wago, was Adrian Brettle, business development manager.

Skills & Development: Pacepacker: The company is pioneering a skills and development programme aligned to the educational system, economic labour market needs, the manufacturing workforce and future business agendas. It includes a mix of funding two four-year advanced apprenticeship schemes with workshop practices and assembly; Delivering free ROI/OEE/automation optimisation workshops and open house events for end-users; Investing in its workforce, resulting in 96% retention; Collaborating with schools and local authorities hosting guided tours/STEM open days.  Presenting the award for sponsor, FMEG, was Mike Dudbridge.  

Process & Packaging: WMH. The company helped Samworth Brothers give an old line a new lease of life. Chris Terry at Samworth Brothers, said: “WMH provided us with a simple, clean approach to producing our products. The design and automation team removed much of the complicated equipment and outdated safety circuit system resulting in a control panel a fifth of the original size.” Presenting the award for sponsor Gardner Denver was Gareth Topping, vacuum & blowers sales manager.

Robotics & Automation: Marel. A new product was created to solve a long-standing problem by integrating a Marel RoboBatcher Flex and I-Cut 122 PortionCutter to reduce product giveaway. Instead of cutting chicken fillets to one ideal average, this concept focuses on assessing individual breast fillets and only cuts what is needed. This allows for selective cutting, based on recipe requirements. Presenting the award for sponsor Omron was Paul Simpson, strategic business manager – industry solutions.

Continuous Improvement: Mitsubishi Electric. The Smart Condition Monitoring (SCM) solution combines FAG SmartCheck sensors with Mitsubishi Electric control technologies, which together can monitor a range of machine parameters to help with the implementation of predictive maintenance strategies to help increase machine availability and reduce unscheduled downtime.  Individual sensors provide an inbuilt traffic light warning indication at the machine while also transferring the data over Ethernet to the smart sensor controller for in-depth monitoring and more detailed analysis. Presenting the award for sponsor SMC was Steve Arnold, business manager – food & packaging.

Environmental Sustainability: TrakRap. The company’s stretch wrapping machine uses a ‘cold wrap’ technology to eliminate the need for heat tunnels, which are replaced with a 100% recyclable polymer film. The result is a stretch wrapping solution that reduces energy usage by approximately 90%, while also using 70% less film.  Presenting the award for sponsor Lafert was Brian Bannister, managing director.

The Young Engineer Of The Year award aims to recognise those who, within their first few years in the industry, demonstrate commitment to their business and who have the potential to do great things within the sector. The award was presented to all of the finalists as we felt that any young people excelling in the food industry need to be rewarded. The awards were presented by Steve Sands, product management & marketing manager at Festo, to Maxine Ford of Yeo Valley, Maya Parmar of Premier Foods, Matthew Ayre, a software engineer at OAL and Ashley Mickle a workshop engineering apprentice at L.A.C Conveyors.

Finally, the Lifetime Achievement award was presented to Bill Snape, inventor, chairman & director at Process Link. 

Bill has been involved in the powder handling industry for over 60 years and in that time has not stopped developing equipment and systems to solve customer problems. He has many patents to his name including the Membrane Slide Valve and a simple Discharge Station unit for hopper bottomed containers, a Cassette Valve designed for rapid change-overs and easy cleaning, the Linkbin IBC system.

More recently Bill turned his attention to design a FIBC (Big Bag) Discharging Varicone Station which offers dust-tight operation and discharge of difficult compacted powders with minimal operator involvement. For this he received an ‘Innovation of the Year’ award in 2014. This was followed with the granting of two patents in 2015/16 for the Varicone FIBC Discharger’s ‘earthquake plate’ and Varicone Cone. Bill said that he is not ready to retire just yet and announced that he has plans for more powder handling game changers in the coming year. 

I hope that that all of our award winners appreciate that the meaning behind their award is more important than their aesthetic appeal! Oscars they are not, but they do represent an acknowledgment of the work undertaken to help make the food processing industry more successful. 

All in all, the evening was a great success and we would like to, once again congratulate all of this year’s nominees and winners for their ongoing support to innovate and drive the food processing industry forward. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank all of our sponsors, without whom this event really would not be possible. I am now looking forward to next year to see how we can top this event!


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