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Buoyant mood lifts packaging show

30 September 2011

If the atmosphere around the PPMA exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham was to be believed, the food and beverage sector is as upbeat as ever. David Strydom reports on a successful show.

Everybody seemed pleased about the recent PPMA show held between 27-29 September at the NEC. Although there are doubts about the economic climate, this year’s show seemed to mirror the 2009 event, where people ignored the ‘credit crunch’ recession, and came out in droves to find out the latest innovations.

Chris Buxton, CEO of the PPMA, summed up the atmosphere: ''If politicians are still talking about a double-dip recession they obviously haven’t visited the show. This will allay the concerns manufacturing isn’t leading the country out of recession, and also provide the sector with overdue recognition.’’

ABB Announces Robot sale on first day of PPMA Show

ABB Robotics appeared to have the best start to the show, as indicated by a beaming Alan Spreckley, ABB channel partner. The manufacturer sold one of its robots to the RM Group. ''It was bought at the most competitive price ever seen in the UK for a robot of this specification,’’ Alan said.

''We’re extremely pleased that the RM Group has agreed to join the ABB partner programme and looks forward to a long and successful relationship.’’

In fact, the emphasis on this year’s show was quality, although it may exceed previous years’ numbers in terms of visitors (the total footfall for all three days had not been released at the time of going to press). As one visitor said: ''I’d much rather attend an exhibition where I have a good idea of who is here, and get to see them, rather than one which is too unwieldy and has too many stands.’’

Optimistic outlook from Ishida Europe & Bosch Rexroth

Several manufacturers told Food Processing that they had had a good show, including Ishida Europe. ''Despite the fears of a double dip recession, people are still sufficiently encouraged enough to visit and invest in equipment,’’ said Torsten Giese, marketing manager. ''It seems as though the panic button has not been pressed as quickly this time. In terms of enquiries, we’ve had all types of companies on our stand, from the smallest to the largest.’’

''PPMA has been refreshing,’’ said Andy Barker, food and packaging sector manager for Bosch Rexroth. ''There have been good quality leads, particularly from major end-users, which is the reason we came. We’re not here to compete as a machine builder, we’ve come to create interest with major end-users and I think we’ve delivered on that.’’

High Quality Visitors

‘’We were pleasantly surprised,’’ said Simon Goodwin, managing director of B&R Automation. ‘’Yesterday (the first day), it seemed footfall was quite low but then the quality leads started to pour in. The manufacturing forums are really good too. We’re here to raise our profile, and have been surprised at the quality of visitors.'’

Alan Yates, MD of Endoline Machinery and president of the PPMA, was over-the-moon with how the show was turning out towards the end of the second day. ‘’It’s been exceptionally good,’’ he said. ‘’We’ve sold machinery off the stand, and taken orders, which is certainly not something that usually happens. I thought the footfall yesterday (day one) was higher than normal.’’

Chris Ryan, marketing manager of Silverson, said the show was proving to be as consistent as always. ``We’d usually expect between 90 and 100 leads and we’ve been on course for that,’’ he said at the end of the second day. ‘’There were a few headlines about the show being ‘revitalised’ this year but the truth is it doesn’t need to be. We thought the last one was really good.’’

Simon Adams, managing director of Werma, was a visitor on the second day. ‘’I come here to look for existing customers and find new ones,’’ he said. ``I spoke to one exhibitor based in Ireland that is offering an OEE systems package that could interface with our own OEE system, so from that point of view today was worthwhile. I’d absolutely come again next year because in terms of machinery shows this is one of our two most important exhibitions.’’

Another happy exhibitor was Dennis Allison, MD of Pacepacker Services. ‘’This is our biggest stand yet,’’ he said, ‘’and we’re very pleased with it. It’s enabled us to de-clutter so we’ve been able to accommodate more people, and get good quality enquiries. Today (the second day) has been busy; in fact, everytime we exhibit with the PPMA, it always generates orders we otherwise wouldn’t have got.’’

David Hayward, MD of Linkx Systems, said expectations before the show had been high, and that the economic climate shouldn’t have any effect on the success of the show.’’

Tim Mornin of Mettler Toledo, the checkweighing and inspections systems company, said it was important for it to exhibit at PPMA because ‘’if we weren’t here, our customers would want to know why. Obviously we’re here to get new leads and make some business.’’

Festo took a unique approach with its stand by highlighting futuristic visions that included the machine jellyfish floating up and down in its tank. ‘’We decided to do something different and focus on the future as opposed to taking a commercial approach,’’ said Gary Wyles, MD of Festo.

Two packaging automation suppliers G Mondini and Ulma Packaging announced they were merging at the PPMA. The new merged company, to be called G.Mondini-Ulma, brings together Mondini UK and Ulma UK to produce one complete food packaging line. The company says it will be more reliable and cost-effective.

G.Mondini-Ulma could expand later to France, South Africa, Australia, Russia and Japan, and it announced it is targeting further growth in areas in the bakery, red meat, poultry, fish, ready meals and fresh produce industries.

BARA launched its Automating Manufacturing Programme, which it described as the successful implementation of automated or robotic systems can drive productivity, reduce waste, improve precision and ultimately increase the competitiveness of companies. ‘’This government-funded programme provides the opportunity for UK manufacturers to benefit from independent, impartial expertise to assist in the implementation of appropriate automation solutions.

From a machinery point of view, the sector was comprehensively covered at the show, with everything from control and instrumentation (incorporating AC servo drives, bearings, control panels, flooring, motion control, renewable energy and sensing devices, among others) to processing equipment (bakery equipment, bulk handling equipment, cleaning machines, conveyors, dairy processing machines and valves, among others) and packaging equipment (barcode equipment, canning equipment, checkweighers, conveyors, filling machines, inspection machines, pallet transfer machines, tray form fill-and-seal machines, wrapping machines, among others).

Manufacturing Forum makes its mark

An important part of this year’s event was the Manufacturing Forum, which consisted of several presentations by prolific companies and speakers. ‘’It was crafted together to provide practical advice for manufacturing businesses looking to increase their competitive edge,’’ said Kirsty Sharpe, editor of PPMA News. ‘’This new show development should prove popular with visitors and exhibitors alike.’’

The first day saw a presentation from the Manufacturing Advisory Service – West Midlands (MAS-WM), followed by one from B&R Automation on Energy efficiency in motion control, and from the Automation Advisory Service’s Mike Wilson on Automation – the route to business improvement and the funding available for new users.

On the second day, Pera’s Andy Dean presented on Transformational business changes through innovating in the process and packaging sector. He was followed by John Quinn, a technologist for traditional meals, Gastropub, and bistro for Marks & Spencer, and by Mark Williamson, the chairman of UKIVA and director of Stemmer Imaging on Modern vision systems – The evolution of capability, applications and realistic return on investment.

The final day saw Chris Buxton chairing an interesting debate that included Mike Wilson (BARA), Mark Williamson (UKIVA), Simon Beveridge (SIGA) and John Morten, group projects manager of Burton’s Foods. These experts have between them many years of direct experience in achieving a significant efficiency savings and quality improvements through the use of vision and automation.

Also included on the day were Paul Laidler, business director of Laidler Associates, talking about New technologies for machinery safety and John Kowal of the OMAC board of directors, on OMAC PackML implementation experience from Nestle and P&G.

PPMA's "Ones to Watch" winner announced

The evening of the first day saw the handing out of the award for PPMA’s Ones to Watch competition. Five finalists, all under-35, were introduced to an impressive audience, and included Greg Austin of Endoline Machinery, Sabine Fiehl of Busch UK, Nicola Swann of Videojet Technologies, Phil Smith of Converging Solutions, and Joanne Weate of Schubert UK.

The winner was Nicola Swann, a 29-year-old who joined Videojet Technologies in August 2007, where she is marketing manager for the UK & Ireland.

BARA manages £600,000 Government Fund

Mike Wilson of BARA was prolific at the show. Following recommendations made in an industry study last year, he was talking about his Application of Automation in UK Manufacturing 27 Sept 2010. He said government has awarded £600,000 to fund an Automating Manufacturing Programme managed by BARA which aims to encourage the uptake of automation among UK manufacturers.

The programme, which commences with immediate effect until 31 March 2013, has been developed by BARA, the British Automation and Robot Association, which is a PPMA Group Association, and offers independent, impartial advice to assist manufacturers in their implementation of automation solutions.

The primary objective of the programme is to help UK manufacturers increase their competitive edge and gain from the benefits that automation offers including increased productivity, reduced waste and greater profitability.

Although it primarily looks to assist SMEs throughout all manufacturing sectors within the UK, larger companies with limited knowledge of and expertise in automation are also eligible. “This government funded program is a rare opportunity for UK companies to take what is a risk-free plunge into the automation arena. It could fundamentally change for the better, the way that they do business,” comments PPMA CEO Chris Buxton.

Judged on their knowledge and expertise, BARA has carefully selected independent automation advisers who will offer support to the enrolled manufacturers in two stages. The first is a strategic review of their manufacturing operation, commencing with an audit aiming to identify opportunities to improve production through automation, followed by a recommendation report which is presented at a review meeting. The second stage will provide a more detailed intervention to develop the outcomes from the audit, which will provide the client manufacturer with the knowledge and information required to plan and successfully implement the automation solution.

To complement and support the programme, BARA is organising a second series of their highly regarded Automation Roadshows (planned for November 2011) at automation user sites where, for those considering the introduction of similar technologies, attendees will not only be able to see first-hand the latest automation in use, but will learn of the user’s experience during their adoption of automation.

Visitors at the PPMA Show were able to visit the stand for companies seeking automation advice. “Manufacturers keen to increase their global competitiveness and improve profitability are invited to make an application to the Automating Manufacturing Programme online at and take advantage of the expertise available,” said Mike.

“The dedicated website will also inform interested parties details of forthcoming automation events, provide access to case studies and contain information relating to every aspect of the Programme. If UK manufacturing is to fulfil its potential of becoming a significant force in global markets then automation needs to be at its very heart – the Automating Manufacturing Programme will go a long way to aid this.”

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