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01 June 2012

Find out how to improve automation in your food factory, make skills the cornerstone of your business, use automation grants to fund projects, overcome the challenges faced by SMEs, and work successfully with your machinery suppliers

With less than a week to go to Appetite for Enginering at the Hinckley Island Hotel in Leicestershire, delegates are pouring in. It's the conference networking event that will show food and beverage manufacturers how the country's top UK food brands such as Warburtons, General Mills, the Food & Drink Federation, Marks & Spencer, Greencore and Arla Foods remain successful and innovative.

The programme will start with an opening address from Jim Moseley, MD of General Mills and President of the Food & Drink Federation. Jim has spent more than 35 years in the food sector, and started his career with FMC Meat, which was at the time Europe's largest meat group. Jim then joined Wander Foods, where he was responsible for the UK launch of the sports drink Isostar. He was recruited by Tulip International as sales & marketing director, and spent 12 years with the group before moving to General Mills UK (formerly Pillsbury) in 1999 as MD.

Today Jim is responsible for a broad portfolio of high profile brands including Häagen-Dazs, Old El Paso, Green Giant and Nature Valley in the UK, Ireland and the Nordic markets. In addition, he has served as chairman of The Provision Trade Federation, is currently president of the Food & Drink Federation and a board member of FoodDrinkEurope.

His talk will be followed by the chairman's introduction from Chris Buxton, CEO of the PPMA, in association with UKIVA, BARA and PPMDA. Chris has held this position for more than five years. He joined the organisation from BAE Systems, where he was responsible for its sales and marketing operations.

The latter two years of his career at BAE were spent on secondment to the UK cabinet office, where he was one of four industry representatives working on a PM-sponsored initiative to reduce the burden of inappropriate and disproportionate regulation on the private sector.

Prior to BAE Chris held several senior management positions including marketing director for Brown & Root Services, sales and marketing director of Dalkia Energy and Technical Services, marketing manager for Taylor Woodrow Mgt & Engineering and regional business manager for Perkin Elmer Nuclear Systems.

He's a chartered physicist and spent several years researching at the Royal College of Science and the MRC at Cambridge where he was working on the structural analysis of cancer-related plasma proteins. Since then the primary thrust of his professional experience has been in business development and strategic market planning.

John Quinn, a food technologist for Traditional Meals, Gastropub and Bistro at Marks & Spencer, will follow the opening speaker. He will talk about how Marks & Spencer, now in its fifth decade, was an initial founder of chilled foods - chicken kiev, cottage pie and cottage pie meal all being early examples.

However, John will point out that the method of manufacture has not changed much over the years and is still very labour intensive. ''At present the opportunities exist to introduce a lot more automation but it seems both the ready meal supplier and the food automation industry are not on the same wavelength,'' John says. ''Also the current economic climate makes investment difficult. As part of the presentation I wonder what food automation would look like if it had APPLE innovation applied to it. Flexible automation is required!''

John is a graduate from Queens University of Belfast with a degree in Food Technology. He returned to M&S as a graduate and worked mainly in the Red Meat and Poultry sector, after three years in a consultancy role. He returned to M&S, to his current position. His main area of responsibility is the consistent production of high quality meals for the category on a daily basis. Other key areas are innovation (process) and raw material management.

Darren Hunt, engineering team leader and Claire Wilson, operations & maintenance manager at Warburtons will deliver a joint presentation about different aspects of the plant at Severn Beach. Claire joined Corus in 1999 as a graduate engineer, eventually being promoted to site electrical engineer. She was transferred to a site with engineering issues, and was promoted again. She started at Warburtons in August 2008 in a new, highly automated bakery. The department in which she works is continually expanding, as is the bakery, with a recent addition of a new wraps/thins line.

Darren joined St Regis Paper as an apprentice electrician in 1989, and enjoyed 14 years maintaining a 50-year-old paper mill. He progressed to supervisor level before closure, then joined Corus Steel at Llanwern site as shift engineer. After that, he joined Warburtons in December 2008 as an engineer in the new bakery - a world away from paper and steel. He is currently the engineering team leader of a growing department and plant.

Darren and Claire will be talking about different aspects of the business. Darren will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of automation technology concepts undertaken at Warburtons. He will discuss a survey of shift engineers, referring to concerns and issues about automation, and also Warburtons' support network which utilises nationwide skills of engineers and central engineering. He will look at building quality open relationships with suppliers and machine manufacturers, in-house training, utilising varying skills of engineers, reducing cost and, finally, will consider the way forward.

Claire will discuss the challenges that require continual upskilling despite a lack of funding. She will also look at sharing best practice and utilising other sites to upskill, and utilising engineers with specialist skills to train others in the department. With a second plant imminent, in-line training will be required. Engineers will be sent to Germany, OEMs will need to be trained, and this will present challenges. In addition to this is the need to run the current plant to the same efficiency, as well as dealing with other issues with new plant.

In a presentation titled 'The Complete Packaging Solution', Llewellyn Rees, managing director of the RM Group will focus on the company's core aim of providing the client with a complete packaging solution. ''To help explain this we will describe our company history, our company present and our vision for the future,'' says Llewellyn. ''The presentation will major on our ability to consider at the start of a project the potential packaging problems that a given product presents.

''This consideration - when combined with our knowledge of packaging machinery and experience of packaging different products - gives RM Group a competitive edge ensuring a reliable and cost effective packaging solution. As part of our presentation we will include examples of our project innovations.''

Lel says he caught the packaging solutions bug at an early age. ''Before I left school, my weekends were spent problem solving packaging issues for our family business. I then left school and worked for Control Techniques as an electronics apprentice. In 1998, I joined the family business RM Group and ran a contract packaging plant at British Sugar Newark.''

Lel excelled when tasked with managing production/staff and meeting the British Sugar safety standards. In 2004 he became a nationwide packaging equipment service engineer and the experience working with different companies and packaging machinery enabled him to become MD of RM Group in 2011.

The next presentation, Competitive Advantage through Automation, will be made by John Morten, group project manager at Burtons Biscuit Company. He is a chartered engineer who received his M.Sc.Degree (Mech Eng) at the University of Manchester, Institute of Science and Technology. He has a wealth of experience in the food and beverage industry, and is group project manager at four sites.

He directs the direction and management of the company's capital investment programme across all sites, with significant emphasis on process and packing automation.

Prior to that, John worked between 2005-2007 at UNIQ Prepared Foods as chief engineer at the Minsterley site in Shropshire. He was responsible for the direction and management of all engineering operations and investments, including new equipment, upgrades, and process and packing automation. He also worked at United Biscuits between 1997-2004 where he was regional project manager at Glasgow, Carlisle and Manchester. He provided direction and management of the relocation of seven biscuit plants to three existing sites, to facilitate the closure of another site.

He was chief engineer at Glasgow, where his tasks included direction and management of all engineering operations and investments, including new equipment, upgrades, and process and packing automation.

Between 1983-1997, John was a senior manager across five sites at Thorntons with respect to engineering and technical. Direction and management of all engineering operations and investments, including the design. He was involved in the construction and equipping of Thornton Park, a 65-acre brown field, state-of-the-art confectionery manufacturing operation.

John will approach his presentation in a structural format. First, he will provide a brief introduction to Burtons Biscuit Company, including its size and scale. Then he will investigate the three reasons it is important for food manufacturers to invest in automation - the delivering of manufacturing cost benefits; the delivering of consistent quality controls; and the addressing of scarce operational skills.

He will then look at the types of investments in automation, illuminating the fact that where Burtons had only three flexible automation systems three years ago, it now has six. John will also cover the benefits derived from automation and vision systems before delivering his verdict on this technology.

The first skills presentation of the day will be made by Christopher Edwards, technical competence development manager with Arla Foods.

''As our sites have become more automated with lean practices and higher volumes with increased demands on quality we have had to recognise our skills gap and take ownership of this issue instead of relying on others, colleges and schools, to produce the technically qualified individuals we need to grow our business,'' says Chris. ''This includes Deep Skills in dairy Technology, Food Engineering and laterally in Supply Chain and Logistics.

''This has needed widespread soul searching, project planning and budget commitment,'' he continues. ''The development of unique programmes with a shared vision across some of the most competitive dairies in the UK. We call this Collaboration Project Eden and its result is the House of Eden. In addition we, the Dairy Industry have had to grow and develop the curriculum, the facility - some £7.5million investment and the culture of the principal training provider.''

With more than 25 years working in the dairy food and agricultural sector, Chris has an in-depth understanding of the challenges facing the dairy supply chain from primary production through to retail supply. During his career, the dairy farmer's son has played a lead role in land based education and training, rural business and regional development, with particular emphasis on the dairy sector.

This breadth of experience has been instrumental in his determination to promote best practice and the sustainable future for dairy processing in the UK through skills development. In his previous employment positions, Chris has worked as a food supermarket manager, product development technologist, an operations manager with Milk Marque, Warehouse Operations manager and he has lectured in Food and Dairy Technology for 15 years in addition to managing the product development halls at Reaseheath College.

He believes the dairy industry must continually be in a position to change and adapt in response to market demands by keeping abreast of the ever changing factors within global dairy sector. In his spare time Chris is a member of the Territorial Army, has completed service in Bosnia and Kosovo, has commanded a Regiment of Signals and continues to play an active part in the Reserve component as Deputy Commander 2 Signal Brigade. He lives in South Cheshire and is married to Tracey. They have three children.

Graham Thomas, site engineering manager at Greencore Cakes & Desserts in Hull served for a time as an electrical and mechanical engineer. He then moved from control and instrumentation systems and projects for all industries to the food industry in 1998, where he worked at the Hull bakery of Hazelwood Foods.

Graham says he was disappointed at the level of automation in food companies to that used in other manufacturing sectors, so he sought to introduce modern control and automation at the new site, realising progression is necessary to keep ahead in a competitive market. Challenges include daily strip and washdown, simple operation, complex health and safety requirements being necessary for all equipment.

Graham will talk about his business requiring a neater, cleaner cut for fruit cake bars which were conventionally cut using a reciprocating saw blade machine. ''Ultrasonic cutting was the answer but typical machines were pneumatic or servo driven guillotine action machines,'' says Graham. ''A bespoke design using robots to teach the conveyor and cut through the cake from side to side was considered, trialled on a test rig, designed and manufactured. The result was an exceptionally clean and accurate cut with total customer satisfaction.''

The easy route would have been to order a standard cutting machine but Graham wasn't going to settle for standard.

Theo Schmid, Head Product Supply Management at Wander AG, will address the delegates at Appetite regarding lean manufacturing in the food and beverage industry, including Ovaltine's approach and its experiences thus far. ''As the manufacturer of Ovaltine for Europe, the company decided on a lean approach to our process about two years ago,'' Theo explains. ''We decided to go with a consultant from the automotive industry because it is very advanced with respect to lean manufacturing. Our approach has been very pragmatic and we have focused on what needs to be done instead of what could be done. I will elaborate on the approach and show what results we have achieved so far. Furthermore I will show what we plan to do in the future.''

After gaining a degree in business administration Theo started his career at Wander AG, as Production Controller in the Ovaltine factory at Neuenegg. ''Between 1991 and 1998 I was CFO at Wander Philippines, then held the same role with Novartis Nutrition Benelux in Holland. Midway through 1998 I came back into the Swiss organisation as CFO for Wander/Novartis Consumer Health Switzerland.

''Since the end of 2003 I have been working as Head of Product Supply Management responsible for the factory incl. logistics, purchasing and quality control and as a member of the local executive committee. We produce Ovaltine for the European market and other branded products such as Options, Caotina as well as various industrial products.''

Ashley Baker, head of research & development at Macphie of Glenbervie and Dr Siobhán Jordan, director of Interface - The Knowledge connection for Business - will present on 'Funding Your Success'.

Ashley is a graduate in biochemistry from Glasgow University and has worked previously in research and development and project management roles, in the UK, Europe and US for multinational and UK based companies. He has R&D experience in the various FMCG and food and drink product sectors. His project management experience includes integration of acquisitions and process development and capital investment projects across several product manufacturing sectors. He currently heads a team of 24 in research and development at Macphie.

Siobhán has led the Interface - The knowledge connection for business programme - since it was established in 2005. Interface matches businesses with academics making available the world class knowledge, expertise and research facilities in all Scotland's universities and research institutions. ''We offer a free and impartial service bringing significant business benefits with more than 500 company and university collaborations initiated,'' she says. She holds degrees in Biotechnology and Process Engineering from Dublin City University and a PhD in human genetics from Trinity College, Dublin.

Ashley's and Siobhán's joint presentation will revolve around the fact that Macphie of Glenbervie has worked on academic partnerships through assistance from Interface. The two companies will talk about how they have co-operated on groundbreaking work being undertaken to help deliver improvements to Macphie's end product as well as increase efficiency in the manufacturing process.

Macphie is a family-run business that has been creating food ingredients for more than 80 years. It attributes its success to the fact its bakers and chefs never tire of developing the next generation of exciting products, recipes and solutions. It employs 300 people between its headquarters in the northeast of Scotland and its site at Tannochside, near Glasgow. The company is organised into three commercial divisions: industrial, wholesale and retail. In 2009 Macphie had a sales turnover of £40.7m and net profits of £2.4m.

Interface, on the other hand, was established in Scotland in 2005, and is funded by The Scottish Funding Council, and also receives financial support from the Scottish Government under the SEEKIT programme to support the participation of the research institutes. It helps companies source funding schemes, which in the recession offered a crucial source of finance and provided businesses with the chance of future growth.

About 10% of the companies with whom Interface works are from the food and beverage sector. The projects on which they've facilitated are wide-ranging, from improving the shelflife of oatcakes with Nairns to developing testing the feasibility of pasteurisation of fruit juices using advanced microwave technology.

Each year, Appetite features an SME who is 'starting out', or one who has had to overcome several challenges in order to make their mark. About six years ago Claire Hall, while sat at a reception desk in London, came up with the idea for 'Vodka Iced Teas'. She knew nothing about the drinks industry, business in general and manufacturing but says she has been learning ever since.

Claire is now the founder of drink it Ltd/Percy's, and is selling via the Internet and food and drink shows. ''As an SME with a niche product, making profit on small productions runs has been a constant battle for me,'' says Claire. ''This presentation will show the struggles, barriers and production stages of Percy's Iced Teas and how I have got to the semi automated production stage I am at now.''

Tristan Holloway, site engineering & maintenance manager at The Jordans & Ryvita Company, will deliver a presentation on skills training and development at the company. ''Faced with advances in technology and increased demands on production, the engineering team now poses a threat to the business through retirement and skills gaps,'' says Tristan.

''I will be talking about the importance to understand the skills knowledge base through competency testing to then improve training and development and to identify areas of opportunity to recruit. I will also be discussing the importance to look outside native industries for new ways to drive improvements.''

Tristan has worked for J&R for 8 years, having joined the business from Kerry Group. Since joining the business he has developed automation of the processes, application of new technologies, skills distribution, implementation of an apprenticeship program and reintegration of engineering in the production teams. ''I am passionate about development of the team and keen to promote the customer focus towards production to breakdown the divide in structures and embed ownership and enterprise,'' he says.

Gary Davies, general manager of Oliver James Foods/Proper Pies, will deliver the second skills presentation of the day in a paper entitled 'Trends in Skills'.

''My career really started as a graduate trainee with Rank Hovis McDougall,'' says Gary. ''Over the course of 20 years l worked in several capacities including IT, accountancy, operations, production and logistics and eventually in retail. I joined OJ Foods in 2007 and draw on all these disciplines daily as my role as general manager of two companies over three production facilities. We combine artisan and chef skills with commercial acumen to offer a wide range of products to the food service, retail and airline market places.''

Gary will talk about how trends in the food service industry have changed supplier/customer relationships in terms of information, provision and the impact this has had on the company's technical requirements in terms of graduate intake and the roles they undertake with us.

The final talk will be by Alan Yates, MD of Endoline Machinery. Before joining Endoline Alan Yates had an established career within the printing industry spanning over 25 years. With a proven track record of managing companies from Baltimore to South Wales, Alan left the printing world in 1990 to become Operations Director of the family business, Endoline Machinery - which was founded by Alan's father Ron in 1981.

Alan took over as MD in 1997 and today Endoline employs almost 50 members of staff, including Alan's three sons. The company's end of line machinery range which includes case forming, erecting, loading, sealing and palletising equipment, is sold around the world through a wide network of agents and distributors to food, drink, pharma and household goods manufacturers to name a few.

A member of the industry trade Association, the PPMA (Processing & Packaging Machinery Association), Alan joined the PPMA board of directors in 2003 and became the association's president in 2008; he is the only member who has held the position of president for two consecutive periods.

''The specification of secondary packaging systems often appears to be an afterthought for many food manufacturers who will regularly request a quick quote for a 'standard' machine, almost like they've forgotten to order one! And then somehow, the equipment has to fit into the little space that's left!''

Alan will discuss the need for 'open communication' and sharing of information between the two parties at the beginning stages of the project lifecycle. ''Although a simple request and solution to what is a challenge for many OEMs, the lack of project detail and technical internal requirements often leads to unnecessary re-quotes, numerous versions of layout drawings and late modifications to the machine during build which can then cause delay. Wasted time, effort and money could easily be saved by both parties - if only we'd have talked sooner!''

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