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Appetite for Engineering 2017: The countdown has started

08 June 2017

To both inspire and educate engineers working across the food and beverage sector about the benefits of automation technologies, this year's Appetite for Engineering event will be taking place at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) at Ansty Park in Coventry on 19th October. Suzanne Gill reports. 

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Appetite for Engineering was created 10 years ago to provide the UK food and beverage industry with an opportunity to network with peers and industry experts while learning about successful engineering strategies, and the latest innovations that can help increase productivity, efficiency and safety and also about how to develop a workforce to meet the challenges facing the sector.

As advances in intelligent connectivity and automation technologies continue apace and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and smart machines and factories is becoming reality, the UK’s food and drink manufacturing industry has an opportunity to make a major productivity step change. For engineering leaders looking to remain competitive in the UK’s ever-challenging supply chain, understanding how to maximise the opportunity to grow and develop businesses and organisations through better plant, productivity, process and people is crucial.

We believe that partnerning with the MTC, is a great fit for Appetite for Engineering as it reinforces our message about the importance of utilising innovative technology. The MTC is a Catapult Centre for high value manufacturing, where many innovative manufacturing concepts are first validated and implemented. It is currently working to apply knowledge and skills from other industry sectors to a variety of food production and manufacturing issues.

“Our highly-skilled engineers are taking tried-and-tested techniques such as factory simulation and modelling, production automation, additive manufacturing, and analytical data to reduce waste or improve process control from the automotive and aerospace industries and transferring them into the food and beverage sector, said Matthew Rayment, group business development manager at the MTC. 

This year Appetite for Engineering will be looking at how the industry can prepare itself for the future, for example, through the use of automated solutions. We will also be addressing environmental issues, looking at energy-saving and waste management solutions and we will discussing other important issues such as food safety, hygiene and skills. 

We are delighted that Festo has, once again, made the decision to be the headline sponsor for Appetite for Engineering. Explaining further about this decision, Andrew Macpherson, industry manager – Food and Beverage, at Festo, said: “Although the food and drink industry is one of the UK’s best performing manufacturing sectors it still faces significant challenges; notably in the areas of skills shortages, productivity, automation and new technologies being offered by Industry 4.0. 

“Events such as Appetite for Engineering provide an excellent opportunity for engineers to hear how others in the industry are tackling these issues, sharing best practice and understanding how businesses can successfully implement new ideas. Festo has chosen to sponsor the event again to facilitate the networking of new ideas in the industry and provide a platform for a successful UK sector in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.
“If the food and drink sector can successfully realise and unlock its potential, the collective opportunity that Industry 4.0 and the increased digitalisation of manufacturing offers is exciting and substantial,” continued Macpherson. “Connecting all the elements of the plant and supply chain together will deliver capabilities for faster, more diverse, more flexible and more intelligent production, together with increased energy efficiency, reduced wastage, closer links to logistics processes and an optimised value chain. Systems and components exchanging information to control and regulate themselves will also substantially increase the potential for leaner production, condition monitoring and predictive maintenance.”
While the internet is a great place to search for technology, interacting with engineers that have already solved problems can be a powerful experience. Of course taking time away from the workplace to attend events can be difficult, it can be very productive and will enable longer term strategic thinking.

Our other sponsors are equally as passionate about the event. “Omron are proud to sponsor and be involved in the Appetite for Engineering event again this year,” said Robert Brooks, European industry marketing manager – Food & Beverage at Omron.  “The sector continues to face many challenges and we are passionate about sharing our knowledge and technologies to help the sector be more successful going forward.  

“It is important to take time out, even from a busy schedule, to see what new and exciting technologies are available today, and how they can improve your business,” said Brooks.   

WAGO is also once again sponsoring the event because it recognises its value in helping share knowledge and best practices with peers in the food industry, while learning about the latest technologies. “The threat of a skills shortage is always around the corner, and while technologies such as the IoT are growing in popularity, it is proving a challenge to ensure that employees have the right skills to fully embrace the efficiency and productivity opportunities on offer,” said Paul Witherington, marketing manager UK & Ireland at Wago.

“Developing industry skills is enormously important to WAGO to help realise the potential of new technologies. This is why we continue to invest in providing education through our bespoke I/O training courses in automation for food industry professionals and is why we are, once again, supporting Appetite for Engineering.”

GEA, as well as Blücher, are other returning sponsors. As an international technology group, GEA focuses on process technology and components for production processes. GEA has designed its processing solutions to help overcome future challenges for this highly regulated sector, and to support manufacturers in realising their ideas more reliable, flexible and efficient processing solutions. 

The days of mass production appear to be coming to an end, with consumers demanding more personalised products. “Great though this choice is for the consumer, it often represents a challenge to the traditional food production business model which is built on high volume, mass production. If you want to survive you need to differentiate, and do something different,” said Steve Arnold, business manager Food & Packaging at SMC. New technologies are emerging to help businesses meet the need for more flexible, agile, smart manufacturing and events like Appetite for Engineering offer a forum for debate about these developments and give delegates the opportunity to consider new technologies that might work for them.

Appetite for Engineering has also attracted some new sponsors this year, in the form of companies such as TrakRap and Vega. “We’re delighted to be supporting Appetite for Engineering as it is an event close to our hearts,” said Martin Leeming, CEO of TrakRap.” It provides an environment for likeminded professionals to come together, exchange ideas and advice, and discuss potential opportunities which, ultimately, will benefit everyone involved.”

While the UK is falling further behind other major developed economies in terms of productivity performance, the food and drink industry remains above average. However, the pressure to reduce food costs has never been greater so it is vital that we continue this good work and ensure the sector remains competitive on an international level.

“To achieve this, we need to be quick to adopt new technologies and ensure that workers in the industry have the necessary skills to continue to drive productivity growth,” continued Leeming. “Retaining those with the technological skills to design and manufacture new products – and those with the engineering skills to service production systems – is particularly vital, as is attracting the next generation of talent, who are unwilling, and often unable, to work with outdated equipment and software.”

For more information about the event go to:
Stay up to date on Appetite for Engineering 2017 via twitter  #A4EUK2017

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