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Adapt to survive and prosper

28 January 2019

Food Processing spoke to Martin Leeming, CEO of secondary packaging company TrakRap, to get his thoughts about problems that will face the food industry if it does not embrace new technologies to enable it to remain competitive. 

Q: How far along the smart food factory journey is the food industry?
Not far enough! And this is because the UK’s food industry still has a massive productivity problem, particularly in small and medium sized companies. Unlike other industries which are quick to embrace new technological breakthroughs and unlock the benefits they deliver, the food industry remains overly-reliant on people and unwilling to invest in new technologies. As an industry, we are just too risk averse. However, if we don’t act on the opportunities that these smart factory technologies offer, we will be left behind by companies in other countries.

From a packaging point of view, very little has been invested in ‘end-of-line’ packaging since the advent of heat tunnels to shrink wrap products in the 1970s. With so many new technological advances available, that is just not right. Investment needs to be increased as soon as possible.”

Q: Where do you think food producers companies should start their smart factory journey?
Investment is often a key barrier to the adoption of new technologies so companies should do their homework and find out if and where funding is available that will help them begin their journey. New models of servitisation and pay-per-use options that don’t require any upfront capital are now available and such solutions will help accelerate the uptake of smart digital technologies.

Again, from a packaging perspective, any company beginning their smart factory journey should focus on the platform that their packaging machinery has been built on and, if necessary, they should re-evaluate the materials and processes they are using in order to ensure they are achieving the best possible results. They should also take advantage of pay-per-use models to ensure they are achieving the best possible results.

Q: Why is it important for the food industry to make the transition to smart factories?
Increasing productivity is the main reason to make the transition to smart factories. However, there are so many other benefits to be had – from reducing energy consumption to improving the environmentally-friendly credentials of a company – our industry simply cannot afford not to make the switch. 

In terms of the packaging industry, investing in technology and automation will improve efficiency and productivity by allowing organisations to utilise cutting-edge packaging machinery which is smart, fully connected and capable of delivering customised products and scalable production.

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