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Building a strategy for success

11 May 2019

Food Processing spoke to the new chief engineer at Weetabix Food Company to find out more about the company’s engineering strategies and visions. 

Weetabix Food Company recently appointed Parjit Singh Lally as chief engineer. With over 
25 years of experience within engineering, Lally has worked for five multinational organisations covering three continents and covering over 40 brands. Before joining Weetabix, he was UK engineering manager at pharmaceutical company GSK.
Lally has assumed responsibility for the central engineering team and his key role is to evolve the company strategy and ensure its delivery through his people and refined processes. 
Q: From an engineering perspective what are you finding to be the biggest differences and similarities between the engineering roles in the pharmaceutical and food sectors? 
I have over 25 years’ experience within engineering – across various sectors – which has put me in good stead to be able to enter any business and to identify its engineering capacity, requirements and opportunities. 
While the end product vastly differs between pharmaceutical and food companies, there are similarities between the underlying asset management, processes and foundations are behind them. 

In order to make the most of the people and skills available, and to support the commercial aims of the business, the engineering strategy needs to be a well-oiled machine. Only then can you drive world class performance and push forward the business. 

There are of course differences between the sectors – the pharmaceutical field is largely high value, low volume manufacturing and is highly regulated. The food sector is centred around low value, high volume manufacturing and is a faster-paced, more cost-conscious environment. However, there are learnings that can be taken from both and implemented in various engineering roles.
Q: How do you see the Weetabix engineering strategy evolving under your leadership? What are your short- and long-term goals in this respect?
Our Weetabix engineering vision is to consistently deliver high quality product to our customers, in the most cost-effective and safe way possible, whilst continually improving through our people. We will always strive to offer best in class processes and my aim is to implement an aligned strategy across multiple engineering functions that will support the business day-to-day, but also contribute to the exciting new projects we have in the pipeline.

We want to ensure engineering and facilities management are part of the DNA of our business and one of my key goals is to evolve the company strategy and ensure that we are delivering through our people. 
To deliver this strategy I will be looking to drive world class performance from a clear set of engineering standards that ensure alignment and help drive business performance. 

The five pillars that are integral to our strategy include Maintenance Systems, Safety and Legal compliance, Facilities management, Capital Projects and Engineering Standards. In the shorter term we are working on improvements under these key points. 

Q: What might a typical day at Weetabix entail for you?
My role encompasses various sectors and positions within the business which means that every day is a little different. My aim is to drive business performance across maintenance systems, training, compliance, facilities management, electrical automation and Capex Projects – it’s therefore important for me to have sight of various sectors of the company. 

In my first months in the role I have been focussing on strategy – immersing myself in the business and implementing our long-term vision. Of course, there are plenty of reactive elements to the job such as budgets, contracts and the day-to-day running of the engineering functions that can make up an average day. 

Q: What do you believe are the biggest technology contributors available today to help maximise production efficiency and increase productivity?
Industry 4.0 is pushing the boundaries and setting the technology roadmaps for our 4th industrial revolution. Internet of Things (IoT) and new technologies such as augmented reality, machine learning, AI and VR are helping companies move more quickly towards the Smart Factory. These have significant opportunities to improve efficiency, predictive maintenance, fault finding and can help with real time data to optimise manufacturing, focused improvements and higher product quality. 

At the same time, the cost of robotics and automation is reducing while their capability and flexibility is increasing. Developments in this field can help increase productivity and improve quality and consistency of output. 

We are also looking at more cost-effective and sustainable ways to source energy for manufacturing Weetabix, which is increasingly important with gas and electricity prices on the rise. Part of our strategy will be to ensure we’re sustainably sourcing energy to meet the needs of the business. 
It is important for us to keep on top of the latest technological developments and future opportunities to ensure we can future proof are manufacturing and engineering capabilities going forward. 

Q: What do you believe are the biggest barriers to adoption of automation and digitalisation on the food factory floor today, and do you have any thoughts about how this might be overcome?
One barrier to adoption would be return on investment. If you’re adopting digitalisation and automation, then it must be in line with a wider engineering strategy. Digitalisation and Industry 4.0 brings with it challenges such as people skill sets and cyber security. 

Overall though these barriers can be overcome as ultimately it will create a more flexible and  efficient business, helping to reduce waste and save money. 

Q: Product innovation is important to the food industry – at what stage does engineering become involved in the NPD process at Weetabix.
Innovation is at the heart of Weetabix. Brands have to keep up with changing trends and consumer demands and we are proud of the NPD we’ve brought to market in the last decade.

Part of my role is to ensure that we have the capabilities to allow our innovation and manufacturing team to create the new products we develop – ensuring we can viably upscale production of NPD from our pilot plants to main sites. We are always looking at ways we can simplify our processes or upgrade our equipment to provide a more efficient manufacturing processes.

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