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Appetite for Engineering event is deemed a great success!

02 December 2019

Appetite for Engineering 2019 took place on 17th October at the MTC in Coventry. Over 150 delegates attended the event – over one-third of which came from end-user food manufacturing companies. 

We believe we had a great turnout for an industry that often finds it difficult to take any time out, and this is a testament to the importance of Appetite for Engineering, which offers a combination of great quality presentations and discussions alongside the opportunity to network with industry peers and talk to suppliers who may be able to offer solutions to help keep the production lines running efficiently. We would like to thank everyone who came along, and we hope to see you next year! 

The day began with a keynote presentation from Ian Wright, CEO at the Food & Drink Federation, who talked about industry challenges and the need for closer partnerships throughout the food production supply chain, including the retailers themselves, to give food manufacturers the confidence to employ greater levels of automation in their processes. 

Ed Keenan then took to the stage to talk us through some of the developing engineering technologies which look set to impact food production in the coming years. (We will be hearing more about these technology developments from Ed in the January issue of Food Processing). He touched on the possible effects of artificial intelligence on the engineering function, machines that will self-diagnose, nanotechnology and cobots designed for use in hygienic applications. He also touched on how the food factory might look further into the future, giving a great deal of food for thought about how their lives and the engineering function might change when these technologies become more widely adopted.

Chris Edwards, head of quality at Muller Yogurts and Desserts, took on the challenge of discussing the role of the engineering in helping avoid product recalls. Of course, it is vital to design everything with hygiene in mind – including the building itself – floors, walls and drains – as well as piping, equipment pumps, valves and instrumentation – and this requires closer collaboration with suppliers and machine builders. Chris also covered the need for a robust HACCP plan and highlighted the importance of having an understanding of all the upstream and downstream processes the plant and the effect that one process can have on another. 

Jordan Brosnan, an engineering technician at Coca Cola European partners gave a refreshingly honest and upbeat presentation about his continuous improvement role going into detail about a specific project which has had a huge impact on the bottom line for the business.

Lydia Cordice, a process engineer at Mondelez International, talked us through her journey so far in the food sector.  At University she studied Food Science & Nutrition which led her to a role of commissioning new product development processes. Today she is responsible for process improvement, as part of a extended automation team. Lydia said that the most important part of her role is that of people management and communication and she believes strongly that industry needs to be working towards more sustainable solutions and that we need to put a greater focus on workforce wellbeing – a happy workforce will be more productive.
Our sponsors are also vital to the success of Appetite for Engineering. Once again, Festo made the decision to be our headline sponsor. Commenting on this year’s event, Andy MacPherson, food and beverage industry manager at Festo UK said: “The quality of the presentations and the panel debates this year were excellent and very informative. The topic of challenges and opportunities that automation can bring to the sector was very informative with valuable contributions coming from the audience. The debate on skills highlighted both the progress being made, along with the challenges that the sector still has to address. It was great to see so many food manufacturers making the time to attend the event and I am sure they all felt that it was time well spent.”
Other sponsors also praised the event. Rachael Duckworth, marketing manager of Beckhoff, said: “Appetite for Engineering was a great event for us – just the right balance of presentation and break out time, which allowed us to speak to some really great delegates." Steve Arnold, business manager food & packaging at SMC Pneumatics UK, agreed. He said: “For me, I thought the quality and mix of the delegates was superb. The seminar topics were relevant and informative, the MTC is also the perfect venue in terms of location and facilities and we look forward to being involved again next year.” 
This year our delegates also told us that they thought the event was worthwhile and that it offered a great opportunity for the food industry to come together to share engineering knowledge and to focus on the issues that face the sector. Delegates liked the wealth of experience and knowledge imparted during the presentations and panel discussions. We heard from the next generation of engineering leaders about their experiences so far within the food manufacturing industry and their thoughts about the future. We also heard from presenters who have spent a lifetime in the industry – delegates appreciated this balanced approach.  They told us that they would like to hear more from food manufacturing SME’s about their experiences and how they are dealing with the challenges facing industry today… so if you are an SME with something to say, please do get in touch as we would love to talk about your possible participation in future events.

The presentations and the two panel discussions – which covered automation technology adoption and skills – were all rated somewhere between ‘excellent’ and ‘good’ by delegates, so we think we can confidently say that the event was a success!

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