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The next chapter for WMH

04 August 2020

Following the announcement of a new managing director at Western Mechanical Handling UK Ltd (WMH) Food Processing finds out more about his plans for the future. 

With a background in engineering and logistics, Tom Tomlinson is son of owner and founder of WMH, John Tomlinson. He has been working in the company full time for eight years, alongside his father, gradually taking over key responsibilities as John took small steps towards retirement.   

Q: To bring us up to date, could you provide us with a brief history of WMH?
WMH was started by my parents back in 1976, it has grown steadily from repairing and manufacturing trolleys to designing and building conveyors, for many years we have offered bespoke products and turnkey solutions for the food and pharmaceutical industries which can incorporate vision systems and robotics. The core of what we do is to manufacture simple, robust and quality equipment that will exceed our customers’ expectations. The factory has steadily expanded over the years with the latest extension completed in 2018 – we now have a dedicated equipment demonstration area where we can showcase core products and adapt the equipment to carry out trials when developing new equipment. 
Q: How have you seen the food industry challenges change and what do you think are the biggest challenges to come for the sector in the coming years?
The most immediate issue of course has been the pandemic which has affected us all. The environment is still also a big issue for the food industry and many companies are having to rethink how they package their products. The supply chain has also come under scrutiny with many consumers questioning the food miles covered by the products they buy. The pandemic has refocused minds on the supply chain and many food manufacturers are now looking to source more locally which will have a positive environmental impact.

The biggest challenge for the food industry has always been to stay one step ahead of changing consumer trends. This has led to a need to rapidly develop new products and recruit personnel to run production lines and educate technical teams to maintain equipment. I have been heartened by some food producers initiatives to recruit apprentices. The energy efficiency of the plant and equipment of the food factory also continues to offer new opportunities for many companies to look at heat recovery, renewable energy provision, more efficient equipment and the recycling of waste.

Q: What lessons do you think food processors should learn from the Covid-19 pandemic and do you think it will make the argument for automation in the food industry easier?
Food processors should be applauded and recognised for continuing manufacturing throughout the pandemic, I expect they will have learnt many lessons. I am confident that automation will now be given greater consideration as a means to increase productivity and reliability. 

It really is quite amazing what can be offered. WMH, for example, can offer ultrasonic cutting solutions which reduce the number of people having to work together in a given area. We have developed stand-alone ultrasonic cutting cells which can be integrated into a production line, these can be fed manually or via a production line.

We also offer turnkey automation solutions for the ready meal and bakery industries, working closely with customers we can design and build lines, grills, conveying, spiral conveying, collation, counting, pick & place and packing solutions which can improve the workplace in a post-pandemic environment.
Q: What are your plans for the future of WMH and how do you hope to help your food industry customers address their challenges?
I am extremely proud to have been given the opportunity to guide WMH through its next chapter. We have a fantastic team with many different skill sets, allowing us to offer complete solutions to a wide variety of customers.

My plans are to continue offering the same core products and continue to develop new products, increase efficiencies, continue to grow and make sure that we remain a leading go to provider of automation solutions whilst retaining my father’s core values of delivering well engineered customer focused solutions, making sure the customer is satisfied and always looking after our employees.

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