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Food manufacturer receives support to boost productivity and turnover

22 October 2022

A specialist food manufacturer has experienced a 10- fold boost in productivity and is forecasting a 30% increase in turnover after investing in automation technology with the support of Made Smarter. 

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Firstplay Dietary Foods produces a range of low protein products for people unable to eat protein. With a growing international demand from patients and dieticians, the business has invested £120,000 in new digital machinery, increasing its blending capacity, while replacing a manual weighing and packing process with automation.

As a result, the business has increased production capacity, reduced human error and waste, and is forecast to increase turnover by 30%.

In addition, two operators are now focussed on more value-add activities such as sales and complex packing tasks.

Commenting on the project, Tom Fletcher, managing director, said: “Our growth had been organic with only occasional investment to update our production processes. Our partnership with Made Smarter changes that. We have a long-term strategy and a digital roadmap to follow to achieve those goals. My only wish is that we had done it sooner.

“By replacing a manual low-skilled task with automation, we are able to do much more with the resources we have, as well as upskilling our existing staff, which to a small business is extremely valuable.”

With grant support from Made Smarter, Firstplay invested in a powder packaging machine, which includes an automated multi-head weigher and powder filler. It works by loading the product through a hopper, digitally weighs and corrects the amount of product, and then dispenses and seals it into a bag before delivering it for boxing.

The new equipment also introduced a live data feed, giving management real-time overview of variables such as the running speed of the equipment, total giveaway, and average weights over the course of a shift.

The outcome has been transformative, increasing the number of sachets it can produce from 600 per day to 6,000 sachets per day. 

Digital process control means that packets are more consistently filled, improving quality and reducing waste, both in time and in packaging materials.

With a roadmap to digital transformation in hand, Firstplay is now exploring a series of projects including data and systems integration technology to link its new machinery with a barcode scanning system for stock control and implementing business and production software for better data analytics to improve production efficiency.

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