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Exclusive interview with new Marco MD

28 November 2012

Mandy Hart, new MD for Marco, speaks to David Strydom about the company’s involvement with the food sector, and about her new role

What solutions does Marco offer the food and beverage industry?
Marco designs, manufactures and installs low-risk factory wide modular control solutions that improve productivity and product quality, while increasing profitability. Our agile, future-proof solutions are designed to dramatically reduce giveaway/overpack, minimise waste, improve stock control and ensure brand protection through the prevention of labelling errors. Modules can be installed individually or as part of a broader factory-wide MES solution.

What are the challenges specific to producing equipment for the food sector?
These are split broadly between financial and operational considerations. In today’s difficult and fast moving market, food companies need a strong basis to be able to justify capital investment. Predicted industry norm ROIs of 12-24 months typically block most investments from the outset. However, we have clear evidence our solutions typically provide zero risk investments with ROIs of six months or less.

What are key operational factors in the food sector?
Flexibility, reliability, cleanability and ease of use are key operational factors. Many food companies are 24x7 operations with tight delivery schedules and therefore installing new equipment needs to be done with the minimum of disruption. Our plug-and-play designs meet this challenge. In parallel, having the flexibility to change line configurations to meet rapidly changing order requirements is essential. Our robust wireless systems remove the need for fragile comms cables, enabling workstations to be rapidly reconfigured. The smooth lines of our stainless-steel equipment and sealed instrumentation allow easy cleaning and ensure there are no dirt or debris traps.

How has the company coped with the persistent economic uncertainty?
We’ve been proactive in this difficult economic climate, recognising we needed to expand our global sales efforts. As a result, we’ve been successful in areas including Australasia, Africa, the US and South America. We readily carry out onsite trials for customers and our language proof solutions are easy to install, commission and use. Our remote access capability allows rapid trouble shooting and support anywhere in the world. In these uncertain times, customers have had to look inwards on themselves to find the required savings to survive. Our ability to address their needs with short-term ROI solutions that improve productivity and profitability has improved our sales. We readily adapt our products to meet changing demands and have also developed a number of new products that solve many of today’s food industry challenges.

What about your process sets you apart from your competitors?
Unlike our competitors, we’re very focused on the food and beverage sector, providing complete hardware and software solutions. We have 27 years’ unrivalled experience in this sector, demonstrated by over 400 major installs worldwide and a data bank of 75,000 man-hours of software. We address all operational aspects of the factory floor and our ability to communicate with leading management software ensures optimum system integration and effectiveness. A key difference that sets us apart is our clients have the comfort that all our installations are future-proof: single element systems can be installed initially, then expanded across the factory as required - without fear of redundancy.

What is the hierarchy of the company in the UK?
Although we do have a structured organigram, Marco is a dynamic company where everyone counts and has their individual input. The company’s proactive ethos attracts individuals who thrive on change and innovation. Marco operates from three strategic locations: HQ in Kent; the Leicester software centre and our instrumentation design and manufacturing facility in the West Country.

What are your thoughts on lean manufacturing?
Although ‘lean’ isn’t a term used within Marco’s product offering it does align with our overall philosophy of making companies more efficient, productive and profitable. In practice Marco’s philosophy is broader, encompassing factory floor solutions from goods in to goods out.

What are your thoughts on the skills gap facing the food industry?
The food industry is facing a number of challenges, not least of all a constantly changing employment market with a high turnover of personnel at all levels. However our systems are specifically designed to de-skill the factory floor and we believe this is an important contribution.

Can you detail your latest product release?
Our YCM Gen4 Yield Control Module uses recently developed high-speed electronic instrumentation. Gen4 has the proven features of our existing YCM, but in addition to virtually eliminating over-pack, the system increases packing speeds by up to 10% and thereby significantly improves productivity. Existing installations can easily be upgraded to Gen4 instrumentation.

Could you elaborate on your background?
I have been with Marco for the past six years and recently promoted from my role as marketing director to MD. These are very exciting times for Marco and my appointment coincides with a move to new fit-for-purpose premises in Kent. I have a broad sales and marketing background and prior to joining Marco, spent 20 years in the electronics technology sector, in charge of a successful specialist business unit. My appointment will allow Marco’s co-founder Murray Hilborne to focus on the planning and execution of the necessary future business expansion for the company. This will be achieved through the development of new products, sales potentials and operational centres in new global markets.

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