Positioning for success into 2021
By Harry Norman, managing director at OAL
During the current climate of uncertainty, it’s clear that food manufacturers are up against it. You’re trying to meet increased demand with fewer people while also implementing social distancing measures to protect your staff and working with equipment that has perhaps seen better days… It’s certainly been a hard few months and it’s likely to continue.
As we saw in The Times, analysts at Peel Hunt calculated that £23 billion has been cut from CAPEX budgets for this year in British listed companies alone so it could take some time before you can consider investing in new machinery to take your operations to the next level. It’s now more important than ever to make the most of what you have, extending machinery life or carrying out key refurbishments to meet revised process requirements and boost productivity. Here I share my top four tips for positioning for success as we look towards 2021.
Productivity is the key buzzword of the global economy, but we don’t seem able to reach optimum levels. According to a 2018 report from Cranfield University, over a 10-year period from 2006 to 2016 comparing eight OECD countries, the UK was the only one where productivity per person per hour decreased. In the food industry, we’re used to bringing in more people to solve this challenge but a mix of rising labour costs, Brexit and now Covid-19 has made this almost impossible. The question therefore is how can you increase your productivity if you can’t invest in major capital equipment?
One way is to begin or continue your journey towards digital transformation. By digitising your operations, you can typically achieve productivity savings of 10% running smarter and leaner and making the most of your existing assets. For example, by going paperless, your plant data can be transformed into useful insights, rather than disparate sheets of paper, allowing you to identify bottlenecks, downtime issues and waste to save you valuable time and money while transforming your operations to meet increased demand with the same kit.
When was the last time you reviewed your processes? We mean really delved into the detail? Chances are, it’s been a while and you could benefit from a fresh set of eyes highlighting any simplifications or rationalisations that can be made to speed up operations and boost efficiency. Over time it’s easy to get caught up in workarounds or quick fixes that can in reality slow down your processes. Working with a partner who’s dedicated to the food industry can help you to look at things differently, as their experience with similar set-ups may provide you with simple tweaks to your operations that can save you thousands, or even millions, of pounds by maximising your throughput.
Focus on maintenance
There’s no doubt that as people, we’re all more interested in innovation than maintenance, and it’s no different when it comes to plant equipment. But while budgets are tightened, it’s all about making the most of your existing kit. It might be tempting to reduce maintenance right now but while you may see short-term gains, you could see long-term damage. An effective maintenance schedule and working with experts can help to take care of your kit to help it last longer.
Consider used equipment
Unfortunately, we’re seeing some plants closing due to the challenging economic conditions. The upside to this is that more and better quality used kit is coming on to the market. This can often be a cost-effective way to boost your productivity but it can be a challenge to find the right equipment and ensure that it’s installed seamlessly into your existing processes.
While used kit can often represent a bargain, you need a diverse range of engineering resources to integrate equipment that doesn’t meet your exact requirements. It may look great on paper but there are a number of questions to consider, such as how old is it, what’s the warranty, are the controls current and even how will you get it to your plant? Working with trusted partners who have experience in delivering both new and refurbished equipment, as well as effective maintenance, ensures you get the right advice before committing, allowing you to minimise the risk and maximise savings.
OAL has been in business for over 25 years, working exclusively with the food industry to transform operations and deliver top quality service to customers in the UK and globally. Our experts, trained in Six Sigma, can help to boost productivity, simplify your operations and support you with maintenance and installing used kit to help you face up to the challenges of 2020 and beyond.
- Harry Norman built OAL from a start-up to an established, award-winning company, completing projects all over the world. His entrepreneurial spirit and drive have led to the development of new innovations and the acquisition of successful technologies to meet the needs of the 21st century food manufacturer.