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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Navigate challenges and maximise opportunities for manufacturers in 2024

Every New Year brings fresh opportunities to businesses. Many factories are establishing targets for the upcoming year, aiming to reduce wastage and improve productivity, leading to increased bottom-line profits. The Food and Drink Federation reports that 41% of food and drink manufacturers are committed to growth and plan to increase their investments over the next year.

Despite these new opportunities, challenges cannot be overlooked. In 2024, manufacturers are expected to face economic uncertainty, ongoing labour shortages, and supply chain disruptions. Particularly in the UK, labour shortages could become a significant challenge. With changes to immigration policy, the minimum salary for skilled worker visas rises to £38.7K, making it even more challenging for factories to hire workers in the new year.

What’s more, manufacturers’ total production costs have increased by 14.2% in the year to September 2023 (FDF report). The industry would continue to absorb the rising input costs from the full impact of inflation in 2024, but they can’t.  Many audited accounts at Companies House show pretax profits of little more than 1% of turnover.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” — Winston S. Churchill. While we can’t control what happens next in the wider environment, we can focus inward to improve ourselves and adapt to new challenges.

We recognise four areas that could have a meaningful impact on the performance improvement journey: compliance, quality, efficiency and yield.

Compliance: ensure accurate labelling

Inaccurate labelling causes a significant number of batch rejects and product recalls in the production process. A recent study revealed that allergens were responsible for a large number of food recalls in the United Kingdom over a five-year period, raising concerns for individuals with severe food allergies and potential damage to brand reputation.

We assisted a fresh vegetable packer in the elimination of labelling issues, ensuring full compliance with retailers’ label verification requirements, through the use of Harford’s Inline Inspection and autocoding solutions. The system ensures that only correct origin information for various products is printed onto the appropriate retail packaging. Tray label printers print the required number of labels per run—automatically configure with the correct information—directly on the line, rendering the print room obsolete.  “Wherever labels are generated in a print room for subsequent application, you have a potential recall” said one Engineering Manager.

Compliance issues are often very difficult to identify and rectify within a paper-based recording system. Delays and inaccuracies are inevitable.

Quality: remove paperwork and improve traceability

Paper recording served manufacturers well for decades but is now holding them back. Without actionable, real-time information, businesses find it difficult to ensure ‘Right First Time,’ thereby leading to many wastages. In the New Year, we anticipate that many more factories will transition from paper recording to digital transformation to improve raw materials and labour traceability, leading to reduced costs, fewer batch rejections and increased customer satisfaction.

For example, we installed the Harford Paperless System at a market leader in glass container design, manufacturing, contract bottling of wines and beers. The introduction of HMIs on the production line, along with computer tablets to collect data from other parts of each line, together with roving quality audits, has virtually eliminated paperwork from the factory floor and improved quality consistency.

The management team now benefit from real-time information on their desktops, tablets, and smart phones, providing them with instant snapshots of current production status with immediate access to improvement options, further increasing and sustaining improvements.

“With the quality and compliance issues sorted, we can now start looking at production efficiency” said their CI Manager.

Efficiency: avoid OEE-only approach and improve overall effectiveness

Some companies tell us that they are installing an OEE system to improve efficiency, but often say that they are not including quality or compliance, as their priority is to increase efficiency.

We find this efficiency-only approach bewildering, as it poses the question ‘why make products faster and faster, if the quality cannot be relied upon?’

Yield: optimise volume control and energy usage

When discussing the minimisation of manufacturing costs, reducing overall wastage is vital. Wastage is everywhere throughout food manufacturing operations, from goods-in to dispatch. Some obvious examples include overfilling and energy wastage.

Overfilling/giveaway potentially adds £millions to production costs for high volume producers, and excessive energy usage significantly inflates operational expenses and unit production costs.

That’s where Harford can help. Harford provides yield optimisation solutions which include weight control (fill optimisation), energy tracking, paperless quality, automated label verification, OEE, Short Interval Control and Vision, all within a single system solution, to reduce wastage and boost manufacturing yield.

Explore new opportunities with a fresh perspective

In the New Year, we look forward to helping more manufacturers eliminate risks, reduce wastage, and improve efficiency by turning accurate data into highly visible and actionable information. If you don’t know where to start, all it takes is a fresh perspective to uncover growth opportunities within each production process. If you’re ready to explore these possibilities, give us a call on +44 (0)1225 764461.

Find out more about Harford End-to-End MIS/MES on the Harford Control website here:

www.harfordcontrol.com

Roy Green is Managing Director of Harford Control.

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