There is no doubt that the current economic climate is providing businesses with one of the most challenging landscapes in living memory. The great irony of a recession is that as their budgets shrink, clients become more demanding as they inevitably expect more for less in an attempt to survive.
This is particularly true of the food and drink industry, where products need to
be on shelf and ready for sale quicker than ever before without compromising the accuracy of the package or the quality of the final product. Add to this the increasing need to be more energy efficient and environmentally friendly and a picture of Darwinian proportions begins to emerge.
So, just how do companies ensure that they are amongst the fittest in the market, and not only survive, but prosper? There is obviously no magic solution, no silver bullet that will solve the problem, but understanding the market and how a company fits into it will equip businesses with a key survival tool.
Firstly, it’s important to recognise the difference between the smart, cost saving strategies that will reduce expenditure and the short cuts that only deliver inefficiency, stress and long-term financial loss.
From a machinery perspective, we have noticed a significant spike in the frequency that unofficial and counterfeit components are appearing in our systems. It has also become more common recently to find machinery being maintained by generic technicians who do not have the specialist, brand specific training and experience of an official engineer. I can empathise with companies who attempt to streamline their operations through such methods, but the long-term damage these cause can outweigh any short-term advantage.Vicious circle
Having counterfeit parts increases the likelihood that problems will occur and denying the machine both proper maintenance and accurate repairs creates a vicious circle of diminishing returns and, by extension, even greater financial pressure. The net results include more downtime of longer periods, lower quality operations, higher costs and damaged reputations.
Electronic boards, in many ways the brains of a machine, are amongst the most readily available of the counterfeit parts so naturally also lead to the most severe problems. They usually contain lower quality components, which are far less accurate and are often constructed using cheap mechanical parts, which are awkward to fit and significantly less hard wearing than genuine parts.
I have seen first hand the complications an unofficial technician can cause. We’d not heard from a customer for a while as they had hired a generic technician to maintain the machine who had predictably got out of his depth very quickly. We were eventually called in to find the machine had been completely dismantled in order to solve what was a relatively straightforward problem. Our team solved the issues and got the line up and running again in a few hours, but this perfectly illustrates just how badly wrong things can go.
Machines containing counterfeit parts also regularly compromise accuracy due to the fact that they have far less precise thresholds. The most successful brands have earned their reputations by distributing accurate products to a deadline, so this characteristic undermines credibility and performance more seriously than any other.Fiercely competitive
With so many new products created each year, making the industry even more fiercely competitive, UK food and drink manufacturers find themselves in a position where it is vital that their operations are producing goods quickly and to a high standard.
Potatoes are an excellent example of a perishable good that is susceptible to damage during the packaging and transportation process. The British Potato council considers excessive bruising as the single biggest costumercomplaint when purchasing potatoes, demonstrating just how important it is that the weighing and packing process is handled as delicately as possible.
In much the same way, a customer paying for 500 grams of a product will be unimpressed if they find 400 grams in one pack and 600 in another. Consistency, as well as efficiency, is a crucial aspect of the packaging industry and customers now require machinery that offers high-speed solutions and unparalleled accuracy for their business.New launch
In order to meet these demands we designed the newly launched Dataweigh Omega - our solution to these new requirements. Aimed specifically at the food, confectionary, snack and detergent sectors, the machine is capable of operating at speeds of more than 200 weighments per minute (WPM) and boosts yield weights of up to 1.6 per cent. Additionally, the system has improved environmental responsiveness by offering a reduction in power consumption of 60 per cent
At the same time, we have streamlined the operational and cleaning processes, meaning that the Omega is one of the most hygienic machines in its class.
There are no short term fixes to the challenges posed by the recession, but the accuracy, reliability and efficiency of machines should be the last thing businesses are gambling with. There are plenty of opportunities out there at the moment, we just have to work harder to capitalise on them and raise the bar as far as customer service and performance is concerned.
Lee Smith is aftersales manager at Yamato Scale Dataweigh. Since 1986 Yamato Scale GmbH has been the leading force in multihead weighing technology in Germany. This German subsidiary is responsible for the entire European, African,
Near and Middle East markets as well as for the markets of the CIS countries and has subsidiaries in France, the UK, Russia and the Benelux region.
For further information, visit: www.yamatoscale.co.uk