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Interview: Food firms ‘should learn robot lessons from car industry’

Posted: 16 April 2018 | | No comments yet

Food manufacturers planning to automate their production systems should learn the lesson of the car industry in the 1980s: that it pays to share information, Mike Wilson, Chairman of the British Automation & Robot Association (BARA), tells New Food’s Anna Lambert in this exclusive audio interview.

“I started working in robotics almost 35 years ago, in the car industry,” said Wilson, in this interview recorded in a noisy conference room at a conference organised last month by the public health and safely organisation, NSF.

“The car companies at the time – British Leyland and Ford – were all talking to each other. They were all attending conferences and sharing information. They were learning collectively and there is no reason why the food industry cannot follow that example,” said Wilson. Listen to his comments in full by playing the audio recording above.

Sharing information in robotics

The robotics and automation boss also advised food and drink manufacturers to dedicate their first investments in the field to straightforward projects rather than more complicated ones. “Start with the low-hanging fruit; don’t start with the difficult jobs. There’s always a learning curve when you introduce new technology and automation is no different,” said Wilson.

Stalled productivity

He added that investment in robotics and automation offered a solution to the problem of stalled manufacturing productivity.  Between 2010 to 2015 productivity grew by just 0.6 per cent a year. Growth was achieved mainly by employing more people rather than investing in capital assets.

Recent innovation in robot automation was making the technology easier to adopt and more cost effective for manufacturers.

For more information about automation, visit BARA’s website.

NSF’s one-day conference – Delivering Confidence in a Post-Brexit World – took place in London on March 15.

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