Food & Beverage Industry News speaks to William Lebihan, head of Field Sales and Marketing for SMC Australia and New Zealand (ANZ), about AUSPACK 2022 and what they showcased for their customers.
SMC Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) returned to AUSPACK at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on 17-20 May to showcase their product and service offerings for the industry. Chief among these offerings was automation.
As the largest pneumatics provider in the world – and listed in Forbes Global 2,000 as one of the world’s most innovative companies – SMC delivers automation solutions to its diverse customer base.
With more than 12,000 basic products and over 700,000 variations, SMC has exhibited at AUSPACK since 2016. At the last event three years ago, their focus was on energy saving and optimisation capabilities. Since then, more government incentives have become available in Australia, throwing energy saving into sharper focus for many of SMC’s customers.
“At the last AUSPACK event, energy saving was still fairly new for everyone, although our products are generally designed to save energy. But now, we can also talk to customers about some tried-and-tested cases,” said SMC ANZ head of Field Sales, William Lebihan.
Therefore, SMC plans to continue with the theme this year through showcasing their next generation of products which are more compact, more efficient and smarter, and consulting with customers to uncover what level of automation is really needed in their factories.
“We’re focusing on helping customers understand how easy it can be for them to take the first step in becoming ‘smart,’” Lebihan said. “But rather than selling a widget to people, we would rather sit down and say, ‘Let’s see what’s happening in your factory and the area where you’re working and see if we can help manage that a little better for you.’”
Some of the products on display will include robotic pick and place units, interchangeable end effectors for cobot arms, and electric actuators that rapidly move substantial loads vertically and horizontally.
Additionally, SMC head of Energy Saving Conservation Group Bill Blyth will speak about SMC’s recent work with the abattoir, Fletcher International, where they conducted a complete energy audit that saved 38 per cent of Fletcher’s energy consumption that is produced via compressed air. This presents a good opportunity for attendees in the food and beverage industry to discover how this was achieved and what technology SMC recommended to bring this about.
Preparing for the future
For their clients in the essential food and beverage sector, Lebihan said that SMC’s automation products have allowed better self-efficiency in the past few years. A key part of achieving this was helping to shift their clients’ mindsets to safeguard against future disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We looked at things like automation, measuring how much energy they’re using, and getting an understanding of how they’re going about doing their business from an automated point of view, rather than relying on the older school technologies they were previously using,” Lebihan said.
A focus on staff training during the pandemic also positioned the sales team well to better inform customers about the extensive range of automation solutions on offer.
Companies also realised their own shortcomings during the COVID-19 pandemic and relied more on component suppliers to provide solutions. This worked in SMC’s favour, as they used the time to bolster and internally prepare the sales team to offer comprehensive automation solutions.
Overall, SMC has fared well in terms of sales across Australia and New Zealand during this period, as state sales managers were also able to adapt in the way they interacted with customers.
“It’s been quite challenging in a lot of ways, but we’ve come through and had a successful finish to the year,” Lebihan said. “We got on the front foot early and asked our customers how they wanted to be interacted with during that period, whether it was via text message, email or a Teams meeting.
“We also had a virtual support email address where we invited people to send a note to us and set up a meeting with the applications engineers to get further support, which previously we wouldn’t have done. That way they could talk directly to an application engineer about a project they’re working on.”
Taking care of the team was also paramount to ensuring that SMC continued to meet their targets and succeed.
“We took it seriously and made sure that we were first and foremost making sure our colleagues, staff and their families were safe and then went from there – that seemed to stand us in good stead,” Lebihan said.
Pursuing a greater focus on automation is a key part of SMC’s plans for the long term, while still maintaining their core focus on pneumatics.
“We can do and offer so much more,” Lebihan said. “We want to continue to push into the automation side and get more of our electric products and serial interfaces out on the market and become better known as an automation provider.”
In the short term, SMC will continue their growth trajectory and market share via both supporting existing customers and finding new ones. The food and packaging industry remain a firm growth target for the company.
Lebihan encourages the food and beverage industry to visit the SMC stand at AUSPACK 2022 to garner more information on how to navigate the best route towards automating their businesses.
“The work that’s been going on with the demo units on the stand is some of the best stuff we’ve done – it’s going to be even bigger and better than last time, so come and see us at AUSPACK,” he said.