Australia’s drinking quantity decreases but quality increases

Australians say they are drinking less but better with our per capita spend on alcohol rising as we seek out more premium alcoholic beverages, according to a new report released today.

The emma (Enhanced Media Metrics Australia) Alcoholic Beverages Trends & Insights Report* found that half of people aged 18 years and over say they are drinking less now than they used to.

There is also a move to premium beverages, with the dollar value of liquor sales rising 1.5%^ in 2015, which means Australians are spending more on their favourite drink. Australia is an overwhelmingly wine and beer drinking nation. Wine is our most popular drink, although men up to age 65 prefer beer, the emma data has found.

Cider is our third most popular drink, followed by scotch or whiskey, with other varieties well behind. Women opt for wine more than twice as often as other drinks, whereas men are more varied in their consumption patterns.

White wine edges out red as the most consumed at 43% of adults, compared to 41%, while 23% enjoy sparkling wine or champagne.

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Alcohol is still very much part of Australian culture, with three quarters of adult men and women consuming an alcoholic beverage in the past four weeks.

“The trend towards drinking better offers growth opportunities to premium brands that can tap into the mindset of these consumers.

The move by Australians towards more premium beverages and spending more as a result, underscores the importance of effective brand positioning and marketing.”

Perceptions of quality and value change as people age and emma data shows that older people are more likely to believe that Australian wine is better than that from overseas.

They were also less likely to try foreign beers, preferring homegrown brands. There has been a shift in places and occasions where Australians prefer to drink, which changes by age and life stage. The majority of Australians prefer to drink at home, which was most prevalent among 30-32 years olds at 87%.

Venues where alcohol is consumed differ among various age groups. For example, among 24-26 year olds, 61% drank at a friend or relative’s house, while 19% of 18-20 year olds drank at a nightclub.

Among older people, 50% of 45-47 year olds drank at a restaurant or café, while 36% of 54-56 year olds drank at a bar or pub and a third of 66-68 year olds preferred RSLs, bowls or an AFL club.

According to Ipsos’s consumer segmentation, there are four key segments that represent 35% of Australia’s adult population who are the most likely to drink any alcohol more than once a week.

They are the ‘Educated Ambition’ (highest earners and most educated), ‘Social Creatives’ (young, affluent urbanites), ‘Serene Seclusion’ (people at or near retirement living in regional and rural areas) and ‘Conscientious Consumption’ (middle and upper class families) segments. *

The report draws on data from emma (Enhanced Media Metrics Australia) to explore the changing mindsets, preferences and behaviours of Australian adults towards alcohol. emma interviews more than 54,000 people each year. ^ IBISWorld Liquor Retailing in Australia, March 2016

Report highlights new directions for packaging

‘New directions’ in packaging and labelling technology are a strong feature of today’s market – and the latest is digital direct-to-container print. It may, indeed, be a disruptive technology, as the new Direct Digital Printing Technology for Labeling & Product Decoration AWAreness Report 2016 demonstrates.

This latest addition to AWA Alexander Watson Associates’ portfolio of assessments of aspects of global label printing market provides a valuable resource for all interested in, or already committed to, this 21st-century product identification technology.

Eliminating entirely the need for a label on rigid or semi-rigid containers, direct digital print offers brand owners a new palette of opportunities — including economies of scale, shorter route to market, and enhanced levels of brand presentation and promotion, such as personalization.

However, this is a technology in its infancy, and further technical and commercial innovation and a broader supplier source at all levels can be expected.

The report posits that the total potential volume growth of the global label market could be negatively affected, losing market share to direct container print.

Pressure-sensitive and wet glue labels are the leading candidates for replacement, but sleeving and in-mould labels will not be immune.

Substitution of labels in all technologies will, says the report, represent the equivalent of 0.5%-1.0% of the global label market by 2019/2020.

Complete with an industry-wide survey of the technology’s present status and future opportunities, and a directory of equipment, inks, and ancillary manufacturers, Direct Digital Printing Technology for Labeling & Product Decoration AWAreness Report 2016 represents an expert overview of a key packaging market development.

The report may be ordered online via the AWA Alexander Watson Associates website, www.awa-bv.com, along with details of the company’s full range of market research and consultancy services and events.

New food logistics technologies deliver the goods

Ten years ago, the best method to measure the temperature of produce was to stick a thermometer in a box on the back of the delivery truck. As Sam Murden reports, Zebra Technologies has undertaken several changes to ensure safety and quality are upheld.

Zebra Technologies has a simple solution to an otherwise complex question: How can value be added to the process of food transportation? Scanner guns –the barcode readers used in warehouses world-wide –are getting a makeover, as retailers scramble to boost productivity amid a surge in online orders.

Warehouse workers use scanners thousands of times a day, yet they often find that the temperature of a product may be uneven.

This is usually due to the placement and handling of the product at the end of the production line.

Wayne Harper has spent 19 years at Zebra Technologies and is the Senior Technical Director for the company in the Asia Pacific.

In an interview with Food & Beverage Industry News, Harper said the ‘brick on a stick’ scanner has been the industry standard for decades.

“Retailers rely on the devices to keep track of hundreds of thousands of goods stored in, and moving around, massive distribution centres.”

“While this type of monitoring has been taking place for the last decade or so, the method has proven to be somewhat inaccurate.”

Harper argues that the sheer volume and variety of food products churned out from the factories on a weekly basis had led to inaccuracies in product labelling and differences in temperatures in the product delivered to supermarkets.

Salami Ice Cream: the perfect package?

Salami, as an example, was produced long before the outcome of microorganisms on the process of producing salami was recognised. Before starter cultures were commercialised, the manufacture of salami relied on the existence of indigenous lactic acid bacteria (LAB) to produce salami.

As a result, starter cultures were introduced about 40 years ago in the salami industry and are now widely used and accepted as a necessity to control processing and ensure quality in salami production. The advantages of meat starter cultures are wide-ranging; they lead to standardisation and safety of the production process as well as turning out a product with a high degree of uniformity, and it might be possible to accelerate the processing time.

“Some salami grades may have 10 per cent prime quality meat and 25 per cent mixed fats,” Harper said.

“Whilst the material is typically sorted out at the end of the production, Zebra Technologies ensures it is monitored from the start to ensure that the optimal environment and temperature can be kept under control.”

Harper pointed out the importance of the evolving food logistics technology to the handling of frozen dairy products, such as ice cream.

“In this case, we use the same process as salami to ensure that the perfect ambient temperature is maintained from the factory, to the truck and finally to the supermarket shelf.”

Based in South Australia, Auscold Logistics is one example of a company that provides safe, reliable and cost-effective transport and warehousing solutions to ensure control points are managed safely, efficiently and effectively.

The sheer scale of these comprehensive storage facilities is worth noting: almost 4000 pallets of freezer storage and 2000 pallets of chilled storage are all controlled through 9 temperature controlled ‘Igloo style’ docks.

According to Auscold Logistics Managing Director Bill Andary, real-time temperature monitoring across all vehicles, docks and warehouses can provide significant benefits to managers.

“Benefits are significant to both management and order selectors. Managers can organise orders to create more efficient workflows, and easily reorganise them to meet requests or pressing schedules,” he said.

Handling the future of food logistics

Zebra Technologies has bet on a new version of its scanning gun that eliminates the need for warehouse employees to continuously extend their arms or rotate their wrists.

Advanced RFID-based solutions for packing stations ensure the highest levels of accuracy throughout warehouse staging and packing, while new innovative mobile technology saves previous seconds during the manually intensive warehouse packing, staging and loading processes for outbound materials.

As Harper concluded, the health and safety of the product ensures that it is kept auditable and traceable with up-to-date information.

“Ultimately, we add value to the product through our mobile technology that enables users to electronically capture data in real time, and uses ASN and GS1 information to help get the product in the most efficient amount of time.”

In other words, placing value through to the consumer: that’s how food logistics will evolve over the next decade.

Jungheinrich Unveils Totally New Combi Stacker

Jungheinrich is market-launching a new narrow-aisle forklift – its EKX 514-516 electric order picker and trilateral forklift – in short, a “combi” (combination) stacker.

With a payload capacity of 1,600 kilograms and a lift height of 17.5 metres, the new model will be officially unveiled before a global trade audience at the LogiMAT 2016 exhibition in Stuttgart (hall 9, stand 9B02 and 9B04).

Efficient and Economical, with Just One Battery for Two Shifts

The truck is equipped with state-of-the-art control technology, completely new motor technology and an efficient energy management system. Its intelligent lightweight design makes use of high-strength steels, resulting in a weight reduction of 150 kilograms. “This means we can guarantee the efficient and economical operation of the stacker over two shifts with a single battery charge,” states Dr Klaus-Dieter Rosenbach, Jungheinrich Board of Management member in charge of Logistics Systems Business.

For two-shift operations this eliminates not only the need for extra batteries, but also for charging stations and other expensive equipment, while at the same time reducing manpower requirements. Rosenbach continues: “This is not a mere promise of two-shift operation without changing the battery – we also back up this claim vis-à-vis the customer.” In other words, if a battery fails to hold a charge for two full shifts, Jungheinrich will replace it free of charge.

Economical Motors: 93 Percent of Energy Converted into Output

Completely new motor technology developed by Jungheinrich is at the core of the EKX 514-516. This consists of a synchronous reluctance motor which has been used for the first time in this vehicle – a motor which combines the high performance and energy efficiency of synchronous motors with the cost advantages and low maintenance requirements of three-phase AC asynchronous motors.

According to Rosenbach the motor’s efficiency factor of IE31 is the highest achievable in forklift operations.

The new motor technology converts around 93 percent of the energy consumed into actual output, cutting energy losses by half. “This means that energy consumption has been reduced by a further 15 percent compared to the previous model,” remarks Rosenbach. “And this, despite the vehicle’s much higher performance,” he adds.

Reaching Great Heights Smoothly and Safely, Thanks to Vibration Damping

For the first time Jungheinrich is also equipping this model series with a patented vibration damping system.

The optional Floor Pro module reduces lateral oscillations of the mast and driver’s cab which are caused by uneven floors or other floor types not designed for narrow-aisle forklifts. “This system provides the user with the opportunity to travel more smoothly and up to 30 percent faster on substandard surfaces,” explains Rosenbach. In addition the system is easy on loads and vehicle and helps reduce the level of maintenance.

The goal is to allow narrow-aisle trucks to work safely and efficiently even on floors that were originally designed solely for reach trucks – even at lift heights of 10 metres.

The new EKX 514-516 is fitted with a number of different modules for process integration, including RFID technology, redundant height and distance measurement and the Jungheinrich Logistics Interface.

If the optional Jungheinrich warehouse navigation system with semi-automatic target approach is added, throughput can be enhanced by up to 25 percent. Dr Rosenbach concludes: “By combining intelligent assistance systems with high-performance synchronous reluctance motors, Jungheinrich has made great strides in further optimising energy efficiency – putting us in great shape to meet the future challenges of Intralogistics 4.0.”

Bühler takes pole position in global rice processing

The Bühler Group is continuing to strengthen its leadership in rice processing, handling and storage capabilities.

With dedicated local services and solutions, built on thorough regional knowledge, it is able to meet the exact needs of customers across the world.

 Bühler was founded 150 years ago and has, over that time, continually renewed its strategic commitment to its customers worldwide.

Now, as the global leader in the supply of industrial food processing systems, contributing approximately 30 percent of global rice production, Bühler is now the number one supplier in industrialised rice processing.

 Its position in the industry as a trusted technology partner to processing businesses is further underlined by its raft of innovative solutions to suit the needs of processors large and small. 

 Rice is grown on every continent, apart from Antarctica, and is a staple food for more than half of the world’s population.

In fact, one billion people globally are directly or indirectly reliant on rice – either for food or income, or both.

With the world’s population predicted to reach 8.27 billion by 2030, demand for rice is expected to increase by approximately 100 million tonnes to 550 million tonnes in the same period.

Bühler is well prepared to play a key role in processing these fast growing rice volumes: thanks to significant contract wins over the past 12 months, the company has taken the pole position in global industrialised rice processing, exceeding its closest competitor in terms of combined turnover in rice milling and logistics.

Today, around 30 percent of the global rice harvest will be processed on systems from Bühler.

This accomplishment is owed to Bühler’s commitment and success in delivering global expertise with local customer service and its ability to understand every step along the value chain.

The company not only understands the raw material, but the individual drivers in the handling and production process – from receipt of freshly harvested paddy, all the way to the finished and packed rice.

Bühler’s locally-based experts proactively support and advise customers in the decision making process, creating a real impact in reducing post-harvest losses.

As global demand for food rises so does the pressure to reduce food waste, which already stands at well over 315 million tonnes of food every year.

In its markets, Bühler has introduced a number of different initiatives to reduce food loss worldwide – and is thereby helping to fight global food shortage.

Detlef Blass, Head of Rice Processing Europe and Americas explains: “Paramount to Bühler’s success are the 80 plus sales and service centres around the world. They have a deep-rooted understanding of the issues affecting the markets they operate in and cement Bühler’s ability to adapt its technology and business model to the needs of processors in each area.”

In the region – for the region

Furthermore, Centres of Competence located in major rice producing markets, including India and China, house the world’s best rice technology and nutrition experts, who are well placed to develop regional rice processing and added-value technology solutions that meet distinct local requirements in paddy handling, storage, and milling.

The success achieved in South East Asia is a perfect example of this formula and highlights Bühler’s widening technology and engineering footprint in the key rice processing markets.

Rustom Mistry, Head of Rice Processing for China and South East Asia explains: “In the past two years we have secured in excess of USD 100 million worth of business, including the company’s largest-ever contract for rice processing, a landmark agreement with Merry Rice in Thailand.”

The contract, for more than 50 Bühler SORTEX S UltraVision™ optical sorters, and 50 high-capacity UltraPoly™ rice polishers, will result in the world’s largest rice mill, capable of processing more than 10,000 tonnes of rice per day.

Other contracts secured in South East Asia include the first complete rice mill in Vietnam for Phung Hoang, an exporter in high quality rice from Vietnam, a pre-cleaning and dryer complex for Capital Rice in Thailand and a complete paddy processing plant for Nine Seas in Myanmar.
 
Bühler is also building a strong customer base in South Asia, particularly India and Bangladesh. Sunil Ranade, Head of Rice Processing for South Asia, Middle East and Africa, points out that Bühler recently installed its first UltraLine™ Rice Mill in Bangladesh with the 16 tonnes per hour rice mill.

This was a progression of the partnership between Bühler and Erfan Group, the country’s largest rice processor and supplier, which began in 2013. Further success in the region includes contracts with City Group, Patel Agri, SKML and most recently a 12 tonnes per hour paddy to brown rice processing plant for Galaxy Rice Mills in Pakistan.

SORTEX innovations

A key component of the success in rice processing has been the growing demand and acceptance of Bühler’s leadership in optical sorting for rice.

Offering a comprehensive portfolio of fully automated rice optical sorters from 4 to 16 TPH including innovations such as the SORTEX S UltraVision™ allows rice processors to specify a Bühler optical sorter that delivers the specific rice quality and sorting capacity that meets their exact output requirement.

“Earlier this year, Bühler launched its new Bühler W optical sorter in response to the growing demands from small to medium sized rice processors. Within just three months, the company had already confirmed more than 100 single machine contracts in India alone. Further product launches include its recently developed product line, which provides a bespoke rice milling solution for low capacity processors,” Sunil Ranade continues.

Bühler is also trading strongly in Europe where it has completed a combination of new installations and plant upgrades.

Much of this additional business came from existing customers, including a Spanish-based multinational food group.

It installed a 100% Bühler rice grinding plant – the largest in the world – producing high value premium rice flour for use in baby foods, instant beverages and gluten free products.

Meanwhile in the Americas, market development and penetration for Bühler rice processing solutions remains buoyant.

In Columbia, Bühler has supplied engineering and accessories for a paddy project, processing more than nine tonnes per hour.

One of Central America’s largest rice producers has also invested in a second UltraLine™ whitening and polishing unit including all accessories – increasing production from paddy input to almost 40 tonnes per hour.

In Costa Rica, one of Bühler’s largest rice processing customer’s is planning further upgrades to its automated rice processing plant.
 
In North America, Bühler secured a USD 1.5 million contract to supply SORTEX S UltraVision™ sorters to four rice processors, including two of the largest farmer-owned rice producers in the US, establishing Bühler as a first choice technology partner in this established rice market.
 
Bühler will continue to expand local sales and service channels, plus build expertise to further strengthen its provision of energy efficient, processing technologies for emerging and mature rice markets worldwide. Bühler’s commitment to understanding and serving its customers, underpinned by a solid strategy of forging and investing in long-lasting business partnerships with rice processors, large and small, around the world, will ensure that Bühler remains in pole position for 2016, where several significant rice projects are further expected.

Conveyor Belt Systems for Sustainable Food Industry Operations

Moving food products from point to point during processing is both essential and unavoidable. 

. Conveyor belt systems make up the most important part of all installations in the food industry. Needless to say, the efficiency and sustainability of such conveyor systems is a big concern to all stakeholders in this industry as well as the State Agencies concerned.

While the manufacturers look into efficiency and sustainability as a means to cut down on production costs and increase bottom-lines, Federal and State agencies are more concerned with general energy efficiency and waste reduction with regards to impacts on the environment. It is a win-win situation that has encouraged the development of conveyor belt systems and conveyor belt scales  that promote the sustainability of various industrial operations.

1. Good Hygienic Design

A good design of the conveyors that positively promotes hygiene is going to ensure that only the highest levels of food safety are maintained. This will no doubt provide economic benefits by the mere fact that it is going to guarantee the production of high quality products. The production of high quality food products is basically self-sustainable when it comes to acceptance by the consumers.

2. Ability to be Cleaned Easily

Conveyor systems in the food industry need to be constantly cleaned for obvious reasons. If they are designed in such a way as to facilitate cleaning, and easy cleaning at that, then this will be another feature that is going to help maintain sustainable operations in this industry.

The cleaning of conveyor belt systems can be done using either the automated Cleaning-in-place features or manually. Those systems that are easy to disassemble and reassemble without the need for tools make it even easier for the components to be thoroughly cleaned.

3. Non-Fray Fabric Conveyor Belts

When it comes to the fabric conveyor belts, the ideal surface is generally smooth and homogeneous, and thus easy to clean. The no-fray or fray less fabric conveyors are ideal for the food industry since they minimize fiber contamination on the food products being conveyed. Quality can be adversely affected due to such contaminations; the end result being losses.

4. The Belt Scale

Having a belt scale along the conveyor system provides an excellent way of maintaining and monitoring accurate flow rates of materials and products. The best conveyor scales need to be accurate, dependable and also capable of repeatable operations day in and day out. With such features, wastage is kept at bay and overall production costs down.

5. Easy to Access Conveyor Belt Scales

With quick and efficient means to access the conveyor belt scales, scheduled and unscheduled maintenance and calibrations exercises for these readers will be carried out without major snarl-ups on general production. Any time that is saved during all manufacturing processes usually translates to savings in terms of resources.

6. Constructed using Quality Materials

Generally, the stainless steels provide exceptional corrosion resistance. This is one of the reasons why it is used widely in the food industry. The selection of the right grade of stainless steel for a food production conveyor system will largely depend on the intended use among other considerations. Bottom line here is that a conveyor system constructed with good quality materials will be both efficient and durable.

7. Energy Efficient

Being energy efficient is not only good for manufacturers, but also for the environment. There are those conveyor systems with energy efficiency features, such as the gravity feed that make use of the force of gravity to substitute their power at convenient points.

There are also other measures that if well implemented, can result in even more energy efficiency. Things like selecting the right size for your factory, switching the system off when not in use, ensuring that it is kept well maintained for optimum efficiency and upgrading where necessary, are all going to help save energy.

Benefits of Conveyor Belt Systems in the Food Industry

  1. Reduced Errors hence Increased Productivity

With the automation of product and material movement, not only is more of it moved round, but it is also done efficiently. With the inclusion of the conveyor scales that monitor the weights of materials and products during production, errors in ingredient quantities and package weights are virtually eliminated.

  1. Sustainably Sanitary

There are those conveyors specifically designed to recycle excess products, such as toppings in food production, an example being the pneumatic conveying system. These evidently reduce waste and hence facilitate great economic returns to the manufacturers.

  1. Easy to Setup plus Improved Safety in Operations.

Conveyor systems can be purchased and easily installed where needed. Some can actually be installed by the owners themselves and that makes the whole exercise a lot easier on the pocket. Complete automations of the conveyance process means that there will be less human contact and even lesser risk of accidents.

Galipo Foods increases throughput with voice-enabled warehouse

Galipo Foods, one of the largest food distribution companies in South Australia, teamed up with VoiceID and Honeywell Sensing and Productivity Solutions to upgrade its warehouse technology and increase productivity by 80 per cent. 

As part of the upgrade project, Galipo Foods updated its existing voice technology system with the latest advancements in Honeywell’s voice solutions, including the Vocollect A730 device with an integrated hands-free scanner, Vocollect SRX2 wireless Headset and VoiceLink software to connect with Galipo’s system in real time. 

“The priority for Galipo Foods was upgrading its picking process without having to undergo a complete system replacement, as this meant a lower initial investment and therefore a quicker return on investment,” said Rizan Mawzoon, director of sales for VoiceID.  

“Galipo had already made an initial investment in Honeywell’s Vocollect voice solutions. By introducing the VoiceID connector solution and Honeywell A730 devices, we were able to complete a straightforward upgrade of the voice technology they were using, with great results in terms of productivity increases.”

“We are very excited that our upgrade to the latest Honeywell voice technology has delivered such dramatic results, with our throughput increasing from 50 million to 65 million units processed each year. With more areas to be brought in under this technology, we will be able to move 90 million units by January 2016,” said Nathan Narayanan, general manager at Galipo Foods. “And the best part is that our productivity growth has been achieved without adding additional workers, which has saved us money.”

Voted as best distributor of the year in Australia in 2014 and South Australian distributor of the year in 2014 and 2015, Galipo Foods offers its customers biscuits, soups and gravies, sauces and dressings, condiments, oil, pasta, dairy, jams, meat, cereals, bread, seafood, pastries, herbs and spices, grains, drinks, eggs, syrups and more. Operating in the competitive food service space, it is vital that Galipo Foods’ warehouse operates at an optimum level in order to deliver the right product, at the right time and in the right condition. 

“We are very pleased to see that Galipo Foods’ voice technology upgrade is already helping them increase productivity and the accuracy of their order fulfilment,” said Paul Phillips, ANZ regional manager, Honeywell Sensing and Productivity Solutions. 

“With increased productivity and accuracy, Galipo Foods can now be confident they are offering the highest level of customer service at all times.”

When climate change hits our food supply, city foodbowls could come to the rescue

Australians may need to get used to coping with more disruptions to their food supply and rising food prices in a warming climate.

But the food produced near our cities – our “city foodbowls” – could play a vital role in increasing the resilience of our food supply, as discussed in a new briefing from our Foodprint Melbourne project.

The urban fringes of Australia’s major cities are some of the most productive agricultural regions in Australia. They also have access to valuable urban waste streams to support food production, including recycled water from city water treatment plants and desalination plants.

Nonetheless, Australia’s city foodbowls are at risk of urban development, and the opportunity to develop them as climate resilient foodbowls could be lost unless their value is recognised in metropolitan planning policy.

Climate shock

The Queensland floods of 2010-11 showed how a sudden extreme weather event could disrupt a city’s food supply. Major transport routes to Brisbane and other cities were cut off and supermarkets began to run short of some food.

And the Millennium Drought demonstrated the impact that drought could have on food prices, when fruit prices in Australia increased 43% between 2005 and 2007, and vegetable prices by around 33%.

Climate change is expected to reduce the capacity for food production across southern Australia due to water scarcity, increasing temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events.

We don’t know exactly how climate change will affect food production, but it is likely that Australia’s major regional foodbowl, the Murray-Darling Basin, will see significant impacts in a severe drying scenario. Wheat and dairy production are predicted to decrease due to climate change. Crops such as fruit and vegetables are likely to be particularly affected.

As the impacts of climate change are felt in Australia’s regional foodbowls, urban and urban fringe (or “peri-urban”) areas of food production around Australian capital cities could become more important sources of fresh foods. Cities have access to resources that are in increasingly short supply, such as water, fertile land and organic waste streams that can be composted to provide fertilisers.

Australia’s city foodbowls

These urban fringes are not widely-recognised as “foodbowls”, but historically they have been an important source of food. Like many world cities, they were typically founded in fertile areas with good access to water. This fed their growing populations.

As cities sprawl, market gardens have been pushed further out and city foodbowls have shrunk, but many are still highly productive. Sydney’s foodbowl produces at least 20% of New South Wales’ total vegetable production, for instance, including the majority of the state’s total production of cabbage, spring onions, shallots and mushrooms.

Melbourne’s foodbowl produces a wide variety of foods, including fresh vegetables, fruit, eggs and meat. It currently has the capacity to meet up to 41% of the food needs of city’s population.

 

Crops such as lettuce are commonly grown on the urban fringes of cities thanks to close access to markets and labour Rachel Carey

 

Some areas of Melbourne’s foodbowl have access to recycled water, such as Werribee to the city’s west and the proposed Bunyip Food Belt to the south-east. The Werribee Irrigation District, next to Melbourne’s Western Treatment Plant, grows around 10% of the vegetables produced in Victoria, including the majority of the state’s broccoli and cauliflower.

Towards the end of the Millennium Drought, vegetable production in this region became dependent on recycled water from the water treatment plant as river levels fell.

But areas such as Werribee are under threat from urban development.

Resilient food supply

The importance of city foodbowls for resilient and sustainable food systems has been recognised internationally.

Cities such as Melbourne and Sydney are fed from a variety of sources – regional, national and global – as well as local. All are important, but urban and urban fringe food production has the potential to increase the resilience of a city’s food supply in a number of ways. These include reducing the dependence of city populations on distant sources of food, and maximising the use of limited natural resources.

If Australia’s capital cities are able to accommodate growing populations in a way that contains urban sprawl and retains their capacity for food production, city foodbowls could contribute to a food supply more resilient from climate change.

For this to happen, city planning strategies need to recognise the significance of city foodbowls for sustainable and resilient city food systems.

The Conversation

Rachel Carey, Research Fellow, Deakin University; Jennifer Sheridan, Researcher in sustainable food systems, University of Melbourne, and Kirsten Larsen, Manager, Food Systems Research and Partnerships, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Pepsi claims victory at the 2015 Australian Supply Chain & Logistics Awards

Pepsi has been awarded both the 2015 Supply Chain Management Award and the 2015 Storage & Materials Handling Award by the Supply Chain & Logistics Association of Australia in Sydney.

Over 55 years, the ASCL recognises an individual or a company for outstanding achievements and contribution working within the Transport, Supply Chain and Logistics Industry.

The 2015 Supply Chain Management Award is given out to encourage and acknowledge the outstanding achievement of an organisation that has demonstrated significant achievements in managing the integration of Supply Chains. This could be functional integration within an organisational Supply Chain or more widely across Supply Chains involving several organisations that have formed trading partnerships or alliances.

PepsiCo were recognised for their Supply Chain Optimisation project, which included automated palletising, AGV pallet transport and put-away/retrieval from ASRs.

Pepsi were also awarded the 2015 Storage & Materials Handling Award, which recognises the significant achievements in the techniques and technology of materials storage and handling at any stage of the supply chain.

Technology covers equipment and design techniques, including the facilitation of design and associated information and control systems.

Other awards given out at the Sydney show included the 2015 Industry Excellence Award, the Future Leaders Award, the 2015 Training, Education & Development Award and the 2015 Information Management Award.

Lower dollar sees “spectacular” food and beverage export increase

The food and beverage sector has benefited handsomely from the lower dollar, according to a new report on the sector, with exports up 28 per cent.

The ABC reports that the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s seventh annual State of The Industry report has found a “spectacular” surge in trade, with the trade surplus for food and beverages nearly doubled and total exports up from $20 billion to $26 billion. Beef exports recorded a strong increase among exports.

"So there is double digit growth across a whole range of categories including some you would not expect, like beverages, biscuits and confectionary, sauces and condiments and a whole range of processed foods," the ABC reports AFGC chief executive Gary Dawson as saying.

According to the report, the sector is worth $119 billion, and represents nearly a third of all manufacturing in the country. Over 40 per cent of its more than 322,000 employees live in regional areas. An additional 3,183 employees were hired during the year.

The drop in the Australian dollar relative to the US currency, from a $US 1.10 peak in 2011, has been a welcome relief for many.

Simplot, for example, had previously been in danger of closing its Devonport and Bathurst processing sites.

“…our estimation at the time was that the bad times were here to stay and it is now paying its way," said the company’s managing director, Terry O’Brien.

To read the State of The Industry 2015 report, click here.

 

ICA keeps the Coopers flowing

Recently, Industrial Conveying (Aust) completed a project for glass bottle manufacturer Orora Glass. Warehouse manager Darren Boswell said ICA was the obvious choice when faced with a logistics and materials handling problem.

“Our client, Coopers Brewery, installed a system to automate the removal of packaging from the pallets with a robot that cuts the straps. This presented us with a problem because Coopers then required the pallets to be delivered without the stretch wrap that supports the straps.” 

Boswell explained that Orora’s trailers were not engineered to deliver the quantity of bottles required by Coopers without that stretch wrap in place. As a result, the pallets – each containing 4400 glass bottles – were collapsing in transit. The cost of both clean up and replacement was significant.

After purchasing new trailers engineered to support the load, Orora found the loading docks needed to be modified to fit the trailer dimensions. Without these modifications, the loading and unloading of the trailers added 40 minutes of manual handling time to each load.

“We engaged ICA to go onsite and look at the problem. Not only were they the OEM for the docks, but having worked with them before we were confident in their expertise.”

ICA has a long history in the beverage industry, with many clients now using roll-on roll off docks to automate the loading and unloading of pallets. This optimises efficiency by reducing the time required to complete the task from 40 minutes to as little as five minutes. It also enables staff to be redeployed to other areas of the business, maximising productivity.

ICA General Manager Bruce Granger said the idea is to automate docks so virtually no manual handling is involved.
 
"The less handling, the better the return per truck trip.  When you take into consideration that most depots have the capacity to load and unload on a 24/7 basis, over the course of each financial year our clients see very significant returns.”

As well as the financial benefits of modifying the docks to fit the trailers, Boswell said there were three key performance indicators used to quantify the success of the project: fast turnaround time, minimal disruption to deliveries and a willingness to work around the client. 

“Knowing that ICA is an Australian company with a network of local suppliers gave us the confidence that we could get this done with minimal fuss. ICA sent its team to South Australia on the weekends to complete the work in between deliveries. The process was faultless from concept to completion.”

 

Yellowtail’s efficiency overhaul

One of Australia's largest beverage distributors, Casella Family Brands, has made some unprecedented efficiency gains at their distribution centres. 

Distributor of the Yellowtail wine label, Casella, supplies around 27 per cent of Australia's bottled table wine, holds a record for the fastest growing imported wine in US market history, and distributes more than 12.5 million cases of wine to 50 countries around the world each year.

 Following such a sustained period of rapid growth, Casella recognised it needed new technology that could improve visibility of inventory across its two distribution centres (DCs), which could offer the required degree of scalability to improve product availability and drive future growth. 

After an 18 month search for the right candidate, Casella settled on a partnership with logistics specialists Manhattan Associates, which has seen implementation of the SCALE (Supply Chain Architected for Logistics Execution) software at Casella's distribution centres. 

Casella Family Brands Distribution Manager Sam McLeod said the new warehousing software system has made some significant changes to their business, streamlining their old supply chain methods and increasing efficiency by 22 per cent. 

"Prior to the implementation of Manhattan's SCALE software we had something that wasn't far off a paper based system," McLeod said. 

"We could not scan or log anything leaving the warehouse aside from which we wrote down and then logged back in through our previous system. 

"For us it's been a big change because now we scan every single outgoing product via unique Licence Plate Numbers (LPNs) which gives us a great degree of traceability that we certainly didn't have before." 

With traceability being the number one concern in the wine distribution game, McLeod said the new system ensures minimum disruption in the event of a recall thanks to enhanced product monitoring. 

"We could run a product, say a Shiraz 1.5L retail product, which would be about 30,000 to 40,000 cases in one hit. Under our previous system if we had a recall based around one hour's worth of product, we would still have to recall all 40,000 cases to get the required batch, because there was no way of determining what products were processed in a given time period," McLeod said. 

"Now, in theory, we could narrow that range down to 500-600 cases. 
The old Casella system required manual marking of pallets on order sheets, an extensive checking process of 40 sea-containers worth of product each day. However, now orders are picked, placed in staging areas, and then scanned back out to the containers. 

"That's made an awfully big difference to us; this is hours each week that we're saving because we don't have to go back and double check." 

McLeod said the new system is anticipated to save Casella three per cent on wages in the coming financial year, a significant share in an operation of that size. 

The other major benefit Casella has seen is an increase in the utilisation of warehouse space by 22 per cent. 

"Being able to increase our warehousing capacity means that, as we have the fastest bottling line in the Southern Hemisphere, our warehouse is our limiting factor," McLeod said. 

"By increasing our usage of the floor space by 22 per cent, we can run to 22 per cent greater efficiency over the course of the year, and that's a big saving on revenue, which is fantastic." 

McLeod said the company previously had to employ up to five people allocating stock from different regions of the warehouse to be picked and placed in the loading bays, a task which can now be co-ordinated from a single computer. 

"Before we had five people across 500 SKUs, trying to pick independently of one another, but now our system allows us to use up one row before we look at another one, then we can use that up and move on," he said. 

"As you can imagine it's a very complex equation for individuals to handle, sitting at a computer with data entry, but for scale at the click of a button we can allocate those associated rows, and that's where the 22 per cent comes in. 

"Simply put, thanks to the availability improvements we've achieved with Manhattan's technology, our coveted Yellow Tail brand is seen on more dining tables, on more store shelves, and in more bars, pubs, clubs, hotels and restaurants around the world with every passing week and month."

 

Universities collaborate for supply chain training centre

The University of Sydney Business School’s Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS) has joined with the University of Newcastle to establish a food and beverage supply chain training centre.

 “The ARC Centre for Food and Beverage Supply Chain Optimisation” will train the next generation of multidisciplinary researchers capable of designing and managing safe, sustainable, and cost-effective food supply chains vital to the industry’s future,” said centre chief investigator, associate professor Behnam Fahimnia.

The sector is currently worth more than 30 billion dollars a year and employs 15 per cent of the national workforce. The Federal Government’s 2013 National Food Plan White Paper calls for “a sustainable, globally competitive, resilient food supply supporting access to nutritious and affordable food”.

The ITLS – University of Newcastle collaboration is backed by the CSIRO, Georgia Institute of Technology, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Coca-Cola Amatil Australia, SunRice, the Batlow Fruit Co-operative, and Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing.

The ITLS is now calling for applications for a PhD scholarship in food and beverage supply chain optimisation.

“The successful applicant will to join our team and will work on supply chain design and management projects in close collaboration with our industry partners,” said Dr Fahimnia.

“The focus of these projects will be on the development of decision tools and optimisation models for the design of efficient, resilient, and sustainable supply chains in food and beverage industry.”

Those interested in applying for the scholarship, valued at nearly $30,000 per annum (with a $10,000 top-up bonus for local students), should email associate professor Behnam Fahimnia.

 

PepsiCo announces carbon pollution reductions

Global beverage manufacturer, PespiCo has announced new initiatives together with updated data on the progress its made to address climate change.

PepsiCo has announced that by reducing fuel consumption in its transportation fleet by 24 percent since 2010, the company has effectively prevented 55,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. Pepsi has also announced that its looking to further reduce fuel consumption for its trucks and vehicles into the future.

In addition, Pepsi outlined several new initiatives to reduce the carbon intensity of its trucking fleet by working with suppliers to seek lower carbon fuel alternatives. 

“The transportation sector is a significant contributor to carbon emissions and Pepsi’s progress is welcome news for investors, consumers and the planet,” stated Leslie Samuelrich, president of Green Century Capital Management, which manages the first family of responsible and diversified fossil fuel free mutual funds—the Green Century Equity Fund and the Green Century Balanced Fund. 

“Pepsi is reducing its dependency on polluting fossil fuels, which we hope leads to more use of cleaner energy sources,” stated Samuelrich.

Pepsi’s plan includes implementing a formal Request for Proposal process seeking low carbon fuel alternatives from its suppliers. In addition, Pepsi will work through the Business for Social Responsibility’s (BSR) Future of Fuels program on finding ways to reduce the carbon intensity of its fleet. 

“As investors, we are encouraged that PepsiCo has signaled to the market and its suppliers the company’s aspiration to reduce the carbon intensity of its trucking fleet,” noted Lucia von Reusner, Shareholder Advocate for Green Century. “We urge PepsiCo to report on progress towards this goal, and set strong fuel efficiency goals moving forward.”

 

Zacpac opens $25m manufacturing facility

Zacpac has unveiled a $25m manufacturing facility in Stapylton, near Queensland’s Gold Coast.

The facility stretched over 8,000sqm and will significantly expand the company’s production of its corrugated packaging, litho laminated packaging, and litho cartons when it is fully operational in early 2015.

The factory is now operational, while the management offices are still under construction. By the end of this year, the new production hub will employ 30 people.

Director John Zac hopes to employ more than 100 in the following year, while increasing production and services from northern NSW to North Queensland.

One of the first machines to go into the Stapylton stable, a BCS Autobox automated custom box maker supplied by DES, is now firing out boxes in runs as short as one.

The Autobox can manufacture boxes in any size or shape that the customer requires – from a small cupcake box up to a double sized fridge. It shifts from one style or size to another automatically, and starts producing straight away.

The new production hub will complement the company’s existing distribution warehouse on the Gold Coast and shorten turnaround times for customers based as far north as Cairns. The company has grown by more than 30 percent year on year over the last three years, after enticing some major multinational clients in the food and beverage, personal care, and wine markets.

Director John Zac said “The latest expansion is all about living up to new clients’ expectations while maintaining service for our existing customers.

“As we introduce a new machine, we install it and get it up and running. So we are slowly adding the next machine, and the next, and so on, to get production going at the new site. A project like this does not happen overnight. We will begin employing new staff as we add new machinery, and with each new machine we install, we will need more people at the company, thus creating more jobs.

“The machine suits the company’s focus on shorter runs, which sets them apart from larger competitors who accept only high volume, high output jobs. As well as our big multinational clients, our customers also include mum and dad businesses working out of rental factories, who may only order 150-200 boxes at a time.

“While our machines are also high speed and high output, we go shopping for specific equipment like the Autobox to serve shorter runs. Even with our high-speed machines we can produce runs of just 250 boxes. Our opposition’s minimum is more like 2500.”

 

GS1’s Global Registry reaches 15 million product items

Global supply chain standards organisation, GS1 has announced that its GS1 Global Registry has now reached 15 million product items.

The Global Registry, which is a directory operated by GS1, allows companies to synchronise standardised product data with trading partners worldwide. The registry is also an essential tool within the GS1 GDSN, which provides secure and continuous synchronisation of accurate data between businesses.

“The 15 million item milestone indicates the ever growing success of GDSN as well as demonstrating Data Quality standards going from strength to strength globally. In the last two years many organisations have recognised the benefits of scale that adoption of GDSN brings to their business processes, which showcases the advantages of the uptake of GS1 standards” said Maria Palazzolo, GS1 Australia’s CEO.

In addition to the success of GDSN, GS1 Australia entered into a multi-year contract with certified data pool provider 1WorldSync in March this year. This provides the Australian and New Zealand markets with a new ‘next generation’ platform for the enhanced delivery of the GS1net Australasia GDSN certified data pool.

GS1net is currently the third largest data pool with over 800,000 Global Trade Item Numbers from 1750 GS1net user organisations across the Grocery, Foodservice, Liquor, Healthcare, Hardware and Office Products and General Merchandise sectors.

GS1 expects to see an overall increase of the usage of GDSN in several different industries, such as healthcare, retail, food service due to a growing demand for data around how a product is delivered to market, including handling instructions, traceability attributes, nutrition information, regulatory compliance and classification.

 

New NASAA deal offers total transparency for organic supply chain

In an Australian first, global logistics company 20cube has been certified to handle and transport organic products both domestically and internationally.

The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia (NASAA) has partnered with 20cube as part of its efforts to boost domestic and export opportunities for Australian organic produce, particularly in China.

NASAA general manager Ben Copeman said the 20cube deal NASAA will offer organic producers complete product integrity from the paddock to the retailer’s shelf.

“NASAA Certified Operators can now have all their certifications including NASAA, NOP, JAS, Chinese and Korean completed in one annual inspection by one inspector at the one time representing significant savings in time, logistics and expenses. 

“We can offer the distribution and outlets in China via our partnerships with CHC (Beijing WuYuHuaXia Management and Technique Center) and the Chinese Chamber of International Commerce, and can now deliver real supply chain visibility with 20cube,” he said.

“This deal will also help to enhance Australia’s reputation for clean and green food production with China’s rising middle class, who are demanding more Western-style, luxury food.”

20cube director, consulting and supply chain solutions John McNally said company employees had completed the same certification course as NASAA inspectors and last year carried out 30 biosecurity inspections in 14 countries.

“We understand the investment organic producers make to maintain their organic certification. They expect the supply chain will maintain the integrity of their products and demand the highest standards from their logistics and distribution partners,” he said.

In August 2014, long term NASAA employee, Wenpeng You was approved to undertake organic inspections within Australia for all organic categories: Plant Production, Processing, Animal Breeding and Aquaculture.

You is one of only a handful of inspectors who are approved to inspect to all four organic categories, and he is the first outside China to gain approval to inspect products according to Chinese regulations.

 

Serialisation: protecting brands and supply chains

Serialisation is not new. It’s the process of putting a unique number on a product. While the idea has been around for a while, its use has come back into the spotlight because of the benefits it offers in an increasingly complex global supply chain.

At the consumer level particularly, a serialised unique identification process enables traceability and authentication via systems such as chain of custody, chain of ownership, product identifier authentication or recall – and readily available technology can be used with all of these.

The pharmaceutical industry has quite well developed serialisation, but changing regulations in various countries around the world will most likely see mass serialisation become a reality across a host of industries.

So why is it necessary?
There is a lack of real-time transparency with products changing ownership a number of times. Serialisation gives complete traceability and enables authentication at every level in the supply chain — especially at the consumer level.

Along with the complexities of an increasingly world-spanning supply chain, counterfeiting is another major reason why serialisation is becoming necessary. Counterfeiting affects not only company bottom lines, but in the case of foods and pharmaceuticals, poses a public health risk.

Business benefits
While there’s consumer-level and supply chain justifications for serialisation, there are also several business benefits:

  1. Brand protection: it gives the ability to detect and manage counterfeit product threats
  2. Reverse logistics and recalls: it gives greater granularity of data to aid recalls, returns, withdrawals and rebates, and shrinks loss recovery.
  3. Inventory control and supply chain visibility: it improves visibility of the exact item and quantities delivered at each point in the supply chain, so provides a better insight into raw materials ordering as well as process scheduling. 
  4. Consumer connection: it gives the ability to build consumer trust through product verification or authentication, and, therefore, the opportunity for the brand to connect directly with the consumer.
  5. Returns: it gives the ability to detect returns that were not originally sold to the customer.

Implementing serialisation
To effectively implement serialisation and traceability, a business needs to understand the requirements from a compliance perspective, as well as their brand objectives. Typically, a traceability/serialisation system has these building blocks:

  • unique identification codes
  • data-capture mechanisms
  • managing links across the chain
  • data communication across the supply chain

Flexibility is key. A system that meets current regulations is great, but it should also be able to accommodate change if regulations alter in the future. (With the way regulations have changed so far, that’s really “when” regulations change.)

Serialisation can be implemented in three stages:

  1. At the consumer level, with a unique number on the unit using a data carrier (e.g. data bar, 2D code, numeric code).
  2. Using the existing Global Trade Item Number (GTIN); a serialised GTIN can be used for a more integrated approach.
  3. Across the supply chain, including cartons and pallets, for complete supply chain visibility and end-to-end track and trace.

Considerations
Here are a few things to think about before implementing serialisation:

  • review data management from an enterprise level (ERP/MES), a plant level (MES), line level (SCADA) and machine level (PLCs and equipment)
  • consider the impact on your existing processes and line speeds
  • determine the code’s location and permanency
  • choose the right data carrier (i.e. QR, Datamatix, GS1 Datamatrix barcodes)
  • use GS1 standards
  • think of aggregation strategies when serialising beyond the consumer-unit level
  • choose a technology partner who understands serialisation and can provide serialisation-ready devices and solutions

From our experience with serialisation, here are a few more things to think about:

  • move 2D barcodes away from other barcodes on the packaging so your scanning is efficient
  • use a data reader for online verification
  • make sure any rework or removing samples for QA doesn’t cause serial number linking to go out of sync
  • test print on several substrates
  • use barcode grading
  • control pallet aggregation and avoid cartons being moved around before a pallet is completely wrapped up and labelled
  • control products being picked up from the line
  • make sure your existing network can handle the data flow
  • ensure your existing systems can inter-operate with serialisation-control software
  • have clear processes on how will any rework (if needed) will be handled
  • use validation processes in line (vision inspection, data readers)

Serialisation has many business and supply chain benefits. As with every new process, make sure it really is right for your business. If you’re unsure, start with a pilot program and evaluate from there.

Mark Dingley is chairman of the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association and heads operations at Matthews Australasia. Contact him at info@matthews.com.au

Image: www.outsourcing-pharma.com and www.businessnewsdaily.com

 

CHEP launches national Logistics Control Centre

CHEP Pallets has officially launched CHEP Australia’s national Logistics Control Centre at Erskine Park.

The new system uses detailed real-time information from multiple sources, including video feeds from CHEP yards and live network data, to predict up to three hours in advance whether a delivery of CHEP equipment will be impacted by events in the network.

The new control centre not only provides a greater level of network visibility, it features mechanisms to help manage issues as they arise.

If a delivery is impacted by issues such as traffic congestion, the system triggers an alert which assists the team in proactively managing the situation. In the event of a delay, the team is significantly better enabled to quickly contact customers with a new expected delivery time.

Global group president of CHEP Pallets, Peter Mackie, said “using our data, network knowledge and logistics management expertise, the CHEP Australia team has designed a sophisticated logistics management system that will improve the level of service we provide our customers.”

President of CHEP Australia & New Zealand, Phillip Austin said “the unique thing about CHEP Logistics is that we only carry pooled equipment. We devote our resources and expertise in network planning, efficiency and safety to ensuring CHEP equipment is where it needs to be, when it needs to be there.

“The Logistics Control Centre enables us to offer the personal service of a smaller operator with the benefits of larger logistics provider such as scale and network capacity, with the potential for enhanced Chain of Responsibility compliance. We believe this will not only improve the service to our existing customers, but also encourage others to consider using CHEP Logistics for their pooled equipment movements.”

 

Robots: boosting efficiency and safety for small manufacturers

Next generation automated technology is providing an innovative solution to critical issues facing many small food manufacturers, while also streamlining the production cycle to boost safety and efficiency.

A new generation of lightweight robots means small food manufacturers in Australia can now enjoy the benefits of automation, previously only available to larger organisations. Many small businesses are turning to robotic technology to transform the entire lifecycle of the food manufacturing process. In fact, the recent interest by small food manufacturers has pushed Australian robotic purchases to record highs.

Through the implementation of new lightweight and compact robots, food manufacturers are now able to build a modern manufacturing workplace – automating industrial processes and upgrading the labour force to operate machines instead of having staff perform monotonous and repetitive manual tasks.

Man or machine
Industrial robots have long excelled at the kind of manually repetitive tasks that employees can find undesirable. Indeed, large food manufacturers in Australia have long used robotics in food processing throughout the production process.

More recently, small manufacturers have turned to more affordable robots to help free-up staff from unstimulating or labour-intensive roles. In small manufacturing facilities, even skilled workers can spend more than 32 hours per week on repetitive activities such as picking or packaging.

Lightweight industrial robots can take over these activities, while also significantly slashing the time taken to complete each action. For example, in a small bottling plant a single robot is able to complete the packaging process more than 35 percent faster than manual handling. The robot is used to pick-up two or three bottles simultaneously from the production line every 2.5 seconds, orienting them, and placing them in the packing machine.

Such a set-up can enable organisations to utilise staff more effectively – freeing them up to perform more skilled activities, such as operating machinery. 

A move to modularity
Today’s emerging manufacturing technologies are extremely adaptable – both in terms of function and the way they integrate into the overall production process. The highly configurable new technologies can significantly improve throughput time – particularly in the areas of preparation and set-up, as well as reducing inspection and put-away time.

For industrial robots, the push for lightweight machines means they can be mounted on the wall or shifted from one location to another, adding flexibility to the manufacturing process, thereby saving money on valuable real estate costs. This is a significant advantage for manufacturers when they choose to expand, move or grow their production line.

Also, small batch and seasonal productions are no longer stumbling blocks for businesses as the robots can be relocated with ease without the need to overhaul the floor layout and can be assigned to carry out different tasks in accordance with demand.

One of the most appealing aspects of the new generation of industrial robotics to small businesses is that they no longer require specialist knowledge to operate. Modern machines can now be completely reconfigured and deployed for any number of tasks in a matter of hours by almost any employee, instead of relying on engineers, therefore avoiding high fees. Lightweight robots now use a drag and drop interface more commonly found on consumer devices. Programming can be done via a teach pendant whereby the user-friendly interface allows the programmer to drag and drop the routines to do their programming. This functionality is very similar to an iPad, allowing manufacturers to take full advantage of all the production benefits of a dedicated production line.

Safety and cost
Of course there are many other considerations when investing in new technology – including the wellbeing of employees and ROI.

Manufacturing roles often consist of labour-intensive manual tasks. These are potentially highly dangerous activities, yet the reality is that for many employees this will constitute a large part of their working week.

Injuries related to both repetitive manual handling and workplace accidents cost the Australian economy millions of dollars every year. Packing and production lines in small operations are particularly risky. However, in contrast to traditional industrial robots in the market, small and lightweight robots can work collaboratively with staff.

Collaborative robots, or “co-bots” (in the majority of cases) don’t require safety shielding, enabling staff to work side-by-side with the robots.

Of course, the business benefit of industrial robotics goes well beyond just safety, with affordability also being one of the main business considerations. During the past few years industrial robots have become increasingly cost-effective. In most instances the investment in a lightweight industrial robot can be recouped in just over a year, and the total initial ownership cost is very low compared to many traditional robots. 

The ease of programming, integration and after sales maintenance means manufacturers save about 30 to 40 percent in integration costs compared to other traditional industrial robots in the market. 

Lightweight robot technology is helping small food manufacturers transform their production lines, while retaining skilled workers and creating a safe workplace environment where employees can work side-by-side with a robotic counterpart.

Shermine Gotfredsen is business development manager at Universal Robots Asia Pacific.