Process and control today | FREIGHT BRITAIN: UK FOOD MANUFACTURERS GROW ON “LOCAL” MACHINERY INVESTMENT

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Speed, proximity and short deadlines stand out as powerful factors influencing the Made in Britain logic. Especially in food safety where lags in time-saving inspection machines are not conducive to productivity, compliance and brand protection.

As a UK company sourcing materials domestically and designing, engineering, installing and servicing machinery locally, contaminant and checkweighing specialists Fortress Technology and Sparc Systems examine the competitive and economic advantages of this acceleration of relocation.

The world of food manufacturing today is vastly different than it was 20 years or even 20 months ago. As the pandemic highlights the fragility of international supply chains, Fortress and Sparc Managing Director Phil Brown has observed a definite shift in attitudes towards relocation. With Asia and EMEA once considered the go-to centers for distributors of components, materials and machine constructions, rising labor costs, as well as other export overheads, long delays in Shipping, quality and intellectual property issues have significantly influenced this relocation reversal.

For engineering companies like Fortress and Sparc that have continued to “deliver the goods” even at the worst of the pandemic, having an established UK R&D center and manufacturing base has proven to be a huge advantage. Rather than having a sprawling global supply chain, even when the biggest economies closed their borders, Fortress continued to fulfill orders, attract new customers and maintain its agility. The companies even continued the successful development and launch of their new line of collaborative products – the award-winning Raptor checkweigher, combination and X-ray machines.

Closer to customers

Having traded and championed the Made in Britain badge since the two companies were founded, Phil now reports a steady increase in live inquiries for food grade x-ray and metal detection solutions from food factories at the looking for a quick turnaround. Emerging less shaken than many of their peers in the market, the two companies – currently the only known UK manufacturers of all three food inspection disciplines – have been able to mitigate rising shipping and airfreight costs , passing these cost savings directly to customers.

“Even before Brexit, the weakness of the pound and ongoing tariff negotiations prompted many UK food manufacturers to raise the price of their imports over domestic sourcing options. A number of them made the conscious and pragmatic decision to source domestically citing the need for greater resilience and closer proximity to the technical assistance team,” notes Phil.

The absorption of the additional 20% import duties from the start of 2020 has given further impetus to UK food manufacturers to strategically accelerate their plans to relocate equipment. A problem that several new Fortress customers complained about before transferring their business to the Banbury-based company. “Uncertainty is really fueling this trend and is certainly now impacting machinery investment. The risk of delays, the HGV driver crisis and the diversion of freighters from congested UK ports have further amplified the challenges,” adds Phil

High-end engineered products, faster custom builds, and the ability to take inquiries face-to-face with customers in their native language are among other reasons why more than 48% of companies currently plan to increase their proportion of work commissioned from UK contractors in the future.[i].

Sustainable source

The balance between responsible sourcing and sustainability is another big motivation. Moving machinery across continents adds hugely to the carbon footprint. With commercial customers and their consumers demanding even higher sustainability credentials, every step of the journey, from ethical sourcing of materials to construction and installation, must now be considered.

This is often a question asked of Phil and the 15 person engineering team based in the UK. “Our proximity to customers allows us to scale and scale production up and down to meet demand. Apart from several electronic parts, all components are designed and manufactured in the UK. However, through Fortress Technology Inc., we also have direct access to the global food safety information and lateral thinking that is so critical to maintaining our reputation as a premium food inspection machine supplier. These shorter UK supply chains also mean faster delivery of maintenance and repair parts, leading to less machine downtime and therefore fewer production bottlenecks.

With 90% of Fortress inspection machines sold to food factories, the company’s lifetime guarantee helps satisfy sustainability stakeholders. Integrated remote monitoring is another time saving and production continuity benefit. During the COVID-19 pandemic, with stretched workforces and enforced social distancing, the ability to monitor the performance of a fleet of inspection equipment has proven an invaluable feature for customers.

Phil concludes: “Despite the challenges of the past two years, when the Covid pause saw many projects put on hold, pent-up demand is now turning into an influx of new demands from domestic food manufacturers. The fact that our equipment is manufactured in Britain, using local suppliers, mitigates the fragility of the supply chain which affects European equipment distributors. Our customers are certainly relieved to hear that long delivery times and import delays reported in the industry are not an issue when dealing with us. »

[i] 2021 Subcon Survey

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