Food company awards reveal best industry practices

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Management

When it comes to winning awards for following best industrial
practices, food companies areproving themselves as no slouches at
making improvements.

Two separate industrial awards have picked out KK Fine Foods and Vitacress Salads as providingexamples of how businesses can improve their bottom lines thought the use of good managementtechniques and technology.

Vitacress last week picked up the Zurich Best Factory of the Year award for good manufacturingpractices at its Andover, UK plant. The Best Factory Award programme is run by Cranfield School of Management in partnership with the magazineWorks Management.

Vitacress Salads, which in total scooped four awards including the Zurich Best Factory Award, wascited for having "exceptional" customer service, speedy supply chains and investing heavily in employee training.

Vitacress is one of Europe's leading growers and packers of salads. The Andover factory grows andpacks watercress, rocket, and baby leaf salads. The firm received the award for taking 24 hours to get salad goods from the field to the supermarket, chilling the crops within60 minutes of harvesting to ensure maximum freshness.

The company meets this aim by using vacuum coolers on all its farms, and speedy supply chains so products reach customers as fast as possible.Vitacress also scooped up the top awards for the best household and general products plant, andsupply chain.

'Not only does the scheme promote and reward manufacturing excellence in the UK in order to increase our international competitiveness, but it provides entrants with valuable benchmarkinginformation,"​ said Marek Szwejczewski, director of the awards. "This enables performance shortfalls to be identified and improved practices tobe introduced to close the gap between current performance and the best performance in the industry."

Szwejczewski said Vitacress' win was also due to its investment in production equipment. The delicate nature of salads, especially baby leaf, mean that the firmneeded the right equipment to ensure the gentle handling of the products to minimise bruising and damage to the leaves.

Among the trends identified by manufacturing experts who visited all contenders was an increased investment in technology to reduce energy usage andwaste. Other best practices included a drive to add value through product and process innovation, harnessing the knowledge of the employees throughtraining and a bid to differentiate themselves through service and quality.

While food companies did not take the top spots in the Best of British Manufacturing IT awardsalso held last week, three of them received commendations for improving their management of theirbusinesses.

Heinz Single Service took second place in the Plant and Factory Improvement category. Ian MacleodDistillers also picked up a second place award in the supply chain management category. Meanwhile KKFine Foods picked up a commendation in the manufacturing and business management category.

Heinz Single Service was commended for its introductionof a new real-time performance management (RPM) system from MVI Technology, which brought the company improvementsinside three months.

The plant is based in Telford and employs 130 staff. It supplies both Heinz andown-brand products to the catering trade. It has 13 lines filling single service sachets and stickswith sauces, condiments and vinegars and produces 900 million units a year. Runs can be up to 16hours long and each line is dedicated to a specific product to minimise clean downs, according to Works Managementmagazine.

Previously the company was using a manual system for quality control, especiallyin the area of check weighing. The company knew it was running overweight on some of its lines butthe manual system did not produce reliable enough data for the company to identify precisely howmuch giveaway there was, says Work Management.

The company automated the process using technology supplied by MVI Technology.Within three months of the system going live, the overfilling problem was completely under control,according to Works Management.

The system works through a timer on a touch screen on each filling line, whichcounts down to each half hourly weight check, allowing the operator a five-minute window to completethe sampling.

The result for each lane on the line is automatically recorded, and the systemthen prompts the operator to make any necessary adjustments to the settings. If the adjustmentsaren't made, the system automatically stops the line.

Meanwhile Ian Macleod Distillers used an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to integrateitsl manufacturing applications throughout the entire enterprise.

ERP implementation saved the company from stockholding about £500,000 worth of finished goods and materials, with another £1 million in savings still insight, says Works Management.

Ian Macleod used SSI to implement the system, which also helped the company gain improved margin and cost controls, reliable, real-time business information,and standard costing for all manufacturing and budgets and plans, the magazine stated.

Meanwhile Fine Foods received a commendation in the Manufacturing/Business Management categoryfor using Ross ERP from CDC Software.

The manufacturer of frozen convenience foods said the system helped it boost profits by 54 percent and reduce waste by 15 per cent.

Graham Jackson, chairman of KK Fine Foods, said: "The ERP solution underpins our entire organisation from finance and sales order processing to production and distribution. We've been able to minimise errors in production and streamline production planning as well as achieve more effective management of our cold storage facility."

KK Fine Foods implemented the Ross system in 2003. The real-time management information software generatesa view of the entire business operation and manufacturing processes to give managers a single view of thebusiness.

The system produces management reports and real-time stock status reports, supplying information by product, customer, ingredient, location and history, to give end-to-end online visibility of its products.

The system helped KK Fine Foods achieve Grade A food safety traceability accreditation from the Food Standards Agency.The system allows the company to identify the availability of raw materials, monitor stock shelf life and react to any sudden change in customer demand dynamically.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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