The Business Lincolnshire Growth Hub and the National Centre for Food Manufacturing joined together last week to host the first Greater Lincolnshire Food Robotics and Automation Process Conference. The half-day conference, which took place at the University of Lincoln’s Holbeach campus, provided small businesses with the chance to explore the ground-breaking robotics and automation technologies available to advance their business.
The largest manufacturing sector in the UK, the food and drink industry are currently experiencing several challenges. A drastic change is needed to withstand economic stressors such as utility costs, labour shortages and margin erosion, and robotics and automation technologies could provide the answer. The conference gave SMEs within the sector the opportunity to find out more about these game-changing advancements in food manufacturing, as well as how they can respond to both the current and emerging challenges their businesses are facing.
Attendees also discovered how technology can help maintain quality and safety standards, reduce waste and help protect the environment, along with being introduced to the wide range of funding opportunities available to Greater Lincolnshire SMEs working in the food and drink sector. The funding is designed to help businesses improve productivity and boost innovation by adopting the pioneering robotics and digital technologies showcased at the conference.
Samantha Harrison, Head of the Business Lincolnshire Growth Hub, said: “To compete with larger firms and remain cost-competitive, small manufacturing businesses in Greater Lincolnshire can benefit from becoming more efficient. This can be achieved by delegating the unstimulating, repetitive tasks to collaborative robots and automation technologies, the adoption of which has shown to raise motivation as well as productivity.”
Professor Mark Swainson from the University of Lincoln said: “As one of the UK’s leading research hubs for food science and technology, the National Centre for Food Manufacturing is committed to helping SMEs in the county advance. We were proud to host the Greater Lincolnshire Food Robotics and Process Automation Conference and to help bring these innovative new technologies to businesses in Lincolnshire.”
The event was delivered as a result of funding through the Interreg NW Europe COTEMACO project (Competitiveness through Man and Machine Collaboration). COTEMACO aims to support 60 automotive and food manufacturing SMEs from the North West European region by providing access to field labs in the UK, Netherlands and Belgium, as well as advisory support to help SMEs experience and understand the advantages of collaborative robotics within their operations.