Andrea Paoli, Head of Food Manufacturing, Robotics and Automation at the National Centre for Food Manufacturing, University of Lincoln, explores how a systematic use of automation and robotic systems could facilitate a major advancement in food manufacturing efficiency during times of unsustainable economic pressures.
Food and beverage is the largest manufacturing sector of the UK economy contributing over £43.7 billion GVA and employing 450,000 people (BSA). As it stands, the sector currently faces major unsustainable economic pressures, born from the fact that the implementation of the National Living Wage regulation has led to labour becoming more expensive year-on-year. With regard to labour availability, there is an added issue of the demands which a post-Brexit Britain will present.
Factory staff roles are becoming harder to fill as many non-UK nationals are leaving the country due to uncertainties surrounding their future status and the reduction in the value of the GBP since the Brexit referendum. As a matter of fact, up to 50 percent of factory workers are from the EU and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) now estimate that the UK will need an additional 140,000 minimum wage British Food and Drink workers by 2024 to fill this gap.