Automation and digitisation in food and drink manufacturing presents unique challenges which can prevent UK manufacturers benefitting from rapid innovation in this area. There is potential to generate significant revenue as automation investment costs decline and productivity returns rise.

Sustainability and achieving net-zero emissions are key governmental and societal priorities. Clean sector growth will depend on new technologies that support low-carbon energy delivery. Adopting these technologies will be crucial to meeting demands.

Declining labour availability is also a challenge to which automation offers a solution, while providing an opportunity for the UK’s workforce to be upskilled significantly.

The FDF stays up-to-date with funding opportunities that arise from government need to address these challenges. Alongside this, we offer members access to research institutions and affiliates with relevant knowledge.

Updates & milestones

FDF Chief Executive contributes to report published by experts at the Coventry-based Manufacturing Technology Centre

Speeding up adoption of industrial automation and robotics can lead to dramatic improvements in productivity, according to a new report just published by experts at the Coventry-based Manufacturing Technology Centre and the Industrial Policy Research Centre, Loughborough University.

As a representative of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, the FDF Chief Executive, Ian Wright, was invited to share his views on the opportunities and challenges for accelerating adoption of automation and robotics in the industry.

"Robotics and Automation: A New Perspective" says that the slow uptake of robotics among British manufacturers, and a reluctance to invest in automation, has contributed to the country's vanishingly small improvements in productivity in recent years. But investment in automation along with reshoring manufacturing operations, can lead to new opportunities for UK businesses.

Mike Wilson, the MTC's chief automation officer and member of the FDF’s Technology Forum, said that the pandemic had exposed weaknesses in the UK's extended supply chains leading to a recognition that  there was a need to increase the resilience of UK manufacturing by increasing local content and reshoring production capacity.

The report, compiled by MTC and IPRC experts with contributions from major players in the world of automation, says the UK is 24th in the world for robot density in manufacturing businesses, and lags behind in productivity as a result. But the technology to turn the situation around already exists. The priority is to improve the rate of adoption.

The report can be found here.

FDF Product Innovation Award – Entries are now open!

Does your company carry out exceptional work, creating innovative new products?

Enter the FDF Awards - Innovation category before 28 February 2022, for your chance to win. It’s completely free to enter!

View the full criteria

Find out more about the FDF Awards

FDF Digital Transformation Award – Entries are now open!

Has your organisation planned and implemented a significant digital transformation project during 2021?

Enter the FDF Awards – Digital Transformation category before 28 February 2022, for your chance to win. It’s completely free to enter!

View the full criteria

Find out more about the FDF Awards

Digital Supply Chain - Why and how the UK food and drink industry should lead the way

On the 16th of September 10:00AM-11:30AM, the Digital Catapult will be hosting an event aimed at facilitating the building of a world class, digitised, sustainable and resilient food system, capable of responding to external shocks.

With our industry facing significant pressures across areas such as supply chains, labour supply and exports - this event couldn’t be more timely. Attendees will hear from industry experts, including FDF’s CEO, Ian Wright who will be part of a panel exploring the strategic challenges food and drink faces on funding and investment for innovation. There will also be opportunities to learn from technical experts at the Digital Catapult, as well as to participate in discussions on how to finance digital transformation and bring stakeholder networks together.

More information and registration

Budget 2021: The Help to Grow scheme

The Government has announced new growth support for eligible small businesses[1]. The support will begin in the Autumn. More details

Help to Grow: Management

Leaders and senior managers can access a 12 week-programme delivered by leading business schools across the UK. The programme includes practical learning and 1:1 support from a business mentor and is designed to fit around full-time work. 30,000 places are available (over 3 years). Total cost for participants is £750 (after a 90% government subsidy).

Help to Grow: Digital

Small businesses will have access to free impartial advice on how technology can boost their performance through a new online platform. Eligible businesses can apply for a discount of up to 50% on the costs of approved software (up to £5,000). Vouchers will be available for software that can:

  • build customer relationships and increase sales
  • make the most of selling online
  • manage their accounts and finances digitally

[1] Must be operating for more than 1 year and employ between 5 to 249 employees

News

M5: UK manufacturing holds key to unlocking Government’s domestic and global ambitions

The success of the UK’s manufacturing sector will be central to Government’s ability to deliver on its national ambitions to level up the whole country, reach Net Zero by 2050 and become a global science super-power.

Read more

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