The food waste menace in our factories… human beings
7 Jan 2019
The second biggest cause of food loss in manufacturing has been revealed in a new study to be human errors.
Researchers from Brunel university – one of the leading UK food science institutions – carried out the study of nearly 50 sites in partnership with Ghent university.
Their findings published in the journal Annals of Operations Research showed that mistakes made by people accounted for nearly 11% of food waste among those companies taking part.
“At most of the companies we went to, there was no standardisation of work or visual management in place,” said Dr Manoj Dora of the university's Brunel Business School, who led the study. “It’s a management issue.”
“In many instances there wasn’t proper training or a standardisation of work being applied in their workplace, and as a result there was a greater tendency towards errors, and therefore, more food waste.”
Ironically, the figure, based on a study of 47 Belgian manufacturers may be welcome news to UK food chiefs faced to extend automation to offset the loss of EU migrant labour.
On average, the survey suggested, the manufacturers suffer a loss of one tonne of food for every 35 tonnes they produce.
There wasn’t proper training or a standardisation of work and as a result there was a greater tendency towards errors, and therefore, more food waste
Dr Manoj Dora, Brunel Business School
Human error is outstripped by the effects of product changes on lines which accounted for 13% of errors. Other major contributors are product defects at 8.7% and buyer contracts, which account for 6.4%.
A further factor is that age old problem of demand and supply: “When dealing with suppliers, it’s important when you order, how you order, and how you keep the produce,” said Dora.
“Let’s say a retailer orders a thousand kilos of sausages predicting good weather, but then it clouds over and rains, so retailer cut down their demand. This would mean the manufacturer bears these losses, and there is significant waste.”
“This shows a lack of collaboration in the supply chain – the farmer, the processor and the buyers aren’t in sync. They’re talking, but not enough to predict each other’s demand and supply.”
Smaller companies are often the least aware of the scale of their losses said the report authors: “Good collaboration, appropriate measurement systems and the implementation of lean management tools in the production process can significantly reduce food loss.”