History provides numerous instances of catastrophic events providing the catalyst for radical economic and societal changes. Like its predecessors from the Black Death onwards, the current pandemic’s mortality rate and lingering physical symptoms have conspired to reduce the available labour force.
The expansion of automation thus becomes seen as necessary rather than merely desirable. The food and drink sector, for one, has traditionally been especially labour intensive.
It is unlikely to remain so to the same degree. However, companies with limited means are not compelled to invest blindly in expanding the frontiers of manufacturing technology in the hope of guaranteeing their futures.
As our feature illustrates, much is and can be done by refining what is available and examining more closely current approaches. Automating secondary packaging operations in order to reduce cost and boost efficiencies, for example. Or focusing on the issue of occupational health matters caused by the specific character of the sector.
Improved sealing has enabled the hazard and health dangers presented by food-derived dust, with consequent gains in terms of compliance, safety and even reputation. All of which in turn will provide less of a hinderance to the business of producing goods. Supply chains too are becoming more complex as a result of complicating external factors.
More distant sourcing and markets, tariff rules, etc have increased the emphasis on and need for assured and timely delivery. Not only does this prompt interest in faster supply; it also encourages a need for techniques to ensure ingredients are unimpaired by longer journeys.
While maintenance of the best elements of the current status quo will be the initial concern of many managers, it is to be hoped that their increased appetite for innovation will help provide the recipe for industrial growth too in time.