In GB&I, the Food and Beverage industry has responded superbly to the challenge of keeping the nation fed and will need to do so for months to come. A clear energy efficiency and resilience strategy can not only underpin this immense, ongoing effort of keeping the shelves stocked during another lockdown but, crucially, also be the springboard to an even more profitable future.
I sat down with my colleague, Keith Thornhill, Head of Food & Beverage at Siemens GB&I, to talk about the challenges of unplanned blackouts and brownouts to F&B customers, and how energy resilience can help customers weather the storm and look to the future growth.
It is hard to think of too many other sectors that have been more front-line than the GB&I food manufacturing industry since Covid-19 became a regrettable fact of life.
The industry has been tasked with keeping the nation fed in a deeply problematic time, which even the most thorough of business contingency plans could not have fully envisioned.
For many manufacturers there have been huge surges in demand for products destined for our supermarket shelves. And this demand has had to be met while keeping their workplaces and distribution hubs safe for colleagues, while key suppliers face their own, business-critical challenges.
I asked Keith about some of the challenges our customers have faced (and overcome), passing through a series of huge stress tests to their industry.
KT: “The industry has responded superbly. The challenges have been complex, numerous and sizeable. Some customers have faced having to make significantly more food yet with reduced workforces and less external support as well,”
“That has put a greater degree of stress on the existing automation at a typical factory or additional automation has had to come on-line far more rapidly than normal.
“It should go without saying that the need for a reliable, cost-efficient energy supply to these customers and ensuring their production lines are truly resilient is even more vital than ever.
“This is particularly the case in an industry where energy interruptions – however brief – necessitates the product being scrapped for food safety or quality reasons. We’re talking about an industry that worked very precisely to operate safely and was meeting tight deadlines well before Covid.”
I asked Keith if this was a new trend in the industry, or had it been aware of some its potential weak-spots, pre-Covid?
KT: “Having an overview of where your potential break-down or vulnerable points are and working out how to eliminate them, how your energy is delivered both in terms of quality and quantity and also how to introduce automation seamlessly without causing expensive interruptions was – frankly put – a very sensible business strategy well before March 2020.
“However, the current situation has put the value of doing this into sharper focus. None of us like the idea of food being wasted or not reaching the shelves because of an energy supply issue and for our customers this is business-critical.”
For many in the Food and Beverage sector, the responsibility of responding to the ’here and now’ of another lockdown will (understandably) remain their priority. And of course, Siemens is here to help with just that.
But we’re also helping businesses who’ve recognised there is a ‘window’ for some clear thinking, getting to grips with disruptive energy issues, minimising unplanned blackouts and brownouts and crucially, avoiding unexpected costs due to electrical infrastructure failure.
In some instances, it’s about using our expertise to show the entire, current energy picture. Which are priority assets to repair or replace because equipment is near-obsolete or is a hidden budget sinkhole because it requires constant, expensive support? This is where we can add immediate, tangible value through our energy resilience audits. As an OEM, we can move quickly to resolve onsite issues through repair, life-extension or retrofit solutions and share latest knowledge and maintenance plans with onsite teams.
This energy resilience ‘MOT’, delivered by my team, gives customers, already under pressure, the confidence that their infrastructure can support them through this challenging time. But we know the future’s just around the corner, and we’re working with customers to improve their future energy performance by having precise reporting systems and data to hand so they can monitor and interrogate what they’re using, where, why and how.
Many already know how much energy they’re using and the total cost. But achieving a more exact, accessible picture about how this energy is used across each part of a site is the portal to driving down costs.
Keith recalled a fantastically pertinent conversation with a customer, outlining how important Siemens’ input is:
KT: “The customer said to me, ‘I want Siemens to bring all the data together for us so we can make far better decisions and I know my team will take it from there.’ For me that’s what it’s all about – our class leading industry solutions, underpinned by a resilient electrical infrastructure, ensuring the manufacturers of GB&I can keep supplying goods and services at this most critical of times.”
For more information or to speak to one of our energy resilience experts, visit https://new.siemens.com/uk/en/company/topic-areas/smart-infrastructure/energy-resilience.html
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