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Welsh Food Ingredients Business Redefining UK Food Manufacture with Swansea University

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Beacon Foods Ltd supply a large range of specialist cooked ingredients to major food manufacturers, food service industries, and small independent companies across the UK and overseas.  Indirectly their products are supplied into every food retailer in the country.  The rapidly growing business has over 250 live product lines, producing 120 different products a day from a 36,000 square foot BRC Grade AA factory set in the heart of the Brecon Beacons. 

Beacon Foods can offer a range of delivery options for each business.  A large number of raw ingredients including spices, fruit & vegetables arrive every week at Beacon Foods.  Efficient operations are essential in consistently providing high quality products, on time, at competitive prices. 

In September 2015, Jas Singh and Kim Trilloe from Beacon Foods management team signed up for the Swansea University led SIM Wales programme, and have spent the last 10 months working on a continuous improvement system that provides real time manufacturing performance reporting direct to a wireless device.

The system allows Beacon to increase efficiency by reducing downtime and waste, increase throughput to maximize capacity, manage seasonal and forced capacity issues, improve reliability & quality, accurately cost jobs and drive a culture of continuous improvement through the provision of accurate operations data.  

Jas Singh, Head of Operations commented:

“Traditionally operational reporting was a paper exercise, where it would take several days, if not weeks, to write up, analyse and review information from the factory floor, making it impossible for us to react quickly to production inefficiencies.  The new system has completely changed the way we work, sending live reports straight from the factory floor to my mobile tablet.  I’m no longer tied to a desk and can spend more time on the factory floor supporting operations on the ground.”

“The SIM Wales programme taught us, in a hands-on, practical manner, how to implement the changes required within our business, in order to embed the new system, with great success.  The skills we learnt were instantly applicable to our business – there were no exams and it was delivered using everyday business language, with very real industry examples.”

Gary Walpole, Swansea University SIM Wales Programme Manager, commented:

“The SIM Wales programme gave participants knowledge and skills around developing and implementing real time continuous improvement projects and I was delighted to see the impact it had at Beacon Foods” 

In the first 13 weeks the system was in operation, Beacon Foods reported a 6% increase in efficiency on the factory floor.  This increased efficiency has led to a rise in capacity.

Kim Trilloe, Head of Technical & New Product Development commented:

“The first thing potential customers always ask us is what our capacity is.  The new system has effectively increased our capacity by 20% overnight.  So far this year, we’ve experienced an unexpected increase of 8% – 10% in business.”

 “This ‘Lean’ way of working is often seen as a threat to staff levels – in fact, we’ve managed to increase our turnover as a result, and are looking to take on more employees.  We currently employ 130 staff, and invest heavily in training our staff, all of which are employed on permanent contracts.  We pride ourselves on having a workforce with a willingness and appetite to learn, and be a part of a successful future with Beacon Foods.”  If you want to join the team at Beacon Foods check out their website at www.beaconfoods.co.uk. 

Beacon Foods are also working with Professor Nick Rich, a specialist in Operations Management at Swansea University’s School of Management on a wider project to bring lean manufacturing to the UK Food Ingredients industry.  

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