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Total Compliance, High Quality and Consistency at Lowest Production Cost?

….must be the goal of every manufacturer in the Food and Drink Industry with or without Brexit!

Why is there still so much wastage within the food and drink manufacturing sector and why are there still so many product recalls? Why are some other countries 30% more efficient than the UK? It certainly isn’t because of low UK standards.

UK Manufacturing Standards are amongst the highest in the world

I believe that the UK food and drink industry has some of the highest standards in the world. We hear so much these days about Brexit will mean that we won’t be able to use the EU standards but will have to create our own. Apparently, about two thirds of UK standards/rules came from the EU??

This is an interesting statistic, especially for the older generation who can remember trading with Europe prior to joining the EU. During that pre-EU period, I can remember visiting so many mainland European manufacturers in various countries, to find that they were behind the UK in basic hygiene and Health & Safety standards. In many food factories I visited, hair nets were not required, protective coats/clothing were rarely in evidence and hand washing was not mandatory.

Furthermore, it was not uncommon to walk into a wet (dairy) factory and find an ordinary 220 Volt extension cable stretched across the floor, not a waterproof one, but the ordinary dry use household type.

These low standards and high risks had already been replaced in the UK by increasingly rigorous hygiene and health & safety standards.

Following the UK, Europe has long since radically improved its standards in line with UK standards and ever-increasing UK supermarket requirements.

ISO 9000, started in the UK as British Standard 5750. When the EU adopted the ISO standard it was virtually identical to BS5750 and ISO has become a recognised commitment to quality worldwide. BRC (British Retail Consortium) audits are commonplace and respected throughout the UK

Some Other British Standards

Similarly, when we joined the EU in 1973, our own Average Quantity Law was a work in progress, but wasn’t formally introduced, to replace the old Minimum Quantity Law, for pre-packaged goods until 1979, and even now, having been EU members for 45 years, UK Average Quantity Law, and the European mainland equivalents, have still not been fully harmonised.

The Ex-directives for use of electrical/electronic equipment in explosive or flammable areas largely emanated from the old UK ‘Safety in Mines’ directive, which long precedes our joining the EU.

Though UK supermarkets have long expected Total Compliance from their suppliers, M&S formalised this, from a coding and labelling perspective, with their Label Verification Code of Practice in a structured effort to eliminate at least some operator errors. At the time of introduction, about 90% of all EPWs were caused by Coding and Labelling errors.

From the foregoing, I wouldn’t like anyone to think that I am an ardent Brexiteer or Remainer, just someone else trying to make sense of it all, amongst the rhetoric and often florid political language, not to mention the outright lies. What I don’t understand is where the two thirds of the EU standards and rules have come from? Surely, they are not all about straight bananas and square cucumbers! Most of us already realise that many of these rules are petty red tape to complicate our lives.

Where is the EU Harmonisation and Tariff Free Level Playing Field?

There might be an EU Working Hours Directive, but there certainly isn’t a unified approach to the ‘Minimum’ or ‘Living Wage’. In fact, 6 of the 28 members do not even have a National minimum wage and of those that do, the lowest (Bulgaria) has a minimum wage of just £1.30 per hour. If that differentiation, within the EU alone, does not effectively create tariff barriers and unfair competition between member states, I’d like to know what does.

Where does all this take us? Basically, in or out of the EU, Brexit or not, the UK food and drink manufacturers can expect no help from either the EU or the UK governments. In or out with a good trade deal, we still face the same competition from the low wage countries, even those residing within the EU!

No Silver Bullet

The manufacturers at greatest risk, are those looking for some kind of ‘silver bullet’, which will help to relieve current constraints of legislated annual wage and pension rises, increased cost of raw materials, (largely caused by the higher labour costs and low value of the pound sterling), increased energy costs, coupled with the ever-present threat of cheaper imports from the low wage economies and few, if any, price rises accepted by their supermarket customers (they have their own battles). Whatever the outcome of Brexit, I don’t see any relief in sight for the majority of UK food and drink manufacturers.

Challenging the Manufacturing Status Quo

The only way that I see the UK food and Drink manufacturers sustaining market share and prospering into the future, is to keep doing everything they are already doing well, but do it even better, at lower cost. We can’t just assume that what was good yesterday will be good enough tomorrow.

  • Make production wastage, in all its forms, instantly visible and actionable.
  • At the same time, drive out operator error on the basis that ‘Right First Time’ is the only option.
  • Revisit every aspect of the manufacturing processes and question Why? What? Where? When? Who? and How? And don’t accept answers like “We have always done it this way.”
  • Use Value Stream Mapping tools and techniques constantly, to drive out unnecessary practices (non-value added) and challenge the value-added practices to achieve greater value in less time.
  • Eliminate paper from the production area and make the whole process instantly visible in real time on large factory screens and across the company’s intranet so that wastage and inefficiency, together with ‘root causes’ is available to all; giving nobody an opportunity to say “Oh, sorry, I didn’t realise that was happening.”
  • Last, but by no means least, choose a reliable and trusted partner with a proven track record to work with in order to help you achieve the continual transformation.

Roy Green, Harford Control

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