University’s innovative skills project spells success for Welsh business

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.  They have 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 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.  They have 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.  

Staff from the major food manufacturer are reaping the rewards after signing up for a 12-month training programme led by Swansea University, designed to boost skills and innovation within Welsh manufacturing businesses.

In September 2015, Jas Singh and Kim Trilloe from Beacon Foods management team signed up for the Skills for Innovation in Manufacturing Wales project (SIM Wales) in partnership with EEF, and have spent the last 10 months working on a continuous improvement system at Beacon that provides real time manufacturing performance reporting directly to a wireless device.

Gary Walpole, Swansea University SIM Wales Programme Manager, commented:  “The SIM Wales programme gives 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. 

Jas Singh, Head of Operations at Beacon Foods said: “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.”

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.”

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 - a system which has been proven to minimise waste within a manufacturing system without sacrificing productivity - to the UK Food Ingredients industry.  

Building on the success of the SIM Wales programme, ION Leadership, based within Swansea University’s Research, Engagement & Innovation Services department, is currently offering leadership development training to business owners and managers, to drive forward productivity and turnover.  ION Leadership is part-funded by the Welsh European Funding Office, via the European Social Fund. To find out more, please visit: https://ionleadership.co.uk/