Efficiency and productivity remain key for Ishida despite pandemic challenges

Despite considerable challenges facing the manufacturing sector resulting from coronavirus, companies such as Ishida Europe have put in place key strategies aimed at business continuity. Neill Barston reports

Known as the “city of a thousand trades,” Birmingham has historically proved a global centre for manufacturing across the industrial spectrum.

From its once extensive 19th century canal network ferrying goods destined around the UK and onward across the world, through to the Jaguar Land Rover vehicle plant, the area has a proud and diverse array of businesses.

Perhaps one of its most high profile jewels within the confectionery sector has been its claim to fame as the original home of Cadbury chocolate, complete with its workers’ village, Bournville, which has proved one of Britain’s most notable global exports.

So it is perhaps unsurprising given the city’s industrial pedigree that Japanese equipment and systems manufacturer Ishida sized up the city’s potential as a suitable base for its European operations.

From setting up its initial UK facilities in 1985, sourcing equipment and parts from the parent company, the business opened a purpose built its present European headquarters in Woodgate, Birmingham, which serves as a full manufacturing base for the EMEA region.

Since opening its doors in 1997, the present site is continuing to develop the scope of its operations and now employs around 400 people. There is also a further smaller production facility in Poole, Dorset, bolstering production activities.

The company, which produced a European turnover for 2019 of £153 million, has enjoyed a notable reputation for its series of automated food and drink sector solutions.

Its broad base of equipment now includes multihead weighers, checkweighers and snack bag makers, through to its x-ray inspection lines as well as case packing systems that have enabled the business to offer a growing number of complete turnkey solutions.

While the company has been well known for its production efficiency, the business is undergoing unprecedented disruption with the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic impacting all spheres of industry.

Speaking on the issue, European managing director Dave Tiso said: “Ishida remains committed to acting in a responsible manner ensuring a ‘duty of care’ to our people, our customers and our communities.
“At this point we continue to strive to maintain the efficiency expected from Ishida, and you can be sure that we are deploying very best endeavours to deliver on all of our commitments in these unprecedented times. I am proud of the commitment and resolve from across the company, to look after our customers in this peak demand situation,” he added, explaining that its teams had gone the extra mile to ensure business continuity.
This has been achieved principally through employing a twin  shift system at its headquarters, that has enabled the business to carefully navigate present conditions at a controlled pace.

Founding principles
The highly unexpected global conditions that the company is contending with are a world away from events just a couple of months’ previously, when Confectionery Production was invited for an on-site media day.
The event had been intended as a preview for Interpack in Germany, but that too, has fallen by the wayside amid the global pandemic.

However, being offered the chance to explore the facility proved highly rewarding, as we examined some of the company’s present series of equipment.

As Tiso explained during its media session, the philosophy of the business is all important, known as the “three way harmony’ introduced by the late Mr Ryuichi Ishida, who had been president for over 40 years from 1967.

His core strategy had revolved around a focus on considering what was good for customers, society and the company as a whole in its key business decisions.

This same spirit has seemingly followed through to the present day ethos within the business, which had planned to showcase at Interpack how its integrated packing lines can help drive efficiencies while minimising waste, reducing the physical size of machinery footprints, that in turn offer key energy savings for production operations.

The company has also placed an emphasis on how its equipment handles alternative packaging materials as the food industry continues to move away from the use of plastics, which have been of major environmental concerns.

Leading the site tour of the its large purpose-built 11,000m2 facilities, marketing manager Torsten Giese, shows us around one of its core production and assembly halls, where he demonstrates one of its multihead weighing systems that are at the heart of its operations.

With the company’s equipment portfolio continually expanding, the extensive Birmingham site is able to serve customers right across Europe.

There remains a strong emphasis on providing bespoke production solutions to its customers, with the company confirming that there has been growing demand for providing total solutions.

As we reported in last month’s edition, we reported that at Interpack, the company was due to showcase its flagship 32 head multihead weigher, capable of handling up to eight products at a time.

Further to this, another key innovation is its ‘sugar extraction’ multihead weigher designed to prevent sugar compromising pack seals at extremely fast speeds and with Ishida weight accuracy.

Significantly, the business has also devised quality control and x-ray inspection systems set for release this year, created for detecting low to high density foreign bodies in both packaged and unpackaged bulk flow formats.

Present focus
Speaking to Confectionery Production, Steve Jones, marketing director explains the company’s key priority lies in supporting its customers through the coronavirus crisis. This involves a strategy of employees working remotely and a split shift basis within its Birmingham HQ.

Regarding the company’s flagship multihead weighing systems, he says these have evolved considerably over time, with 56,000 units having been sold since the first commercial designs were released in the early 70s.
The company has devised 20 ranges in its history, with some of the most notable developments including sector specific designs. This includes three models created for the confectionery market.
Another key technical development in his eyes has been the introduction of high head models, which facilitate mix weighing and high-speed single product applications. These are said to be especially useful for low target weight applications for handling sweets.

In terms of developing complete systems, he said the business recognised this as a particularly strong area of requirement from customers.

“Within the packaging machinery sector there are an evolving array of competitors in many machine categories, and all of these organisations are looking to establish a certain market position at a given price point.

“The Ishida advantage is built upon the breadth of our machine category solutions, local sales management, project management capability, local direct service teams (in many countries) and sector expertise.
Couple this with an evolving array of data products which enable our customers and Ishida, with the permission of our customers, to access machine / line performance data and then optimise OEE and hence productivity, it can be easily seen that we are fully equipped to deliver relevant turnkey solutions.”

Sustainability features
Devising ranges that are fit to meet future production demands is increasing a point of focus for manufacturers, with sustainability features.

As Jones reveals, it’s something that the business has honed in on, as market requirements continue to grow year-on-year around the world.

He adds: “Sustainability is a key consideration for us, and this includes consideration of packaging materials, efficient energy use, food waste and also food safety.

“It’s now common knowledge that one third of the food produced is wasted on an annual basis, but an associated consideration is that “even if just one-quarter of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world.”, and this is obviously a key consideration.

In particular, it needs to be understood that there is a link between packaging materials and food waste. Modified atmosphere packaging is used to extend the shelf life of many products,” explained the marketing manager, who revealed that containing the protective atmosphere within the pack relies upon some packaging material characteristics, and therefore materials need to be developed that are increasingly recyclable or reusable but do not detract from shelf life and worsen the food waste situation.

He adds that in order to tackle this, the company’s traysealers all include MAP; as well as offering seal testers that check the integrity of pack seals.

In terms of the company’s future development, he adds that its equipment range continues to be reviewed regularly by machine and category.
Such activities also extend to its aftersales service, which is an important element of its work. As he notes, with the present health pandemic, the creation of an even greater level of fully automated solutions may well take centre stage.
He says driving productivity is an ever-present factor, which will form an area of focus for the business in delivering products that offer the capability to provide real-time data informing efficiency enhancements that are the key to success for modern production facilities.

Factfile

-Ishida was established in the 1890s in Japan.
-The company developed the first automatic weigher at the end of the 1950s
– Its range includes packing machinery, x-ray inspection lines, as well as complete turnkey solutions
– Ishida Europe was established at Smethwick, West Midlands, UK, in 1985, with Ishida Europe Woodgate in Birmingham created in 1997.
– The European HQ now employs 400, with a turnover of £153 million in 2019.

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