PACEPACKER PASSES ULTIMATE AUTOMATION SKILLS TEST
Pacepacker Service’s ground-breaking approach to industry training and skills development has triumphed at the national Food Processing magazine awards, underpinning the importance being placed on education and lifelong learning in automation and manufacturing.
Voted for by readers of the publication and celebrating engineering excellence in the UK food and beverage market, the Essex-based automation specialist won top prize in the magazine’s Skills & Development category. The award was presented by Mike Dudbridge, Vice Chairman of the Food Manufacturing Engineering Group (FMEG).
Long before Brexit and driven by a growth in knowledge-based jobs in food factories, Pacepacker initiated a pioneering skills and development programme. Aligned to the educational system, economic labour market needs, the manufacturing workforce and future business agendas, it comprises offering award-winning apprenticeship schemes in mechanical and electrical engineering, free ROI automation and optimisation workshops to customers, and engaging with the wider community hosting STEM open days and internships for students.
“To attract and retain the very best people, the approach shouldn’t focus on internal training in isolation but must be aligned to the education and wider industry needs,” comments Pacepacker’s Managing Director Dennis Allison.
He continues: “Winning this Food Processing award for our skills programme is a tremendous honour. Like all employers in the food production and manufacturing sector, we are acutely aware that the perception of our work and the value automation adds to businesses is underplayed. We all have a social responsibility to highlight the exciting career pathways available to people when making job choices and support people’s appetite for lifelong learning and progression.”
Pacepacker’s own expansion and investment in culture is testament to the importance it places on workforce skills. In the last five years, the company’s FTE headcount has increased by over 50% to 27, with workforce satisfaction helping the company to maintain an average employee retention rate of 96% and 25% internal team member promotions. Meanwhile, through community activities, Pacepacker has observed a surge of interest among young people eager to get into robotics, programming and research and development after hosting open days for local secondary school and university students.
Suzanne Gill, editor of Food Processing adds: “These awards aim to showcase innovators who are leading the way in helping to create cost-effective solutions for food processors and to recognise the important role that innovation plays in helping ensure that the industry remains successful and profitable. Pacepacker is a great example of the type of company that produces some great processing solutions, but is also helping to address a well-publicised issue – the food factory skills gap.”
In mid-October, think-tank Future Advocacy released a report highlighting the predicted impact of automation in geographical locations. The report also discussed the displacement of jobs caused by automation and extolled the importance of STEM and coding skills in the future*.
Although there might be fewer jobs on the production line, automation will help manufacturing business models to evolve faster, increasing their chance of survival, points out Dennis. “Many food and drink manufacturers are competing harder on price. Business costs are being further compounded by the national living wage, new pension arrangements and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy. Enterprises of all sizes are realising that they can take labour out of their costs and redeploy it elsewhere if they automate. Like many, we believe that automation safeguards the roles of the majority, making the business more efficient and enabling it to maintain and hopefully expand its contracts by improved quality and production throughput.”