The drivers behind digitalisation
While Kettleby’s current system has been robust, their expansion and new technology means if they continued down the same route they would not move forward at the rate required. Over two decades of development, they have gone from 2 part-time lines to 8 lines that run all year round, but they now believe that digitalisation can be a step change to the market.
One of main achievements the Kettleby team pride themselves on is being a Tesco centre of excellence, an accolade which is owed in part to their focus on a handmade approach and specialist touches found in their meals, such as the piping of potatoes. Historically, automation hasn’t provided the requisite levels of customisation to fulfil this standard. Robotics have been cumbersome and impractical for several aspects of their line, but recent advancements have altered this, making it easier to make small variations to product lines.
Outside of the potential of new tech, equipment obsolescence has been a key driver. Due to the 20-year-old site, they are not only experiencing some performance issues with critical pieces of kit, but difficulty accessing people who still have enough product knowledge to repair them. This makes a modern day upgrade a necessity, with all legacy equipment up for review and decisions to be made on whether they are viable options moving forward.
Then there are market changes. The insecurity of Brexit and increased competition mean Kettleby can’t be guaranteed the levels of labour they’ve always depended on, so the automation of unskilled tasks would provide a safety net. Becoming more efficient and working towards environmental responsibilities and reduced costs are also constant motivations, both in Kettleby’s facilities and the wider market.