Europe’s only Centre for Food Robotics and Automation (CenFRA Ltd) has relocated to Doncaster and the new state-of-the-art premises were formally launched on May 22nd. Yorkshire Forward’s Executive Director of Business, Simon Hill, officially opened the purpose built premises at Crompton Business Park at a ceremony which was attended by food and drink producers, industry professionals and regional partners. The launch was the culmination of two years work by Yorkshire Forward, whose insight and vision led to the establishment of CenFRA Ltd – which initially started life at the Innovation Technology Centre on the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham.
The new facility will still offer the same services and automation audits as the previous base, but the new commercial development will be home to flexible automation directly applicable to the food and drink industry, six of which were demonstrated at the launch.
CenFRA is a ‘not for profit’ business and offers totally independent advice to all UK companies interested in flexible automation. Businesses located in Yorkshire and Humber, the North East, and North West can qualify for free automation audits, benefiting all food and drink producers in the North.
Funded by Yorkshire Forward and the Northern Way (a collaboration between the North’s three Regional Development Agencies), the Centre has been developed in partnership with experts in robotics and automation from the University of Salford.
This new initiative aims to encourage innovation within the food and drink industry where traditionally there is low investment in robotics and process automation. CenFRA is keen to emphasis that through the introduction of enhanced and affordable automation, operating costs can often be significantly reduced helping producers to remain competitive whilst providing staff with improved working conditions.
Michael Taylor, chairman of CenFRA Ltd, who was present at the launch, believes there are a number of misconceptions concerning automation that need to be addressed. Mr Taylor said: “CenFRA is most keen to support companies with impartial advice and guidance on the wide variety of automation solutions available – some starting at less than £20,000 – and to assist them identify and quantify the significant cost benefits that can result.”
To address these issues experienced engineering staff and technologists based at CenFRA will be available to identify automation opportunities and provide practical advice as well as develop bespoke automation solutions.
A key benefit of the new service is that all advice is independent of suppliers and is therefore offered directly in response to the needs of the producer. As part of the package, CenFRA will additionally be providing seminars, learning packages and skills training days as well as researching issues of a generic nature to the overall benefit of the industry, Simon Hill commented: “In creating the Centre for Food for Robotics and Automation, Yorkshire Forward, along with its partners is offering food and drink processing companies access to new innovations to enable them to make informed choices when moving their businesses forward. We are encouraging all businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises to consider their options and engage with the Centre.”