Quality control systems specialist Lock and the Zero2Five food industry centre at Cardiff Metropolitan University,, have formed a mutually beneficial partnership.
The dynamic Welsh food industry already contributes up to seven per cent (£79.4 billion) of the UK’s GVA (gross value added) and the Welsh Government is keen to support further growth.
Within this context, 2009 saw the creation of the £5 million Zero2Five Food Industry Centre at Cardiff Metropolitan University. The purpose was to provide Welsh food businesses with the knowledge, resources and support to compete more effectively in a global marketplace.
Companies may, for example, need help with achieving BRC (British Retail Consortium) accreditation, developing a HACCP system, new product development or carrying out efficiency analysis of their processing operation.
Key to assisting companies in these areas was developing state-of-the-art facilities, and when it came to deciding on what kit was needed, it was agreed that metal detection equipment was a must-have.
“Metal detection is a critical factor for all of the companies using the centre, especially those wanting to become compliant with BRC standards,” says Helen Taylor, Operations and Technical Manager at Zero2Five.
During an equipment sourcing mission at the PPMA show, Helen got talking to metal detector manufacturer Lock Inspection Systems, and it quickly became clear that the two organisations had similar philosophies.
“Many small and medium sized Welsh food businesses are participating in the KITE (Knowledge Innovation Technology Exchange) programme, so it was important that our industrial partners shared our principles of lifelong learning and knowledge transfer. Lock seemed to understand and share these values, as well as being a UK company with strong technical support that we felt would benefit the companies we work with as well as students and staff,” recalls Taylor.
Lock donated and installed an industry-leading metal detector at the centre, to be used for training food science & technology and food safety management undergraduates and professionals working in the Welsh food sector on how to detect contamination during the food manufacturing process.
The metal detector also has a role to play when food companies come to the centre for advice and support. “Some of the companies we work with are looking to transition from a domestic kitchen into a commercial unit, and may never have seen an industrial metal detector before,” says Helen. It’s not just the metal detector that benefits students and businesses involved with the centre; it is the relevant, up-to-date industry knowledge and technical expertise that Lock is able to impart.
“We’ve been able to tap into Lock’s specialist knowledge,” says Helen. “Lock presented to the delegates at the UK Association for Food Protection (UKAFP) annual conference on foreign body detection and gave a lecture to undergraduates and post graduates on the principles of metal detection at the university. They have also become an invaluable reference source. For example, when the centre was approached by a company whose line layout wasn’t working, Lock was able to advise on best practice in siting metal detection equipment.”
But the partnership isn’t a one-way street, as Rob Gray, sales manager with Lock Inspection Systems, explains: “Our machinery is getting exposure to the next generation of food technologists. Zero2Five is a respected centre with close links to industry. Students and graduates are placed in local food manufacturing businesses, working alongside decision makers.”
Being affiliated with the centre even helped Lock to clinch a sale to The Authentic Curry Company, last year. The Welsh producer’s business with the multiples was expanding quickly and it wanted a more advanced metal detection system that could be pre-set to switch between many different chilled dishes, from Tan y Ddraig (the dragon's fire) to chicken Cymru and lamb cawl. Lock recommended a versatile metal detector with 100 presets that is capable of delivering exceptional sensitivity at all frequencies and to all metal types, but it was finding out that Lock was a partner of the centre that convinced The Authentic Curry Company it had chosen the right supplier.