Future-proofing EU businesses through automation

Since 2018, COTEMACO has supported more than 50 companies in future-proofing their business through automation.

As part of the free COTEMACO SME Support Programme, funded by the Interreg North-West Europe Programme, the project partners have engaged with manufacturing SMEs through field labs. These regional field labs in the Netherlands, the UK, Belgium and Germany have showcased key production steps in the automotive and food industries, in particular, to tackle current low sectorial awareness and knowledge gaps. The field labs exchanged knowledge on different manufacturing tasks, like handling and (un)loading, and how these tasks could be optimised to increase efficiency.

While increased efficiency has been a key objective for the participating companies, COTEMACO has always focused on putting the employees first, ensuring their satisfaction during the planning and implementation of new technologies. Project partner BEST – the Advice Center for socially acceptable Technology-Designing, has educated SMEs on important aspects regarding participation and co-determination in connection with cobot systems.

All of the COTEMACO partners have guided a diverse group of companies through the process of adopting collaborative robotic and shop floor digitalisation technologies, from the exploration of technological opportunities to the detailed definition of a business plan – some even managed to secure funding for the integration of the selected technologies.

Improving productivity by 30%

Plant-based food business One Planet Pizza is well on its way to increasing sales across Europe, having already integrated semi-automated solutions for their pizza assembly line, with the help of the University of Lincoln’s National Centre for Food Manufacturing. With COTEMACO’s help, they’ve redesigned their kitchen, knocked down a dividing wall and reorganised the production flow. The new conveyor belt system and simple wrap machine resulted in an increase of productivity by 30%! You can read more about their experience in our interview with Co-founder Mike Hill.

Defining digitalisation strategies

Lead Partner Flanders Make also helped Belgian company Wouters NV define its future digitalisation strategy. Their production process will now be less dependent on the existing knowledge and experience of their employees, minimising the risk of human error and saving excessive paperwork.

Pieter Maes, Operations Manager at Wouters NV said:

“Our challenge was to be able to calculate more correct product cost prices, to improve our production planning and to realise operational efficiency improvements. We were convinced that digitalisation was one of the major answers to our challenge. Thanks to the support of COTEMACO, we were able to perform a scan of our digitalisation readiness in order to possibly install a MOMS platform. A useful document was delivered helping the company to define its future digitalisation strategy. We obtained a clear view of the possibilities and the budget. The scan will serve as a basis for possible future investments.”

Tweety, the bakery cobot

It can be very difficult for bakeries to recruit people and the need for automation is only growing stronger. That’s why Belgian SME Mariën Bakkerij Producten decided to seek automated solutions to make the best use of the expertise and craftsmanship of its bakers and relieve them from monotonous tasks.

Mariën Bakkerij Producten completed the SME support programme with the help of Food Tech Brainport (FTB). During the last phase of the project, when technical and economic feasibility had been established, the COTEMACO Support team was able to arrange a grant of €120,000 to facilitate the development and integration of several mobile cobots in the plant of Marieën. 

These mobile cobots can be used at multiple locations across the bakery, and were developed by technology provider Van Wees Waalwijk.

Tweety, the cobot which owes its name to its colour, takes over the heavy and repetitive tasks such as filling and placing baking trays onto the oven carts, allowing employees to focus on quality control.

Less production time, more business growth

The University of Lincoln team also developed an effective automation plan for The Lincolnshire Drizzle company, which has reduced their production time so they can dedicate themselves more to sales and marketing – the key enabler for business growth. The first implemented recommendation of direct BBE printing onto labels saves c.7s per bottle, amounting to almost 1 hour every week, and the planned implementation of semi-automated filling will gain them an additional 2 hours per week!

To better understand just how the COTEMACO SME Support programme has benefitted the participating companies – from feasibility studies to detailed automation plans – you can check out a compilation of 10 SME success stories!
If you have any questions at all, please get in touch via email: cotemaco@baxcompany.com


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