It is no secret that the UK’s energy supplies are under threat. We have already seen the surplus in capacity diminish by a staggering 10% in the last five years*. These narrower margins mean higher risks of outages, spikes and surges, which are a growing concern for all UK businesses. These are individually already losing £thousands in lost revenue due to power disturbances.

Jumping on the Brexit discussion band wagon, one of Britain’s leading energy lawyers stated back in February that a British exit from the EU could raise the risk of blackouts**. Now it seems there is just a lot of speculation and scaremongering without any clear messages about the future of the country’s electricity supply.

That being said, it would be safe to assume that as the population becomes more reliant on technology and therefore the power grid, supplies will continue to put businesses in perilous positions.

The UK food production industry is worth over £81.8bn*** and it continues to be the country’s largest manufacturing sector. It is also one of the most ‘power hungry’ and therefore has the most to lose in the event of a power failure.

Unlike the other food production related subjects that surround Brexit such as rising ingredient costs, new manufacturing legislation and barriers to trade, developing contingency plans to tackle the dwindling power supplies is an area where food manufacturers can take control.

The UK’s largest privately owned, independent (Uninterruptible Power Supply) specialist, Power Control Ltd (PCL) has just released new plans to help food manufacturers re-evaluate their power protection strategies.

Whilst many food producers have focused much of their investment in ‘greener’ assembly lines, PCL is urging the sector to consider its complete efficiency strategy. The managing director, Mark Trolley said: “We have found that the food sector typically views efficiencies as physical ones rather than electrical, where delivering faster procedures to increase yields has taken precedence over long term efficiency gains.

“Due to the rise in power disturbances there has been a marked shift in the way manufacturers are managing their efficiencies with many integrating more sophisticated power protection equipment such as UPS systems into their facilities.”

The food industry is one of the most vulnerable when it comes to loss in power as it is dependent on it for storage, production, packaging, processing and despatch. It relies on controlled environments to prevent any food spoilage for raw and perishable materials.

Emergency power solutions circumvent any lapses in production and subsequent degradation of food products by safeguarding equipment from spikes, surges and fluctuations in power supply.

PCL has worked with a wide spectrum of high street brands and has nearly two decades of experience in providing high efficiency UPS systems to food manufacturers. The company is well aware of the challenges the industry faces both in terms of food safety and the physical challenges presented when placing capital equipment into a manufacturing site.

The wide variety of emergency power solutions makes it even more important for food manufacturers to start mapping out clearer power protection strategies to not only safeguard produce and ultimately the business but also ensure that investments are made in the most cost effective and practical solutions to achieve the best total cost of ownership (TCO).

Power is a critical element within the food manufacturing industry and without it businesses can lose not just costly downtime but also £thousands in food waste. One of the most vulnerable are bakeries and biscuit factories, where many have gas powered ovens and electric conveyor belts. In the event of any loss in power, the conveyor will shut-down leaving product still in the oven, which ultimately results in a fire.

Blazes at bakeries are becoming all too common. Most recently, big name players such as United Biscuits, Morrisons and Allied Bakeries have all had to deal with significant fire damage. The correct deployment of a UPS could help reduce fire risk by giving enough electrical support to remove any items that are likely to set alight.

Food manufacturers rely heavily on a clean supply of power to maintain very stringent processing methods that work to avoid any risks to food contamination and spoilage. With the threat of more power cuts and £1millions at stake, the food industry cannot afford to take any more risks. Power protection is one investment that in the long-term could save a business from irrecoverable damage. Some welcome news for the industry, is that it might not cost as much as it thinks – funding is available.

Equipment that is listed as part of the Governments Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) scheme such as UPS units from the Huawei UPS5000-E series and the Borri Ingenio range, enable food manufacturers to claim up to 100% against the cost of the investment for the first year as part of their corporation tax return.

Not only are these initial savings substantial but as these UPS systems are listed on the ETPL (Energy Technology List), they also deliver long term efficiency gains and can achieve annual savings of up to £36,000.

Mr Trolley summarised: “The food industry has been grossly unaware of the large power drain on manufacturing equipment and many have overlooked the desperate need for improved emergency power systems. Whilst, the basics have been applied, manufacturers must understand that the risks to power supply are greater than ever before and consequently must enforce more resilient protection strategies.

“PCL hopes that this £multi-billion manufacturing sector recognises the importance of these emergency power contingency plans. We believe they should be an integral part of every manufacturer’s efficiency strategy.

“It would be no use having a production line capable of filling over 50 ready meal trays per minute, if it were to fail due to a power disturbance. The losses caused from the downtime would be catastrophic. A UPS however, would ensure that there was no break in power and protect the machine from cutting out, delivering a continuous power supply until full mains power can be restored.

“A carefully mapped out power protection strategy and a small investment into a UPS solution could go a very long way and our message is simple: Take control, be prepared and do not get caught out!”

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*Ofgem

** The Times

*** The Food and Drink Federation