Pandemic impacts food machinery lead times
There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on both our private lives and the industries in which we work — and this includes the food manufacturing industry.
For years, many food manufacturers have focused on supplying the foodservice industry in an attempt to avoid the vice-like grip some supermarkets have imposed on some of their suppliers. However, with the unexpected pandemic impacting airlines, cruise ships, hotels, conferences, reception centres, etc, many have ventured into new areas or returned to previously held positions in the retail sector.
Food machinery manufacturers have also felt the sting of the pandemic. Depending on the country of origin, many have had to cut or furlough staff as production has been closed or reduced due to distancing rules imposed locally or voluntary decisions made by management.
For example, the production capacity of Symetec’s main supplier in the UK was reduced to around 30–40% for most of early 2020. Lead times became understandably longer on standard machines and special-build machine orders experienced long delays or simply had to be refused.
With some easing of distancing rules due to areas remaining ‘COVID clear’ for several weeks, lead times decreased back to almost normal and confidence returned. However, for the last two months we have seen lead times swelling out again.
What is the reason for this happening?
There has been a continued shift in focus for food and beverage manufacturers despite the easing of restrictions. Many are finding new areas of supply while others are meeting the continued demand for food trends associated with the social distancing rules, such as products for cooking at home and snacking at home, despite relaxation of the rules.
For example, the corner butcher is selling burger patties that can’t be made by hand so benchtop forming machines are in demand. Biscuit manufacturers previously supplying petrol stations and cafes are now supplying bigger chains and supermarkets so larger equipment is required. Larger manufacturers are creating new and more interesting ready meals for heat and eat at home so special machinery may be required.
A huge surge in demand for new machinery has resulted, putting a strain on the machinery manufacturers that have already been subject to production restrictions.
Long story short, my advice for manufacturers planning to purchase food machinery in the current market is to expect long lead times, plan ahead, iron out choices and place orders early.
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