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6 June, 2017 - 10:59 By Tony Quested

£2.1m investment gives OAL an edge in food robotics

OAL Harry Norman APRIL

Major investment in robotics technologies has placed a Cambridgeshire business in the vanguard of a food manufacturing revolution.

OAL in Peterborough has already pumped around £572,000 into development of its APRIL-branded robotics technologies; this has been through a mix of internal investment and various Government grant schemes.

In the 2017/18 financial year a further £1.55 million of investment will be provided at which point OAL intends to consider recruiting external funders to help drive a target sales pipeline of £26m annual sales for APRIL robotics. This strategy would embrace exports to lucrative markets, notably Europe and the US. 

OAL intends to recruit up to 55 engineers by 2020 to support the development and roll out of APRIL robotics – an initiative currently attracting the very best robotics and projects engineers.

As experience in these technologies is relatively limited, OAL is also electing to recruit students with no prior knowledge and put them through a training programme.

OAL is building a new state-of-the-art facility in Peterborough to support its APRIL Robotics Systems strategy.

The new facility is designed to support a growing order book as food manufacturers seek to avoid rising costs in the UK and Europe through significant productivity improvements.

Currently, 529,800 people globally are associated with the common repetitive task of weighing dry micro ingredients. The APRIL Robotics Weighing System automates this task and when linked with APRIL Logistics, fully automates the ingredient and material management within factories.

The OAL team is rapidly accelerating the adoption of robots in food manufacturing as they focus on increasing productivity and efficiency in food factories by automating manual handling tasks. 

Harry Norman, owner/MD at OAL, says: “We’re committed to eliminating manual handling in the front end of food processing and the new APRIL facility gives our team a great space to develop and demonstrate what that means for food manufacturers.

“We have a strong reputation for building large-scale material handling projects, and advanced manufacturing software (OAL Connected) and the APRIL developments complement these thriving parts of the business.”

Food manufacturers will have a chance to learn more and see demonstrations at the factory opening on Thursday January 18, 2018. The opening will coincide with the Food Manufacturing 2030 Conference which challenges food manufacturers to think and discuss how food production will change over the next decade.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: OAL managing director, Harry Norman

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