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APPEX Industry Insights: Geoff Bourke, Linco Food Systems

In this content series, Food & Drink Business takes a closer look at the opportunities inherent in the fast-evolving food processing industry, with insights from leaders at companies which have signed up to exhibit at APPEX 24.

This month we speak to Geoff Bourke, director of Linco Food Systems.


Geoff Bourke - Linco Food Systems

The Australian manufacturing sector is at a critical juncture as it seeks to grow onshore capacity and capability while remaining globally competitive. With reference to your business, what do you see as a) the key challenges and b) the main growth opportunities inherent to this dynamic sector?

“Challenges” is certainly the right word, for Linco and our industry, but most of all for our customers which are by and large fresh, perishable, and frozen food manufacturers. The last 3-4 years have been one continuous challenge with bushfires, floods, extreme weather events, and of course Covid. Now significant economic headwinds are greatly impacting our customers and in turn our industry.

By far and away the greatest challenge we now face as a business is the skilled labour shortages being felt across all sectors as we continue to struggle to find the right people to fill our business growth generated vacancies.

The opportunities driving our growth are twofold. The first is the need for our customers to utilise more and more capital equipment, automation, and our professional services due to their own labour shortage issues, and the continual push and demand for new packaging materials and substrates largely driven by the retail sector and consumers.


What role has automation played in growing your business and advancing your customers production performance?

The majority of our customers are food producers and manufacturers working with naturally grown products of variable shapes, sizes, and weights. As such our front of line automation is mostly related to high-speed production lines such as poultry unloading and processing lines, and packaging lines working with constant product sizes. However, all our larger customers are investing a far as is possible in downstream primary and secondary automated solutions such as automatic format changeover packaging machines and fully automated weigh price labelling systems. Again, this is being driven more and more by skilled labour shortages and, but as greater line speeds and higher line speeds are realised, this automation will continue to become commonplace.


What innovative technology/product/solution has your company brought to market recently that sets you apart from your competitors?

Our principals and suppliers are continuously striving for innovation and new products. Our long-term flow wrapping and vertical form fill and seal supplier IMA Ilapak has recently made an industry breakthrough launching the world’s first variable geometry flow wrapper. The new DELTA OF-360X can run any packaging films from paper-based films to complex laminates and recyclable mono-polymer films. At a time when the future direction of sustainable films and packaging materials is fluid and uncertain, this revolutionary system gives our customers the total flexibility to easily switch between existing and future films.

Another innovative thermoforming solution from our partner MECAPACK is the FS930 SMF machines which can run with Skin, MAP, and Flexible packing materials and operation processes all on the one machine. This is achieved by using innovative forming, sealing, and cutting station technologies and geometry allowing our customers to better utilise the machine for multiple products and sealing process.


Working with your customers, what key trends are you observing unfold in the Australasian food and beverage processing sector?

As already discussed, our customers are currently being driven by two factors which are putting pressure on them from both sides – labour shortages on their production side, and the demand from their customers for the reduction of packaging generally and the drive to new recyclable packaging materials in particular.

These factors are pushing our customer towards automation wherever possible in their production lines, higher lines speeds, but most importantly the highest line efficiencies possible. The focus in the past was on the highest line speeds at the lowest cost, however this is changing to a focus on sustainable lines speeds at the highest efficiencies in a drive to reduce production re-work and waste which is costly in both materials and labour. Cost of equipment, whilst always a factor, in becoming less of a factor.


APPEX is a new, all-encompassing trade show for the processing and packaging industry. Your company has signed up as an exhibitor at the inaugural show in March 2024, what made it a compelling platform for your business?

Quite simply Linco has always been for one industry exhibition run for the industry and by the industry. As a long term member of APMA / APPMA we thoroughly believe that the APPEX trade show run by the industry body of the APPMA is the best solution to promote our industry and invest back into the members of the APPMA. It was also important to Linco to mirror the best trade shows in the world by having one event every three years and in one permanent location just like Interpack, IFFA, and Anuga Foodtech do.


Author: Kim Berry - Food & Drink Business - Click here to view the Original article.


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