Australia’s food, beverage and manufacturing sector is facing a national-wide challenge: a skills shortage. To stem this challenge and assist customer’s in upskilling their staff, BSC Engineering Services provides tailor-made training in a variety of application and product types.

In this article, BSC National Engineering Manager Anthony O’Keefe, and Key Account Executive Duncan McKellar describe some of the issues facing the industry and how BSC is well-positioned to provide engineering services and solutions, in addition to supplying a wide range of products. They discuss how BSC assisted a large food manufacturer to upskill their maintenance staff with a series of bespoke training sessions provided at the client’s premises.

“One of the key areas where we bring value to our customers is in upskilling their teams. What we are hearing more and more from clients is that their resources are diminished,” explains Anthony. “This is particularly evident in the food and beverage manufacturing sector where career-hopping is common, and therefore training resources are becoming scarcer.”

According to Anthony, the skills gap has intensified other challenges faced in the sector – namely the increased pressure to make processes more efficient, which has also meant that there are less staff on the floor.

“For example, from a manufacturer’s point of view, everyone is under pressure to become leaner and more efficient, so there are less people in general to perform tasks. The staff that remain must be able to do a broader range of tasks – there is less specialisation,” he says. “About 15 years ago, it wasn’t a stretch for an operator to be skilled in a particular task and then slowly increase the diversity of their work. Upskilling was successful. However, as those people have left organisations, along with their predecessors, we’re seeing significant skill gaps.”

Having less operational staff and those not skilled in identifying issues with machinery means maintenance of equipment might get overlooked.

“The maintenance staff relies on operational staff as far as a work order is concerned,” Anthony points out. “If operators are not identifying tasks or issues, then that has an impact on the performance of equipment and its uptime”.

At its core, BSC is dedicated to improving plant up-time and equipment performance. Which is why BSC’s business transcends that of being a supplier and extends into solutions-based services. This incorporates engineering services and comprehensive product training.

“Our product catalogue is vast, with many different bearing brands, and power transmission products. Our point of difference is understanding the customer’s application, and then advising as to which product will suit their needs best based on assessment and analysis,” says Anthony. “We also are in a good position to navigate issues around supply and give our customer’s a heads up on lead times and availability. At the end of the day, we want to be valuable partner to our clients.”

One area where BSC adds value is in enabling customers to consolidate their products and supply, and then also in training staff in those products. This was the case with a major food manufacturer.

“We provide a significant number of products to this customer and being able to assist them in their rationalisation of products has improved the efficiency of their supply and saved costs,” explains Anthony. “We’ve reduced the number of vendors coming to their site, which has a lot of overall benefits, including safety. Less people coming to site, means less risk of the site being compromised in any way.”

The same customer also reached out to BSC for onsite training.

“The customer’s expectation was for us to upskill the maintenance team. This included introductory training into power transmission, industrial hoses, bearings and sealings,” elaborates Anthony. “We also provided training courses with the heads of human resources, and the operations department. Some of them had maintenance experience and others had none; it was a broad spectrum of participants.”

BSC’s ability to deliver the training at short notice and meet the needs of the audience was highly commended by the client.

“The feedback from the management staff about the training was extremely positive. While we were asked to provide the training at fairly short notice, the quality of the training shone through,” explains Duncan, who facilitated the training sessions together with Anthony’s team. “They were especially impressed with how we were able to tailor the training to suit their site and situation.”

Whilst the praise was appreciated, Duncan reiterates that “this type of service is fundamental to who BSC is and what we do.”

“Our overarching purpose as a company is to keep industries in motion, which means increasing the life of plant equipment and componentry,” he says. “The training is a part of that, as it empowers the people on the floor with the knowledge and skills to identify any issues, or whether the equipment is running optimally or sub-optimally. That improves performance, longevity and uptime.”

To summarise on the success of the training to BSC’s customer, Duncan provides an excerpt from an email the customer sent through.

“We can’t thank you enough, you saved us by conducting this training in a timely manner and on a short notice. We are already discussing the strong chance of rolling out this same series of training to another branch. Well-done and thank you all.”