Report Synopsis

Maximising the efficiency of the UK Sugar Beet supply chain

Paul Fishpool

Competition in the European sugar markets has increased because to the abolition of quotes in September 2017. This has resulted in many of the most efficient European sugar processors looking to expand their current market share, positioning themselves in the market for when sugar quotes disappear, and be able to capitalise on this newfound freedom. EU prices have fallen over recent years, requiring European processors to maximising all their opportunities. Inefficient producers will simply not be able to survive in this more competitive climate. Therefore, the UK must become more efficient within its supply chain to ensure they continue to be one of the most efficient sugar producers. This includes areas such as harvesting, loading, cleaning and delivery of the crop to the processing site in order to maximise yield for both the grower and processor.

The primary goal of my report was to determine how to operate the most efficient supply chain, from field to processing site in the UK sugar beet industry. A series of both cane and sugar beet processors, growers, and industry experts who are the most efficient in the world were visited and benchmarked against the UK industry. These included stakeholders in USA (Michigan, North Dakota, Minnesota and Idaho), Australia, South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Slovakia and Spain.

From my study tour, it is apparent that the UK has significant opportunities to increase the efficiency if the Industry wishes to stay competitive in the future. I believe there are immediate changes that can be executed. The UK sugar beet supply chain is hugely complex. In every area of the supply chain, from the field to factory flume, there is the potential to lose significant yield and a reduction of efficiency, if not managed effectively to ensure all aspects of this supply chain are optimised.

Gaining total visibility of the whole supply chain is critical to improving its efficiency. A harvester “best practice plan” can deliver significant yield improvement, and by working with all stakeholders further improvements can be made.

Harvesters and cleaners loaders are massively underutilised and different working practices need to be adopted. A better-planned and better co-ordinated approach also needs to be adopted to improve machinery utilisation and efficiency. “Just in time” harvesting and delivery has potential for further yield improvements in the UK industry, together with the opportunity of not using a cleaner loader.

Haulage is key to the whole supply chain and through the adoption of new working methods and techniques, efficiency can be increased.

Logistics management systems can provide excellent opportunities to further improve efficiencies in an era where mobile communication is readily available to all. These systems allow full visualisation of the supply chain, have improved fleet utilisation and provide very detailed and accurate management reports to help facilitate change.

The number of vehicles delivering sugar beet to the factory and backloading co-products can increase efficiency provided they can be turned around quickly.

Flexibility, planning and communication are key to improving beet scheduling in the UK. Grower groups may further increase efficiencies by offering a range of soil types and lifting dates to maximise the utilisation of equipment.

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