During a conversation with the sales chief at a leading global supplier of capital equipment for canmaking plants, it struck me that it must be really tough to attract young people as trainees into what is essentially the metal forming sector, even though its products are used for packaging food and beverages.

As such, young people handle metal packaging on a daily basis, yet the sales chief recounted the difficulty of selling the idea of a career in canmaking, which is perceived as less appealing than, for example, app design, banking or gaming software.

That said, his company does well from the harvesting of trainees during visits to local schools and colleges, with about five per cent of its staff being apprentices. The programme it operates has borne fruit, as many become valuable managers.

But I thought it ironic that while canmaking involves mechanical processes, the principles of which have been established over centuries, it increasingly also uses servo-motor and condition-monitoring systems that require high-level communication systems and networks. These call for management software that is not far distant from the kind of ‘tech’ employed by smart phones and the embedded information gathering systems we have come to rely on in our day-to-day lives.

Indeed, the company that my sales chief colleague works for, and many others in the canmaking business, are actively involved in transforming it into having almost seamless connections into its customer base. This will enable brand managers to make orders that have an impact all the way through our industry – perhaps even into suppliers of metal and other consumables.

An example is provided in this issue in the feature about the Kraft Heinz plant in Lancashire, UK, which has been heavily investing in its communication networks. This integrated canmaking and canning plant is the biggest of its kind in Europe, if not the world, and offers a leadership beacon that we should all be aspiring to.

John Nutting