Look at the Expertise in our “Grey Knowledge” Database

ATS recently completed a funded project related to creating a database of retired experts in the broader food industry. The intention of this was to gather willing consulting candidates who would commit to help ATS in assisting SMMEs in the field. ATS always disclaims being the holder of all knowledge and expertise in this broad field and always indicates to clients the value of consultants.

Just think about the number of retired (and soon to be retired) employees in this industry who have years if experience, either general or in very specific fields! This database (and the project itself) is now an ongoing project that will grow organically as the news spreads and as more consultants are signed up. Coincidentally, a Sunday Times column by Peter Bruce touched on this very thing on 3rd March 2019 i.e. the lack of skills in the country. He pointed to skills leaving the country and, more pertinently, the difference between knowledge and skills. An example is the number of graduates leaving institutions with knowledge but often lacking in skills. The latter can mostly only be gained by learning from others or practicing in the field. And a lot of the expert skills are invested in “old hands” in the industry.

Beside it being commonsense to work on a project of this nature, it was seeded by the existence of a Dutch organization called Programma Uitzending Managers – Netherlands Senior Experts (PUM for short). In this instance, the Dutch organization enjoys state funding. They, with their retired experts, are tasked with assisting companies in other countries to develop their SMMEs in all fields. In this case it is on a volunteerism basis, something which in South Africa may not be as easy since not everybody retires “rich” – ask me – I am about to retire myself! However, the concept of sharing the knowledge is bigger than the concept of volunteerism in this instance. In addition, using such expertise will in any case very likely involve initial contact between consultant and SMME on a subsidized basis.

ATS intends expanding this database and will eventually look to place it on a web-based platform, with added features such allowing consultants to list themselves without going directly through ATS. Obviously, vetting of such consultants will be done before new data is allowed to go live. It will also allow the public to search the database using key words in terms of the challenge they face or the sub-field in which they require assistance. If this comes up positive, with an indication that expertise is on the database, ATS may then be contacted to set in motion the process of rendering assistance in the specific sub-field or challenge.

For now, there are about 20 such experts on the database with the plan to register at least 50 by mid-2019. The range in expertise is quite extensive and the list below tries to indicate this:
• Hygienic design and food process engineering;
• Protein chemistry and engineering, including gelatin;
• Spray drying;
• Food safety systems implementation and management;
• Beverage technology, development and processing;
• Dairy technology;
• Meat technology and processing;
• Packaging technology;
• Halaal expertise;
• Thermal processing;
• Rheology;
• Quality assurance and control;
• Flavours and fragrances;
• Business development and export promotion.

In the next few months ATS will use these experts on the basis of matching client needs to the expertise available. An assessment will be made at the end of 2019 as to the success/ value of running and keeping such a database updated.

Help us grow the database! Do you know of anyone who has recently retired and who may be willing to join us?

Larry Dolley