Benchmark for success

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Benchmark for success
From Spain to Wales, each Kellogg site has its own unique culture, as the man in charge of its successful Wrexham factory soon discovered

Federic Roquet-Jalmar, plant director, Kellogg, Wrexham

I always swore I wouldn't work in the food industry after spending every holiday in my youth working for my parents' bakery business. But here I am - running a cereals factory!

It wasn't part of a grand plan - it just happened that way. After studying mechanical engineering at university, my first job was nothing to do with food. I was an industrial engineer at a huge factory in Barcelona, in Spain, making lorries and tractors - it made a change from cakes, so I was happy! I'd been there for five or six years when Nissan took over the company and I actually got an opportunity to go to Japan. But in the end, I decided to take a job at the new Kellogg factory in Valls, near Barcelona, instead.

From there, I worked my way up steadily. Having started as an industrial engineer, I progressed to the role of production manager and then operations manager, until I became plant director.

Last year, however, an even bigger opportunity came up, to run the UK plant in Wrexham, which is far larger than Valls. To put it into perspective, Wrexham supplies almost three times as much as product as Valls and almost as much as our Manchester factory.

Wrexham is quite unusual in that it manufactures snacks as well as cereals. Elsewhere in the business, these are co-manufactured for us.

But it's not just about size. In several areas, especially safety, Wrexham is held up within Kellogg as the best-in-class - a reference point - and the factory that we use as a benchmark, so taking the job was a big personal challenge.

Sweat your assets

Because this site is already very efficient, my main responsibility is delivering continuous improvement.

The primary method is through an operational asset-effectiveness programme, which means we are constantly monitoring volumes, raw materials use and energy consumption and analysing why deviations from the baseline occur.

It's all about sweating your assets: for example, how much raw material are we using to produce 100kg of finished product? Why are we using more than yesterday? Why is this line only running at x tonnes instead of y tonnes per hour? Is it being delayed by a packing-line problem? If so, we're not optimising our assets and our maintenance programme needs stepping up. Maintenance is integrated within the operations umbrella, because the two can't be separated.

For benchmarking purposes, all Kellogg factories use the same monitoring techniques, so it is possible to compare performance between sites, although there are always some things that are done differently. We can interrogate this information to improve performance across every site. As things have improved, we have also had to reassess our baseline figures and develop more sophisticated tools to monitor performance to ensure we continue to make progress. We've seen a 20% increase in productivity in six years using this system.

Another of our top priorities is reducing our energy bill, which we tackle in technical and social ways by optimising equipment and changing behaviour. Kellogg consumes a great deal of gas and electricity, so even small changes can have a big impact. Our current target is reducing our energy bill by 5% year-on-year, every year.

A lot of our equipment is designed in-house, especially in the mixing and preparation area. Some of it is quite old, but we are achieving excellent results because our preventative maintenance is so good. The cookers for All Bran must be more than 20 years old, but they are still in really good shape. Likewise, some of the kit in Battle Creek, in the US, must be more than 30 years old, but it is still running effectively.

Significant investment

To make a flaked cereal, we draw off relevant raw materials such as cereals and sugar from our silos, cook them in a high-pressure cooker, and then dry and flake them. Special K is probably the most complicated, as we have to create pellets of several different grains before they are dried and flaked. The flakes are then toasted to remove excess moisture. Finally, we add additional ingredients, such as freeze-dried berries or other dried fruits, before the product is weighed, bagged and packed into boxes.

In terms of capital expenditure, we have recently invested a significant amount in our production line to produce new products such as Special K Sustain, Multi-grain Corn Flakes and Optivita, plus a new automatic cartoner for the Elevenses snack bar line.

Most of our recent investments have focused on bagging and packing. We have replaced most of our scales to gain greater precision and bought new automatic forklifts to transport goods from the warehouse to the loading area. Next year we're investing in a new palletiser and improvements to our water treatment plant.

Manage complexity

The biggest challenge for me is managing increasing complexity. We're no longer making a handful of high-volume lines; instead, we're producing a wide range of stock-keeping units for customers all over Europe, all of whom require different recipes and packaging.

If you are dealing with customers on the Continent, you also need to supply product in euro-pallets, which adds yet another layer of complexity.

It's a bit difficult to compare this site with the one I used to run in Spain, because every factory is different, even if it makes similar products. All factories have a unique culture, so you can bet on there being big differences between here and Manchester, as well as between here and Valls.

I try to make things work by having an open management style, a flat management structure, and making sure I stay on top of what is happening on the floor by getting out there as often as possible.

The best time to do this is before all the meetings and emails start piling up - so I always try and get on with it at 7.30am. That's the time when I can walk around, talk to people and find out exactly what is going on.

INTERVIEW BY ELAINE WATSON

FACTORY FACTS

Location:​ Kellogg, Bryn Lane, Wrexham Industrial Estate, Wrexham, Wales LL13 9UT

Tel:​ 01978 661101

Employees:​ 450

Annual output:​ 100Mkg a year

Customers:​ Spread 50:50 betweenUK and Continental European customers

Products:​ All major cereal product lines, such as Special K; Corn Flakes; Fruit 'n Fibre; All-Bran; Crunchy Nut Cornflakes; Optivita; Frosties; Rice Krispies; Coco Pops; Elevenses bars

PERSONAL

Name:​ Federic Roquet-Jalmar

Age:​ 52

Career highlights:​ "The biggest challenge and opportunity I faced was being able to put into practice here at Wrexham all the things I had learned in the Valls factory in Spain. Knowing how the company's sales, finance and marketing strategies fit in with operations is absolutely vital."

Domestics:​ Married with four sons. The eldest two live in Spain

Outside work:​ I love camping. It always amazed me when I arrived here that the British will go camping in the rain, but you do get used to it - we have travelled all over the country now."

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