Baby place

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Milk

Baby place
Farley's founded a baker's shop in Plymouth in the 1850s. In the 1880s it began making rusks. In 1962, Glaxo established the Kendal factory alongside the Milk Marketing Board's creamery. It bought the Farley's brand in 1968 and in 1976 consolidated its food business as Farley Health Products, which was bought by Boots 10 years later. In 1990 the Plymouth factory was closed, cereals were moved to Kendal and rusks were co-packed. Then in 1994, Heinz bought Farley's from Boots.

I started my career as a medical microbiologist in the public health service. After switching to sales for two and a half years I moved to a small microbiology company as quality manager, then joined Heinz as a thermal process specialist.

I went on to become company microbiologist. At one point I was seconded to our Kitt Green factory on process analysis in our soup centre, where I led improvements in right first time procedures and reduced product quality costs.

From there I assumed a research and development role as the infant feeding new product development and innovation manager. For two and a half years I delivered a number of innovative products.

I moved to procurement and spent nine years managing third-party manufacturing, before becoming head of European co-packing, managing performance in 120 plants across three continents and 20 countries. In May 2010 my role developed into supplier relationship management. I worked with suppliers to create balanced secure, quality business alignment and service to allow us to grow through innovation.

Finally, on January 10 this year I arrived on this site. I was able to use all my skills in procurement to drive improvement with external suppliers. We have put a lot of focus into contractual integrity. We have engaged in a complete overhaul of our ways of working to drive innovation and business growth. We manufacture for others outside of Heinz as well and we make sure we continue to drive sustainable relationships with these third parties.

In April 2010 we launched into China and in 2011 we introduced continuous improvement, driven by our change management programme to support the roll out of Heinz's Global Performance System in emerging markets.

Continuous improvement is one of the real fundamental challenges we face. One of the important parts of this is communicating on a daily basis with employees. We have also adopted the 5S lean manufacturing approach. Taking people through a tidy workplace environment can improve on-line performance and have important effects on factory hygiene.

We have increased use of one-point lessons to reinforce training, using simple words to describe set up on lines. We are trying to keep things simple and structured, addressing critical areas.

I have brought the continuous improvement journey here forward by six months from the original timeline and we are going through a lot of pain trying to accommodate that. We have revised team content and delivery for team briefs. We have training sessions covering all shift patterns. We keep key performance indicators simple, but demand a much higher level of engagement. We have more management visibility on lines. The key is making sure managers don't just sit in offices.

One issue is how we communicate all this. I write a very clear weekly update newsletter looking at successes and challenges. We have a reward and recognition scheme and a 'have your say' box and we run annual employee surveys.

Another challenge is to keep investment plans focused on the right areas and ensure the business has faith to invest in us. And it has done, allocating £1.7M this year and £1M to £2M for next year.

We have two primary lines: one for spray dried milks and the second for infant cereals primarily for the UK.. Cereals are made using two process streams from a combination of drum drying and extrusion. This allows Kendal to incorporate large particulates such as fruit pieces of up to 5mm.

There are five secondary lines, of which three are packing lines: one for canning, mainly for infant formula, one for sachets in boxes and one for adult and dietetic lines. The other two lines are for blending. The Matcon blending operation is supplied with bulk containers for spray dried powders, which are made on site. We do quality assurance testing and once the results are in we incorporate them into different recipes through the blending process.

Once raw materials come in to the preparation area, we key them into our supervisory control and data acquisition system, which interacts with SAP [our enterprise resource planning system]. They are then allocated to individual recipes.

We have infant starter, stage two and follow-on milks; a range of cereals for up to four months, then a seven months plus range that contains particles babies can chew. We launched Blueberry Porridge in June. We work with Heinz's centre of excellence in Milan on product development.

We have some improvements in the pipeline in the next two to three years. We have just installed X-ray machines on our two infant lines and we are making a significant investment in refurbishing our bagging hall.

We are conducting a significant trial on how we control our spray-drying process. It uses a computer-based system that controls and manages the process for each of the product recipes. We have had a spray-dry process board [showing the status of each part of the process] that has been with us for more than 20 years. This has just been upgraded with the use of plasma screens to make status display easier. We changed everything over a three week period this August.

10–15% of what we make are cereals for the UK. We're progressing with developments in India and still evaluating Brazil. Most of the branded milk product we produce is for China.

We plan to triple the China business in the next three years and there's enough capacity here to support that. We are putting a lot of work into this, supported by [chairman, president and chief executive] Bill Johnson himself. It comes off the back of Heinz's acquisition last year of Foodstar, a manufacturer of soy sauce and fermented bean curd in China.

The 2008 melamine scandal [in which infant formula milk tainted with melamine led to the deaths of four babies and thousands more becoming ill] unsettled Chinese mums. There's incredible awareness of formula milks. Quality is everything and most are now sourced from other continents like Europe. Heinz intends to continue UK production for the time being. On the back of the launch of our formula milk, this business has grown 2030% and the melamine issue has accelerated that growth.

Factory facts

Location: Heinz (UK), Mint Bridge Road, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 6NL

Staff: 186, including 912 agency workers, about one in 50 of the working population of Kendal

Factory size: 37,500m2

Operating hours: 24 hours, six days a week (no production on Sundays)

Products: Infant formula milk and cereal products totalling 100 stock keeping units under the Heinz brand, plus a small amount of the dietary supplement Complan.

Output: 6,900t a year


Name: Damian Killen

Age: 49

Career highlights: "Building a European third-party factory team before this role. We have 120 external manufacturing sites. I was responsible for putting in systems and ensuring contractual integrity supporting our quest to drive innovation and growth."

Domestics: "I am married with two daughters, aged 21 and 24."

Outside work: "I am a season ticket holder for Everton. I also like cycling and keeping tropical fish."

Related topics: People & Skills

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