Moy Park’s manager raises output by a fifth

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

A broken spine led Carrigan to a career in food manufacturing
A broken spine led Carrigan to a career in food manufacturing

Related tags Moy park Chicken

Moy Park’s Ben Carrigan has found a way to raise output by a fifth at the company’s Anwick site, he tells Nicholas Robinson

Key points

When I was 23, a horse broke my back. I was a master farrier at the time and had a very successful career. While I was shoeing the horse, it kicked me and ruptured my spine. I continued doing the job for a little while after I recovered, but I had to be dosed up on painkillers.

Shortly after the accident, Dad got ill, so I stopped shoeing horses to help out with the family animal by-products business in 1995. By 2005, we shut part of the business and sold off the rest.

I had been around slaughterhouses and food manufacturing with my Dad all my life, but it was tough getting a job in the food industry after the family business was sold. I had only ever worked for the family business and had no formal qualifications, but I kept ringing people to apply for jobs every day.

Frozen food company Tranfield Food Group eventually offered me a job as a shift manager. I was then asked to be the shift manager at the company’s newly acquired Hull site, but moved to Yeo Valley in 2006 for two years, before finally returning to Tranfield’s Sheffield site as an operations manager in 2008.

The business was then acquired by the Vion Food Group and I moved to this site in Anwick, Lincolnshire, in 2013, after briefly working for another chicken processor.

Moy Park, part of the Brazilian Marfrig Group, hired me as the factory manager and I was promoted to general manager in May this year. I have a senior team of 14 people. There are only three people on the senior team who have been here longer than me.

The team is so new because I wanted to drive change in the business and the company has been very supportive and allowed me to do that. It’s been a challenge to get them all working together, to bond and form a cohesive unit, but I think it’s working.

Moy Park’s Anwick site is massive, it’s the biggest poultry site in the UK at 27,000m² and has a turnover of £300M a year. We process nearly 2M chickens a week, which equates to 4,000t of meat a week.

Killing line (Return to top)

Here, the killing line starts at 3.40am and finishes at 11.40pm. The retail line starts at 6am and finishes at 2am the following morning. In the window between the lines starting and finishing, we clean down the factory.

Our two processing lines run at 10,500 birds an hour. We produce fillets, breast strips, whole birds and added value products, such as barbecue packs and seasoned chicken.

Live birds are trucked to the site every day and stunned and killed using nitrogen. We don’t come into contact with the live birds. We have a mechanical system that removes them from the trucks to ensure they don’t get spooked.

After they are gased, they are beheaded and hung on a track of chains, before being plucked and gutted by machine. The carcasses are then chilled in one of two chillers, which each hold up to 52,000 birds. The overhead chain system we use to move the birds around the factory is roughly 15km long.

Our added value barbecue line is very busy at the moment, we’ve produced 40% more this year than we did for the same time last year because of the good weather and new business.

To make the barbecue products we take pieces from the bird, which are graded to the correct weight and then tumbled in wet or dry marinades. They are packed by hand to make sure they look good, as people tend to buy with their eyes first. The pack then goes through a modified atmosphere, is sealed and stored before being shipped out.

Whole birds are dropped onto the line by weight and trussed by hand a trusser can do up to six birds a minute. After being trussed, the birds are either stuffed with a wedge of stuffing by hand, sprinkled with parsley by hand or injected with a garlic flavouring.

We’re already processing 1.91M birds a week, but we’ve recently gained the ability to increase that by 20%, since we changed the shift patterns.

When I started here we were working to a 6am to 2pm and 2pm to 10pm pattern, but struggled to get people to work overtime. So, we changed it to a continental shift pattern, but rather than doing a traditional four days on and four days off, we alternated it to a two days on two days off and three days on three days off pattern. This way the staff get a better work/life balance and have a far better break between work, which I believe makes them more productive.

Increasing popularity (Return to top)

Along with increasing productivity, we’ve also managed to reduce absences from 10% last year to 2.85% this year, which is no mean feat when you have 2,100 staff.

An increase in productivity and fewer absences is a blessing, as we’ve taken on a lot more business this year and are still trying to take on more business. We already supply most of the major retailers, such as Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsbury, Aldi and Lidl. But we are in talks with other companies to take advantage of that 20% extra productivity we've created.

To prepare for the extra business, we’re going to invest millions of pounds in robotics for the packing line. It’s £1.5M for the piece of kit we want and we may need two of them. We’re also going to invest more on sealers. Last year we spent millions on robotics, £1M on sealers and £250,000 on X-ray machines.

There has been significant investment in the site since Moy Park took it over from GW Padley in 2006 – more than £65M. We’ve also recently invested in the staff facilities and built a new restaurant area for them with seating for 400 people, as well as a new locker room, which cost £2M altogether. Investment also stretches to biosecurity, which is ongoing. With all of the talk about campylobacter in the press recently, it’s an issue that has been pushed in the faces of our customers as well as the consumers, who want to see businesses actively reducing the risk.

Campylobacter (Return to top)

There are various campylobacter reduction projects going on at different Moy Park sites. Here, we're using a hot water sprayer to disinfect the necks of the birds before taking their heads off – it’s the headflap where the issue with campylobacter is. Heads used to be dipped in hot water to kill any bacteria before they were taken off, but the water would eventually become contaminated, which was a problem.

Aside from investing in new machinery and new biosecurity measures, we’ve started a mentoring programme for high-performing staff members. It’s a good way to keep talent in the business, but it's also a good way for employees to progress.

I think it’s important to give staff members the opportunity to progress and learn. For someone who had a great mentor in my Dad, who passed away, it means a lot for me to give others the opportunity.

Listen to our exclusive podcast​ to hear how Moy Park is reducing the risk of campylobacter contamination at its plants.

Factory facts (Return to top)

Location: Moy Park, Main Street, Anwick Village, Sleaford, Lincolnshire NG34 9SL

Staff: 2,100

Products: Whole chicken, chicken breast, wings, legs and added value products

CUSTOMERS: Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury, Aldi, Lidl, Waitrose and KFC



Name: Ben Carrigan Age: 42

Domestics: I’m single, but have two dogs, which are both Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Outside work: I like to scuba dive with sharks, but I don’t like the thought of doing a night dive with them – I want to be able to see them coming. I've been diving all over the world including the Galápagos Islands, the Maldives and Egypt. I’d like to dive in Thailand.

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