Some of UB’s facilities were 20 years out of date and in need of modernisation, said Kevin McGurk, UB’s group supply chain director.
Completion of the investment at Harlesden earlier this year would lead the company to invest significant amounts of money across its UK factories, McGurk told FoodManufacture.co.uk.
“Typically, the biscuit industry invests 3.5% to 4% of revenue a year in its sites, but we’ve invested about 6% and will continue to do so as part of our modernisation plans,” he said.
UB would also create three centres of excellence across the UK with the investments, McGurk said. “Harlesden for biscuits, Manchester for chocolate products and Aintree for savoury products,” he added.
The £50M project to improve Harlesden’s production facilities between 2013 and 2015 had boosted output by 30% to 130,000t a year and created 100 jobs, he said.
Harlesden, which produces sweet biscuits and some savoury products, accounts for 40% of UB's total biscuit output. Labour intensive parts of Harlesden’s production process had been automated to boost output.
The site’s primary packaging processes, which could produce a limited amount of pack sizes, had been modernised to allow the site to produce more pack sizes, said McGurk.
“We’ve also converted the site from a mixed shift system to a 24/7 362 days system, which has given us more flexibility to move staff across our 11 lines,” he added.
Harlesden had also achieved a 20% per tonne reduction in its production costs, following the investment, said McGurk, who refused to disclose the site’s overall production costs.
“We still have a little bit of work to do in the mixing and baking part of the factory,” he added. “That’s where our next level of investment needs to go, but that’s a wish-list and it’s not imperative for the success of the factory.”
UB was sold for a reported £2bn to the Turkish food manufacturer Yildiz Holding last year by private equity firms Blackstone and PAI Partners. The sale had not affected any investment plans, claimed McGurk.
“The new owners are willing to invest in the business and bought into the investment and growth plans [at the time of the sale],” he added.