Me & My Team

Me & My Team: inside track on Wyke Farms export hub

By Pete Hooper

- Last updated on GMT

The Wyke Farms Wincanton site can pack up to 60t of product in 24 hours
The Wyke Farms Wincanton site can pack up to 60t of product in 24 hours

Related tags: Dairy, Supply chain, factory design & Maintenance

An extension to Wyke Farms's Wincanton cheese store and export packing facility was completed in February 2021, transforming it into an export centre of excellence and the timing was perfect, says operations director Pete Hooper.

Bruton is our wet site, taking in liquid milk and producing the block cheddars, butter and ingredients.

Wincanton is the customer servicing site, handling packing, distribution and aftersales. Aside from me, the key managers at the site are group engineering director Jason Fewell and logistics manager Martin Young.

The site expansion has included another high speed line and extended shifts. Due to the increase in our export business, we have had to increase our overall capacity and this has led to more employees on site.

Factory location

2-4 Bennett's Trading Estate, Wincanton, BA9 9DT

Staff numbers

120

Main products

Retail block Cheddar, catering blocks and catering grated

Capacity

25,000 tonnes a year, scalable to 40,000t world class high care packing

Main customers

UK multiple retailers, plus retail and foodservice customers in 160 markets, including the EU, US, Canada and the Far East

We have gone up by 28 people so far with scope to employ another five. This is a workforce increase of about 30%. Due do the new export documentation put in since Brexit, I'm looking to employing a team to look after this based at our Wincanton site.

Maturing-store
The new maturing store can hold 2,500t of cheese

The new maturing store has capacity for about 2,500 tonnes (t) of cheese. Our new dispatch store has around 800 pallet spaces, which not only gives us the space to hold more finished product, but allows us to consolidate products from third party suppliers who are struggling with new export procedures.

With the introduction of the new paperwork needed for export to the EU we have had to become specialists in this field, and now nearly five months in we understand most of the issues that can arise and have put procedures in place to overcome them.

There has been a large added cost for dealing with the EU and using an old system put in place many years ago based on physical papers does slow things down.

Containers harder to source

Since late last year containers have become harder to source at the right times which can lead to slight delays in shipping the goods and has also caused an increase in cost for shipping.

We have installed cutting and packing lines capable for processing 20t of packed product per shift. This means each line can handle up to 60t in a 24-hour period.

By working with the right manufacturers, this has been achieved without detrimental effects on the yield we get from the blocks of cheese. We regularly manage to get yields over 98%, which is industry-leading, and giveaway of about 0.3%. This leads to a reduction in waste and less product being downgraded.

We have put a lot of time and effort in to selling a product with a long shelf life as this way the customer feels more secure in ordering products in larger quantities. Most of the products we pack on site for export have a shelf life of one year from date of packing.

Export focused

The major expansion was part of our focus on transforming the Wyke Farm business to being export focused. This means gearing up the business to be able to service 20,000t of packed retail cheddar as efficiently as possible into world markets not necessarily on our doorstep or speaking our language.

Wyke Farms has been in the export market for many years, but a concerted effort has been made to increase this. Servicing requirements fully requires a cross-functional team able to work closely together to understand the needs of each market, from legislation to the individual customers.

The new office space in Wincanton has delivered an open plan area where people feel part of the bigger picture and are able to talk with each other so we can get a full understanding of how we can get the best possible results.

Now we are a stronger better business more focused on being professional exporters. There will be opportunities to do trade deals with the world's fastest growing economies. We will see international gains in foodservice and restaurants.

Wealth is shifting East

Populations will grow by two billion over the next 30 years. Wealth is shifting East. In India alone, 300m people will join the middle classes in our working lives. We have to show them the wonders of vintage cheddar from Somerset. 

We serve 165 countries directly and indirectly. We have targeted ranges for export markets. We see strong growth opportunities in China, Japan, Korea, India and we think Africa could be very exciting soon.

South America is a target, although there are still barriers to exporting to countries like Brazil where there are no systems in place for licensing as yet.

With our Ivy's Vintage brand we're seeing 30% year-on-year growth, driven partly by Asia (Japan, Korea, China), containers permitting, and mainly by the US, Canada, Africa and South America.

Local businesses

We always try to use local businesses wherever possible and a lot of the work at Wincanton was carried out by local building firm MMD Builders. They have been excellent and work with us on many projects.

Cooltech Building Services provided the air source heat pumps and compressor heat exchangers. SunGift Energy has been excellent, and the installation is perfect for our needs. I must also mention the design team at Wylde Interior Architecture for the amazing design and layout of the building.

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Wincanton was fitted with solar panels

Wincanton was fitted with solar panels generating a total of 166kW/h, which pretty much takes care of our daily electrical needs. The dispatch store and maturing store were highly insulated, meaning the compressors run infrequently, especially on the maturing store as the turnover of product is much less.

We put a heat exchanger on the fridge compressors, and this largely takes care of the hot water needs for our customer service centre and the office hub.

Air source heat pumps

We installed air source heat pumps as a backup to this, so if the cooling requirement is low we still have heat. The air in the offices is extracted and this air passes through a heat exchanger, which warms the air coming in. This ensures plenty of clean air is constantly coming in and we maximise air changes through the offices. 

We have installed power monitoring and constantly monitor the power used, plus what is produced from our solar.

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The site also has a dedicated cheese museum

The Wincanton site also has an integrated cheese museum, so that when customers visit an automated site on an estate by a dual carriageway, they know it's part of a business with a rich history and heritage.

Related topics: Dairy, Brexit, Operations

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