A lot is being written about “Product Quality” and “Manufacturing Quality” and I am not sure if many of the article writers know what they are talking about – of if they are just trying to put marketing spin to cover up a lack of substance.
We work to the highest standards – but we are not just saying so, we can prove it – and we have been doing so for longer than most. We drive standards and are driven to implement improvements. We can prove this as we are externally audited to ISO 9001 and ISO 22000 (Food Safety). What this means is people with extensive industry knowledge check what we are doing and how we are doing it to make sure and sign off that we are achieving high standards – and on a daily basis.
We are then audited by Customers who place their own demands on us – to improve quality.
We undertake regular reviews of how we work and how we can improve this.
We employ external consultants to audit us every fortnight and advise us on what to focus on next. This involves the management team as well as factory staff. Food safety is regularly reviewed by all key staff in the factory.
We have validated procedures for all processes.
We provide a Professional dedicated blending service for companies who value the control and assurance our facility and processes give them in making Professionally produced, high quality products every time.
I feel guilty at not writing more on the blog recently. But other needs have been more pressing.
Obtaining ISO 9001 and ISO 22000 in August last year took a lot of time. Most procedures were in place and we did not alter much paperwork but some of the reporting systems – minuting all meetings and showing we had Verified and Validated all processes took a lot of concentration. For me, this was an essential tool for us to move forward and grow. Now everything we do is clearly documented – using a computer based system – so if anyone is not sure what to do, all they need to do is look. This releases my time to looking at new ideas.
We also built some new offices in August 2011 which we moved into in February 2012. Although this was meant to be a turn key operation, it took a lot of management time to get it right. The old offices were really a single room which we had outgrown. We needed to allow room for growth and we had a space in unit 3a to build them. We are finding them much easier to work in and now have a dedicated development area for out New Product Development and innovation. This is now nearly fully manned.
Our final, for now, investment in the offices in an upgraded computer software system to cope with manufacturing and production planning. This is nearly ready to go live.
The old office is now a good staff canteen – which has improved staff morale – and the old canteen is a wash-room for the factory – taking all water out of the factory.
Our focus is now on improvements to the manufacturing plant which I hope to report when I next write.
The market continues to grow while at the same time changing. A vast amount of production is now in bags – obviously for saving the environment while also saving costs. But demand for tubs is also strong. We worked with Bob at Taylor Davis on a PET tub range, which is going well. As the market grows in the UK so does opportunities for innovative manufacturing. We still believe we lead the industry in innovation in products and manufacturing efficiency which enables is to keep our costs down.
Whey supply seems to be easing but the price is still strong. We do make some straight whey, but also a lot of blends. With new sources of Whey Protein Concentrate 80 from WheyCo, Arla and First Milk, this may help. We maintain good relations with key suppliers. But innovation is still key for the industry. We look forward to cautious growth going forward.
We have started 2010 with a number of New Products to launch for customers. Staff morale is very high. We are keeping on top of existing production and meeting deadlines for the new products. Re-orders are the biggest challenge as we try to keep enough in stock to meet our customers expectations – we have had some issues with the supply of tubs which have been delayed with the snow and production difficulties – but the knock on has been delays supplying our customers – but they have yet to run out, which is good.
We see our role as to help brands grow through innovation in products and pricing in 2010. We are well positioned to buy competitively in a market of rising whey protein prices.
We continue to invest in the company – we have four new machines arriving shortly. We also try to manage our spend on technology, using Open Source products where possible. Our positioning in the market means we have to keep our overheads low and manufacturing efficiencies high to remain competitive.
I have not written since about a year ago and though an update was in order. 2009 has been unexpectedly busy although times now are probably as uncertain as they were last year. So far, through the recession, we have seen protein prices fall. This is expected to change dramatically. We have had increases in the last month which I expect may continue into 2009 if the £ does not recover. I suspect that January will see the political interfering in the economy come to an abrupt end, now that the December 2009 figures have been massaged to make the economy look good for the General Election.
We are still putting in long hours to launch new projects and keep the factory running smoothly. Keeping the factory ahead of what is required in the food industry is a challenge. We have bought a new blender this year, a new metal detector, sifters and powder transfer equipment. We have updated our working practices at least twice, revisited staff training and completely re-audited the health and safety aspects of the factory. We decided that keeping ahead is better than trying to keep up! This trouble is keeping ahead of moving goal-posts.
New Product Development is still a challenge as we try to meet our customer’s needs while running the factory.
The main driving factors at the moment seem to be;
Exchange Rates: The market is just coming to terms with the weaker £ which is making UK Manufacturing increasingly attractive – especially against the $. However, it also means that Whey Proteins are still incredibly high against a year ago and the decrease in euro cost is not being passed on in the UK. I believe that Whey is rapidly losing its status as the leading protein in Sports Nutrition.
The Credit Crunch: Concerns about the credit crunch are driving prices down. Visits to the Gyms are reported to be down but sales of quality and value products seem to be holding.
Internet Stores – the increase in popularity in internet stores is having an impact on the market. As the stores hit larger volumes, the larger stores are discounting the brands and are looking at their own in-house brands. Their perception is that Brands make more margin than they really do and they overlook the cost of R&D and athlete support that many brands have got themselves into.
The result is that products are being driven away from quality towards manufacturing to a price – usually massively compromising quality. While this has always happened to some extent, this is becoming a widespread problem. Too much product is also being judged on taste and it is easy to make a product taste good – this issue is making it fit a nutritional need and still taste good. In simple terms, taste issues are supporting the cheap products.
We are responding by improving production efficiencies (we have an excellent Team who work hard to get more production out every day), offering products engineered for quality or cost, buying well and continuing to offer excellent customer service with prompt delivery. New Product Development is still the slowest part of the process.
The factory ran well last week – we are really up to full production again since the labeller arrived. We reviewed all the staff. With the web site up and running we are more focussed on where we should be, so we spend some time looking strategically at the position of the business and some time investigating/developing new products and future product/packaging innovations.
Strategically, we are positioned as powder blenders and are committed to filling powder products. Our mission is to contract manufacture of brand owners as efficiently and competitively as possible – providing them with the format and format innovations that they need. Powders use no artificial preservatives, have good shelf life, are more carbon friendly that liquid products, are more adaptable and are ideal for short to long runs. I often reflect that tea and coffee are predominantly sold as powders.
For liquid filling, we have spend some 10 years in the business and have partners who can fill for us, if required. This does not rule out specialist liquid filling if our customers demand it. But it does drive focus to our business.
We revised our company image last week with the new globe logo (incorporating the amino acid structure) and artwork. The web site was reviewed accordingly.