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.
The year seems to have got off to a really busy start. We are continuing to grow with intrinsic growth of existing products, new products from existing customers and new enquiries. The main challenge for us is getting sufficient ingredients to meet our customers’ demands and this is slowing New Product Development as we are refusing to take on new projects if we cannot secure enough ingredients to meet future foreseeable demand.
The enigma is whey protein which is the least of our supply problems but the price keeps going up. The price is expected to fall going forward but it was not expected to get this high either. It seems a great deal is being used in China in infant formula and if this continues we can expect supply to become shorter. I think the industry need to recognise that there are some good vegetable proteins which work as well as whey at a much lower cost and higher health benefits. Time will tell.
The Earthquake in Japan has affected Amino Acid supplies. Cocoa has also been scarce. I seem to spend a lot of my time buying forward these days to get the contracts in place.
Most R&D is now done in house – we built a small lab at Christmas. This is more for time saving as the run to the lab was a 2 day job before.
Demand from new start-ups is increasing but we are having to conclude we are not always best placed to deal with these. We make bespoke product with bespoke flavours and deliver in 3 days from order. To make this worthwhile we really need weekly demand and are selecting new projects which are likely to grow to reasonable volumes so they will benefit from our service.
Work on our ISO Quality Management System is largely completed and we are just waiting for the auditors. This has been a major investment for us although all the systems were in place – we can now prove the systems are in place too.
We are also pursuing technical innovations going forward to continue to support our customers in this rapidly changing market.
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.
We continue to progress well , even if things are a little hectic. We have looked at in mould labelling the Jokey Buckets with Bob. This is very exciting and not that expensive if the volumes are there. It will be necessary to add a small flavour sticker, but for a full integral label, this is a small price to pay.
We moved into the office last weekend and are gradually getting more tidy. This is the 3rd Move since November and I feel really settled (although we are still waiting for some Desk parts from Furniture at Work which were ordered last November too.) We are getting everything as we want it and I am working better again. It has been hard running the business and building while in a temporary office.
We had a major quality Audit last week which went well and gave us a chance to test our new procedures and factory layout. It went really well and we are really proud of the quality of the factory we now have.
Response times are still a little slower than I would like but I am still running the factory as well as responding to enquiries, sorting procedures, personnel and HSE requirements. I find work goes better when the staff have gone home! Lucas spent last night reading fork lift procedures and decided to test the truck this morning and lifted the roller shutter door off its hinges! He was mortified but we fixed it later.
A clock card machine arrived today to help record attendance. It is fitted if not yet working fully. It will link to the computer and the payroll – I am sure it will be great when it is working!
After 6 months the council gave us a new address this week – Harrison Court – which helps as there were other 3, Hilton Business Park addresses and likely to be more in the future. Harrison Court is named after Chris Harrison who worked for Rolls Royce developing Merlin engines in the War and then joined hte RAF to fly Mosquitoes. He now lives in Australia. We now hope to get a postcode in the next 6 weeks!
The web site seems to be working well and appreciate any feedback about what you would like to see.