As I write this, we are coming to the end of further investment.
In October 2013 the last unit in our block came available and the opportunity to own and control the whole unit was too great so we took this on. It includes more offices and warehouse space. We have been incredibly lucky as the other units we have taken over have not been used that much so little was needed to be done to integrate them into the plant. This has been racked out recently to integrate it into the goods-in warehouse.
We have further upgraded the line installed in 2012 to increase throughput.
We launched some 50 products last month. To achieve this we are streamlining NPD – although are still catching up with some products.
We are now focussing on further streamlining production and staff development. We are coming up to our triennial ISO 9001 and 22000 review which will make July busy with 5 days of Audits alone.
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.
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.