4 minute read with link to 'See Inside' the plant below
AkzoNobel celebrates milestone production target as Ashington site turns two
As its state-of-the-art manufacturing unit in Ashington celebrates its second anniversary, AkzoNobel has announced that the site has achieved a groundbreaking production milestone – producing one million litres of paint in just one week.
Hailed as the world’s most advanced, most sustainable paint factory, AkzoNobel Ashington utilises cutting-edge manufacturing technologies brought together from AkzoNobel sites all over the world.
Over the past two years, AkzoNobel has been systematically transferring manufacturing volume to Ashington from some of its older facilities to steadily build up the site’s resilience and product portfolio to become the new UK home of Dulux decorative paint. Built on ‘blue sky thinking’ and the consideration of ‘how good can it be?’, reaching the one million litre production target is a huge breakthrough for the site’s bespoke automated systems and the team who helped commission them.
Jeff Hope, head of manufacturing at AkzoNobel Ashington, said: “Designed to react to customer demand, the dual manufacturing systems at AkzoNobel Ashington makes the site the company’s most agile plant globally. The high levels of automation on site mean that we have access to an incredible amount of data for all of our processes. This means we can monitor every aspect of the manufacturing process to identify key areas where we can make improvements and ultimately increase production capacity whilst maintaining consistent quality.
“Hitting one million litres in a week is an incredible achievement which is testament to the outstanding culture of the fantastic team at the site and their relentless pursuit of operational excellence.”
AkzoNobel Ashington is capable of doubling the UK’s current paint production levels to 200 million litres per year, the equivalent of 80 million 2.5 litre cans of Dulux, in up to 33,000 different colours to serve the UK and European markets. At the time the one million litre milestone was reached, the site was producing white Dulux Valentine Colour Resist paint for the French market.
The plant, which was officially launched in September 2017, was a significant milestone in AkzoNobel’s history, creating over 160 skilled jobs for local people as well as a further 100 in the local supply chain.
Choosing to recruit based on a cultural fit with training then provided through AkzoNobel’s in-house ‘Kilbourn Academy’, AkzoNobel Ashington has created a highly-skilled and sustainable workforce who are dedicated to the site and integral to its success.
Iain MacPherson, process operator at AkzoNobel Ashington was the person who filled the paint tin which marked the millionth litre. He said: “Achieving the one million litre milestone has been a real team effort which everyone on site is immensely proud of.
“Since paint first started rolling off the production lines at AkzoNobel Ashington over two years ago, we have been working towards hitting our one million litre milestone, but in order to turn our dream into a reality, we’ve had to build and continuously improve very precise processes. It has been a lengthy and at times complex process, but the team have really pulled together and we were absolutely delighted to finally hit one million litres in a week. The atmosphere on site was absolutely electric, even at 4am after a night shift! I’m over the moon for AkzoNobel and very proud to be part of such an incredible team.”
Shirley Spoors, production manager at AkzoNobel Ashington, concluded: “As the plant was largely prototype in its construction, the operators on site have built and commissioned much of the plant from the ground up, becoming experts in how the site’s systems interact with each other in order to ensure a continuous flow of production.”
“Their expertise, combined with strategic improvements from a planning perspective, and enhancements to the site’s automatic processes devised by our engineers, have been key to opening up additional capacity in our production window to enable us to finally reach this milestone.”
Looking ahead to 2020 and beyond, the next target for the state-of-the-art plant is to demonstrate a further 50 per cent increase of capacity of 1.5 million litres per week.
“With an outstanding culture, there is no limit to what can be achieved here in Northumberland,” Jeff Hope added.
“This time last year, we were producing around 500,000 litres of paint per week. To have doubled our capacity in time for the site’s second birthday is absolutely phenomenal and I couldn’t be prouder of the team for making it happen.”