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Beverage manufacturer scoops Best Factory award

12 October 2012

It’s official, the best factory in Britain is Aimia Foods’ manufacturing plant, according to judges at the 2012 Best Factory Awards. The family-owned business, based in Haydock in North West England, was recognised in a recent ceremony in London winning 4 of 12 awards.

Aimia Foods beat off tough competition from more than 100 UK manufacturers including many blue chip giants to scoop the main prize for Best Factory (overall), Best SME (Small Medium Enterprise), Best Household and General Product’s plant and Best People Management.

It has a brilliantly well-conceived business model: a broad-based business, supplying 548 customers in retail, foodservice, cash and carry, and vending markets, as well as partnering major brand holders with outsourced manufacturing services. It has built a separate, allergen free bespoke facility for one of these.

Working closely with manufacturing, its R&D team has also developed many of its own brands or producedbrands under license including No Fear, Galaxy Hot Chocolate, WeightWatchersHot Chocolate and Café Nueva; each of which have been brilliant successes in their respective fields.

The Aimia business is split over three adjacent sites, totalling approximately 250,000 sq ft. The company has invested heavily in new production techniques and production lines including acontinuous agglomeration facility, a UK-first of its kind introduced in 2010 to strengthen the company’s dry powder processing capabilities. By creating granules (or ‘agglomerates’) from powders, the facility can ensure a free flowing, dust-free process which provides benefits to the trade and the consumer alike.

As the company supplies market leading branded and own label dry powder products, including hot chocolate, milk powders, coffee and soup, its investment in the agglomeration equipment ensures the end product offers superior dispersal, enhanced appearance and improved product consistency. The new plant helped Aimia to become the ultimate one-stop-shop, providing brand holders and customers with a full service offering. Aimia’s unique business model provides services ranging from procurement, product development, processing, packing, sales, marketing and distribution.

The Best Factory Awards judges were also impressed with a state-of-the-art pouch packing line, added to the factory in 2011, which manufactures various packaging formats and provides options for Aimia’s own brand products and prospective companies looking for an outsourcing solution. Aimia’s innovative pouches,designed for the retail andout-of-home sectors, are capable of providing bespoke pack size and product solutions.

All this, on top of the existing production facilities, is supported by a new management production system, which enables management and engineering teams on site to monitor progress against planned output in real time. Bottlenecks and problems on production lines can be avoided using the reporting system’s live management information feed.

It’s not just the investment in machinery that helped Aimia to win the Best Factory of the Year award. The investment in training and development of its 250 staff impressed the judges, who also noted the clear communication, constant encouragement and an investment in skills, which had helped supercharge workforce performance.Six Sigma and Kaizen processes are used to provide continuous efficiency improvement. Judges commented positively on Aimia’s ability to compete effectively with International plants using a combination of innovation, quality management and technology to ramp up productivity.

Rob Unsworth, Managing Director at Aimia Foods said: “We’ve worked extremely hard with new investments, state of the art management systems and a constant focus on innovation for several years. To win the top BFA award for best factory plus three category awards is an enormous accolade and a credit to our very talented and hardworking team.

“We truly believe in recruiting and retaining the best talent possible and investing significantly in training and development. That is the key to our success, whether it’s offered to a new apprentice or a long serving employee.”

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