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Growth and investment for Faccenda Foods

25 September 2014

Faccenda Foods’ investment in their multi-million factory expansion hopes to boost efficiencies, increase capabilities and allow the company to grow. Food Processing visited the new factory in Telford to take a closer look.


Faccenda Foods is a chicken and turkey processing company with an annual turnover of £400 million. Established in 1962, the company has used its Telford site as one of its key processing factories, alongside its factory in Dudley, since 1999 to process chicken portions for retail and food service markets.  The company is now in the middle of a multi-million pound investment into expanding their production capacity at the Telford site in the shape of a 100,000 square foot building which is being constructed alongside it’s existing 56,000 square foot factory. The completed extension will accommodate the processing capability of the current Telford and Dudley operations with extended launch capacity and with capability for future growth.in the same location and room for the company to grow.

The company became Faccenda Foods in April 2014 after they acquired Cranberry Foods, who are the second largest turkey company in the UK, two years ago. Acquiring Cranberry Foods allowed the company to build relationships with Cranberry Foods’ suppliers and also added to their range. The plan was always to integrate the two businesses, rather than run them as two separate units. While the agriculture side of the industry is different, with a primary processing factory near Derby, the portioning and packaging and further processing side is aligned with chicken processing, making the transition easier.

“There are things we’re doing with chicken that we can transfer to turkey and help reinvigorate an industry that has perhaps suffered over the past decade,” says Andrew Brodie, HR Director at Faccenda Foods. “Obviously turkey are much bigger birds; our chickens are typically around two kilos while a stag turkey is 19 kilos and a turkey hen is around seven or eight kilos. But once the birds are portioned, the major difference is consumer demand. Chicken runs at a fast, even level throughout the year, while turkey has a major spike at Christmas. It’s that change of pace that makes the business complex.” As a result, the company starts planning for Christmas in January, as soon as the rush dies down. 

“We’re working on product development and innovation as we think there’s a lot of potential within the turkey industry,” continues Brodie. “We’ve already stepped up our weekly sales during the year because turkey is good value, healthy, low in fat and there’s so much you can do with it. We don’t want turkey to be a one-season food.”

Telford

Faccenda Foods currently processes two million chickens a week at its primary processing site in Brackley, before around half of the birds are distributed straight to customers and the other half comes to the Telford site. Once processed and portioned at Telford, where the front half of the chicken would be transported to Dudley for deboning and all retail breast fillet product is produced while the rest of the bird stays at Telford for processing. “Effectively, it’s become a factory with a 26 mile gap,” says Catherine Gormley, General Manager, Portions, at Faccenda Foods. “And between them, they’re processing a million birds a week, which is the current maximum capacity.”

The new investment, once complete, will enable Faccenda Foods to process 1.2 to 1.3 million birds a week immediately on two lines at the Telford site, giving the company an increased 20% capacity thanks to the additional 100,000 square foot expansion. It will also enable the company to bring all their processing to one factory, cutting down on their logistics costs between the two sites. The long-term goal is to eventually process two million birds a week, which the new factory will be able to accommodate. 

“We bought the Telford factory when it was almost brand new 15 years ago as part of an earlier business acquisition,” says Brodie. “The land next to the factory was a key potential source for future expansion and we always intended to extend when the time was right.” And with the current factory at maximum capacity, the decision taken to expand into that space was made last year and the project began last autumn. 

“The new factory was built with a long-term view to keep expanding,” says Gormley. “We’ve made optimal use of the space available with the new factory, because we didn’t want to build a factory and then regret not building it bigger. At the same time, you don’t want to build a great new factory and not have it running at full capacity. We kept building the business until there was a need to expand, and last year the time was right for us.”

The fully operational factory will see all on-line processes will transfer to the newer building, or the East Building, while in the current factory, or West Building, will be the products that require further processing. This of course means that the Dudley site will become vacant, but that fits with Faccenda Foods’ requirements as the company is expanding their convenience brand, the ready-to-cook products that are currently being processed with a third party, but the newly available space will allow Faccenda Foods to bring all that processing under their own roof and use their own factory. Their ready-to-cook meals enable consumers to cook chicken without handling the raw meat as it is cooked within a pack, with a variety of flavours. 

Cutting out the transportation between the two factories also allows Faccenda Foods to be more environmentally responsible by taking lorries off the road and lowering their haulage quota. 

Relocating and recruiting

In total, around 300 new jobs will be created at the new factory and the company has plan for a further 150 positions to be created in the new future, which would take their staff number to around 1,000. “Initially, it’s important for us to help relocate as many current employees from the Dudley site to the Telford site,” says Gormley. “We have been fortunate to work with a loyal and committed workforce and we want, where possible, for them to continue with us, so far we have had a great response and many of our existing employees are transferring to the new site. We still have a recruitment need as we need to plan for growth and we have been working locally on recruitment and are delighted with results to date.”

In addition, Faccenda Foods has a thriving graduate and scholar programme. “We’ve got good links with Harper Adams University, in nearby Newport,” says Brodie. “The university is only 10 minutes from the Telford site, so we actually sponsor students through their course and they come to work with us through their placement year. We’ve actually got a number of students here at the moment.”

The company has also realised the importance of launching an engineering apprenticeship for school leavers who want to gain their qualifications with Faccenda Foods. “I think a lot of companies have recognised that there are a lot of 18 year olds who are maybe rethinking going to university because of the cost, but still want a career,” Brodie continues. “It’s interesting that while we recruit food scientists, most of our graduate intake is engineering, maths and chemistry because fundamentally, our business is a long, complicated supply chain where the planning is complicated and also highly numerate.”

Investments

The total site investment at Telford will be just short of £35million upon completion. “We believe the development will give us something quite unique and will represent the most advanced portioning and packing plant in Europe,” says Gormley. “But it’s cutting edge, which not only is great for us as a business and for our products, but it also makes us an attractive employer. Food is a major UK manufacturing business, and clearly getting over that perception of engineers wanting jobs at automotive or aviation companies is important because there’s lots of exciting things going on in this sector. Being able to show people will help.”

The new factory

The first new development of the new factory is the cold store where the chickens come into the building, rather than using the external cold store that the company was utilising. With around 1300 pallet spaces, the company will use around 800 at first, which gives the company room to expand. Lines marked out on the floor show where forklifts will be moving. Dedicated forklifts will pick all day to or from the shelves, either depositing or lifting the product from the end of the aisles, where another forklift will move up and down the factory, picking and depositing from the ends of the aisles, which will make the cold store more efficient.

The chicken will be put into the intake bays and sorted by size for the birds to be picked and hung on the conveyoring system in the hang-on area. The bird is hooked onto the conveyor and hung upside down from the shackles.

Once the birds are on the cut-up line, a Stork Marel NT CUS, they’re passed around the factory on the conveyor system. The first part of the bird to be portioned is the wings, which are cut from the bird and taken to be retail packed or to be flavoured and frozen for the wholesale market. 

The bird is then weighed without its wings, which allows Faccenda Foods to weight grade the other parts of the bird. Certain assumptions are made off a yield, which is how it’s decided what pack it will be placed into. From the weight grade, it’ll be decided whether the portion will go into frozen, rotisserie or fresh retail pack. 

The next slice is the crown of the bird, leaving just the waist and legs on the shackle. Based on the weight, the crown will drop into the correct weight section. The crowns are either kept together or sliced and sat on the breast filleting line. The machine makes the first cuts away from the bone, and operatives make the clean cut of fillet before the breast goes onto the belt. Anything that needs trimming is removed and goes into the manufactured market. If the breast doesn’t require trimming, it sits on the belt for picking by the Stork Marel robo batcher. Every fillet passes through the vision system, which takes an image of the size of the fillet and its weight, as well as its position on the belt. As it goes towards the robot, the arm will select however many fillets it needs for the tray with the right weight, and runs at a speed of 120 pieces per minute.

A major change Faccenda Foods have made with the new processing line is to A grade the chicken at this point, so if there are any defects, those fillets are removed before packing. The packs are then dressed by operatives who make sure that the packs are free from residue or anything else on the edge of the packs, otherwise the pack won’t seal correctly. Then the trays go off for sealing and packaging.

On the next line, the dark meat, the legs, thighs and drumsticks, are sliced according to what is needed. They then pass through an Ishida multihead checkweigher and dropped down to the required packs. The drumsticks are weighed by the checkweigher and only the weight required will drop into each pack before it goes off down the retail line.  

Retail packing is taken care largely by Mondini tray sealers with labelling being provided through Bizerba. The PMS sits over the labelling kit and ensures that labels are verified. As well as this there are sensors on some lines to detect defects. This is essential as Faccenda have replaced manual case packing with robots on some key lines using Ishida and Abar systems. The process in the factory is completed by a distribution conveyor system which immediately takes away finished cases to the chilled despatch warehouse, eradicating pallets and MHE from factory areas. The system has been designed, manufactured and installed by LAC conveyors.

In the warehouse the product is logged into Faccenda’s new WMS system from INVAR which then allocates the pallet a place in the 1400 pallet racking. Faccenda use VNA pallet trucks and the system allocates the workload to maximise their efficient movement. 

“There’s quite a lot of automation going on in here now,” says Anne Pritchard, Project Manager at Faccenda Foods. “The increased flow and design has made a safer and cleaner factory environment and has removed some repetitive tasks. Additionally there’s less handling of the product, which not only improves hygiene but keeps the product at a steady temperature.”

Much of the new technology comes from suppliers that Faccenda Foods have worked with before. “We’ve got the base knowledge, and the new machinery allows us to build on that,” says Gormley. “The machinery is cutting edge, but we already know how to run it and how to maintain it. It gives us the best of both worlds and the engineers are excited by the new technology. We’ve used our many years of experience with different plant suppliers to choose what works best for us. The company has spent years building relationships with equipment manufacturers, and one of the benefits of this is we enjoy great service and when you’re making retail packs at the rate we do that is vital.”


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