Magazine article Management Today

Nichols Foods

Magazine article Management Today

Nichols Foods

Article excerpt

There's a vending machine in the boardroom of Haydock-based Nichols Foods, and should visitors require a coffee or a Pepsi, operations manager Martin Lee and managing director Gary Unsworth head straight for it. The company mixes and packages foodstuff products for the vending and catering sectors: day-to-day items such as coffee, coffee whiteners, cordials, vending syrups and juices. Although Nichols has its own brands, says Lee, it's important that the company can supply its customers with real consumer brands that people know and trust: Carnation coffee whitener and Silver Spoon sugar, for example.

In all, some 193 different products are made from 1,763 raw ingredients - which are variously mixed, blended or otherwise processed before being packed on a startlingly diverse range of machinery that can tackle anything from small catering sachets to drums of orange juice. Operating in an intensely price-competitive market, and with such a varied range of machinery, Nichols must capture every potential opportunity for efficiency. Every employee in the factory has had two days' training in Japanese-style continuous-improvement techniques, and the whole plant stops work for an hour a week to carry out this kaizen work.

Reducing set-up and changeover times was an obvious area of priority. On Line 9, filling line team leader Peter Stansfield's improvement group has so far cut 28 minutes from the 'worst case' changeover of 120 minutes - hot chocolate to coffee whitener. …

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