Last week, Dutch paints and performance coatings company AkzoNobel officially opened a new factory in Ashington, Northumberland. Costing more than £100 million to build, the company claims this is the world’s “most advanced and sustainable paint factory”.
The Ashington plant will be the new centre of production for popular paint brand, Dulux, and represents the largest-ever investment by the decorative paints arm of AkzoNobel.
There’s a lot to like about this smart factory – not least the fact that production line operations at the plant were formally kicked off by the carefully placed paw of Lewis the Dulux dog on a big green button, according to a report in The Telegraph.
For one thing, there is a high degree of automation at work here. At Ashington, all manufacturing technologies are managed by a single, integrated computer systems and all key processes, from the ordering of raw materials to the shipping of finished products, can be initiated without operator intervention.
But despite this, the plant will still provide 150 skilled manufacturing jobs, in an area of high unemployment, and support more than 100 additional roles in the local supply chain, according to the company.
It’s environmental credentials are worth noting, too. Ashington uses a variety of renewable energy sources, including solar photovoltaic (solar PV) cells and a biomass boiler. And its manufacturing process is geared up to save water, waste and energy, with the carbon footprint of a litre of paint produced there down by 50% compared to the facilities it will replace.
And, for its owner, it potentially represents a substantial leap forwards in productivity terms, with the company claiming that it will be capable of doubling its current UK production levels to 200 million litres per year.
As Jeff Hope, head of manufacturing at Ashington put it: “Ashington has taken the best technology available globally, improved on it and put it all under one roof. It represents a significant step forward for the whole industry.”
Meanwhile, AkzoNobel CEO Thierry Vanlancker, who has recently fought off a takeover attempt by PPG Industries and battled with shareholders over the decision to reject the deal, commented: “This is a significant investment in the UK – a vital strategic market for us – and an important milestone for AkzoNobel. We continue to invest in highly innovative and sustainable production facilities to maintain and grow our leadership position, ensuring the best products for our customers in the UK and around the world.”