AMSTERDAM — As its manufacturing unit in Ashington, U.K., celebrates its second anniversary, AkzoNobel has announced that the site has achieved a groundbreaking production milestone — producing one million liters of paint in just one week. AkzoNobel Ashington utilizes 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 U.K. home of Dulux decorative paint.

 “Designed to react to customer demand, the dual manufacturing systems at AkzoNobel Ashington makes the site the company’s most agile plant globally,” explained Jeff Hope, head of manufacturing unit at AkzoNobel Ashington.

 “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 liters 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 U.K.’s current paint production levels to 200 million liters per year, the equivalent of 80 million 2.5-liter cans of Dulux, in up to 33,000 different colors to serve the U.K. and European markets. At the time the one million liter 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 dedicated to the site and integral to its success.

Iain MacPherson, Process Operator at AkzoNobel Ashington, was the person who filled the paint tin that marked the millionth liter. He said, “Achieving the one million liter 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 liter 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 has really pulled together, and we were absolutely delighted to finally hit one million liters in a week. The atmosphere on site was absolutely electric, even at 4 a.m. after a night shift! I’m over the moon for AkzoNobel and very proud to be part of such an incredible team.”

 “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,” said Shirley Spoors, Production Manager at AkzoNobel Ashington.

“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 plant is to demonstrate a further 50% increase of capacity of 1.5 million liters 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 liters 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.”