Food & Drink

Making improvements without spending recklessly


The evocative smell of rich dried fruits and spices mingles with sweet aromas is the recognisable presence of warm ‘home’ baking that hovers around one of the leading dessert factories in the UK.

A very British passion for these traditional desserts is fed by all-the-year-round production at the facility. Millions of desserts are produced annually with the option of over 200 different recipes and varieties. This variety places great pressure on production systems, personnel skills and machinery availability.

The Need – Best Practice Benchmarking

The need was “How to make improvements in a small company without spending recklessly and disrupting the business”

It was five years previous that the Chief Engineer was asked by their parent company, to undertake an asset management audit to help develop a best practice benchmark. The entire Groups’ businesses were involved in the project which initially focused on sharing best practice across a wide number of sites, some with similarities in equipment which were autonomous in products and processes.

Before the audit, the plant ran like many others with basic systems, word of mouth, anecdotal evidence of possibly machine or process problems and a more reactive approach to breakdowns or downtime.

This worked reasonably well, but with the increasing demands of health and safety legislation, production cost savings, and traceability audits as demanded by key customers and suppliers; the need was evident that a fresh approach was taken.

The Chief Engineer contacted MCP Consulting Group Ltd, knowing MCP had developed The AMIS Assessment and international benchmarking service in 1987. Since then the service has been refreshed a number of times and used by over 4000 sites worldwide to measure maintenance and asset management performance. It is now recognised as the leading international benchmarking audit, offering meaningful and tangible comparisons with other companies operating similar businesses.

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The Implementation – The Small Steps to Cost Efficiencies  

The process commenced with a series of searching visits, interviews, and Q&A sessions, which quizzed the engineering department as to their perceived effectiveness.

The results when collated and analysed resulted in the client implementing a number of important improvements.

Plant Register

The need for a plant register was the first step, where every piece of process and production machinery and major instrument was recorded and numbered, with its basic history logged and a maintenance programme prepared.


The engineering department was restructured with dedicated production engineers responsible for the ‘pre-cook’, and ‘post cook’ sections. An Improvements/Project Engineer and Planned Maintenance Engineer were also part of the overall restructuring.

Logging Information

Each request for equipment checking, repair, service or failure is logged on an individual ‘job card’. This provides details of:

  • The machine
  • The fault
  • The reason for the repair
  • The initiator of request,
  • The engineer responsible
  • Time taken and result

The system of having specific engineers responsible for a certain plant area now means that the correct person is called for by name rather than a general request for an ‘engineer’.

The cards are computer logged and spreadsheet produced per week of operational effectiveness against a % score. Major discrepancies are easily spotted and over time the results form a comprehensive record via a KPI spreadsheet at the end of the year.

Each key machine operator was given individual time sheets, split into 5-minute intervals. These detail process, downtime and other events leading to lost production. Again these were analysed and scrutinised for areas of improvement.


The Benefits – The proof is in the Pudding

The AMIS Assessment help with planned maintenance and demonstrate to major customers that quality control systems are in place. Although still a paper-based system this is seen by customers as more relevant than just computer records as it is a bottom-up-record of what is actually occurring.

The company also now undertakes test recall traceability programmes where if a ‘what if’ scenario occurs the offending machine or process can be identified and isolated.

Part of MCP’s programme was to develop operator asset care. Here production line staff, under the authority of their supervisor, are taught to handle simple technical problems typically concerned with hygiene, startup, changeovers and system tripping. This frees up the engineer and hands more responsibility to the production line team.

The audit process not only involved engineering but their production colleagues. It is often the case that these two disciplines have contrasting agendas, but by early and close involvement potential conflicts are avoided. Likewise, the production staff are part of The AMIS Journey by participating in feedback sessions and training. Typically progressing from NVQ 2 to NVQ 3 in fault finding, problem-solving and asset care.

Now with 4 audits ‘under their belt’, the Chief Engineer looks back at the progress made with the help of MCP. “I now have a workable, simple-to-use and effective system in place to prove to Group and to our demanding customers that we have strategies in place to show we are achieving best practice. Our overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) has improved and I have tangible figures on available machine time and a criticality analysis of key plant. I never let my team forget that maintenance is also about preventing contamination which could have a disastrous impact on our business, potentially costing thousands of pounds per event!

The programme recognises us as innovators in best practice, enhanced machine utilisation, cost-effectiveness and end customer satisfaction. Not just based on hearsay but on the internationally benchmarked AMIS Assessment. ”

Chief Engineer

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