Food and Drink

Small improvements, big benefits


The evocative smell of rich dried fruits, exotic spices, and cognac mingled with sherry aromas and a recognisable presence of warm ‘home’ baking hovers around the Matthew Walker Christmas Pudding Factory in Heanor, Derbyshire.

A very British passion for these wonderful Christmas puddings is fed by all-year-round production at their Heanor facility. Millions of puddings are produced annually with the option of over 200 different recipes in a variety of different sizes. This variety places great pressure on production systems, personnel skills and machinery availability. Nick Garnett, Chief Engineer at Matthew Walker (a division of Northern Foods) is responsible for ensuring that production plant and equipment is fit for purpose.

Why Mathew Walker worked with MCP Consulting Group Ltd.

The Engineering and Maintenance network of excellence consists of a series of specialist training partners who have been selected for their ability to provide effective quality training and a well-established reputation for delivering high quality, food sector specific learning solutions.

“I now have a workable, simple-to-use and effective system in place to demonstrate to Group and to our customers that we have strategies in place to show we are achieving best practice”.

Nick Garnett, Chief Engineer at Matthew Walker


As part of the engineering and maintenance team’s ongoing efforts to improve the standard of the company’s maintenance operations MCP’s AMIS Assessment (3-day) was undertaken in early 2005. Nick Garnett’s requirement was “How to make improvements in a small company without spending recklessly and disrupting the business”.

Following the first assessment a 3-year plan was drawn up with the following aims:

2005 Develop a Strategy for planned maintenance; carry out a criticality analysis of all machines; identify spares for critical plant.

2006 Develop a work order tracking system and history using spreadsheets; assign plant numbers to all machines.

2007 Introduce key performance indicators (KPI’s) aim for lower levels of machine downtime; develop a spares and parts storage and recording system; establish plant history records based on spreadsheets.

“Our overall equipment effectiveness has improved by 5% 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!”

Nick Garnett, Chief Engineer at Matthew Walker

What Activity happened?

The Implementation – The Small Steps to Cost Efficiencies The process commenced with a series of searching visits, interviews, and Q&A sessions, which involved talking to the engineering department as to their perceived effectiveness. The results when collated and analysed resulted in Matthew Walker 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’. These cards are computer logged and a spreadsheet produced by 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.


Outcome – The proof is in the Pudding

The AMIS Assessments 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 by 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, start-up, and changeovers. This frees up the engineer and hands more responsibility to the production line team.

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.

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To find out more information, please call us on +44 (0)121 506 9032

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