Akzo Nobel has officially opened the world's most advanced and sustainable paint plant, in Ashington, in the UK. The hi-tech facility - which cost more than €100 million to build - represents the largest-ever global investment by the company's Decorative Paints business. It will become the new centre of production for its leading UK paint brand, Dulux, following plans announced in 2011 to consolidate production and close its Prudhoe and Slough sites.
The Ashington plant uses a variety of renewable energy sources, including photovoltaic cells and a biomass boiler, alongside a highly automated manufacturing process which saves water, waste and energy. The company estimates that the carbon footprint per litre of paint produced at the site will be reduced by 50% compared with the production facilities at the plants it is replacing.
"This is a significant investment in the UK - a vital strategic market for us - and an important milestone for Akzo Nobel," said CEO Thierry Vanlancker. "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.”
The factory will be capable of doubling Akzo Nobel's current UK production levels to 200 million litres a year - approximately enough paint to redecorate every living room, bathroom and kitchen in the UK. Covering an area of 100,000sq m, the facility also has capacity to expand in order to support future growth plans.
Akzo COO of paints and coatings Ruud Joosten added: "Ashington secures Akzo Nobel's future as a manufacturer of cutting-edge products, including paints that improve air quality, increase energy efficiency and protect against bacteria. We have taken the best technology available globally, improved on it and put it all under one roof, ensuring that this new facility represents a significant step forward for the whole industry."
Ashington will also house the second Dulux Academy in the UK. The customised training centre is designed to provide painters and decorators with the expertise and know-how they need for business success. The first academy, in Slough, has already trained 1,600 people.
The opening of the Ashington facility comes hot on the heels of news about a restructure at the Dutch paint firm and the departure of its CFO, Maëlys Castella, for health reasons. The company issued a profit warning, blaming cost inflation and currency headwinds for not achieving the €100 million jump in EDIT it had intially forecast, after recently rejecting a takeover by US rival PPG Industries. Akzo added that it was already taking steps, including increasing selling prices and other additional cost-control measures, with a view to delivering an EBIT that exceeded its 2016 figure. The restructure announcement follows the recently communicated changes to Akzo's Executive Committee, including the appointment of Ruud Joosten as chief operating officer and David Allen as chief supply chain officer.
Maëlys Castella, chief financial officer and Member of the Board of Management will step down due to health reasons. Ms. Castella is now on a leave of absence but is anticipated to return to the company in a senior management role upon her recovery. Akzo CEO Ton Büchner also stepped down in July due to health reasons and was replaced by Thierry Vanlancker.