Paints and coatings company AkzoNobel is celebrating the opening of the world’s most advanced and sustainable paint factory in Ashington, North-East England. The Northumberland plant, which cost more than $132 million to build, is the largest ever global investment by the decorative paints business and will become the new center of production for Dulux, the UK’s most popular paint brand.
“This is a significant investment in the UK and an important milestone for AkzoNobel,” said Thierry Vanlancker, CEO of AkzoNobel. “The UK is home to many of our world leading brands and the paint industry’s megabrand, Dulux. It is a vital strategic market for us. We are investing in highly innovative and sustainable production facilities such as Ashington to maintain and grow our leadership position, ensuring the best products for our customers in the UK and around the world. AkzoNobel’s growth strategy means that we will continue to lead the paints and coatings industry in both the strongest brands and the most advanced technology.”
The factory will be capable of doubling current UK production levels to 200 million liters per year, the equivalent of eighty million 2.5 liter cans of Dulux, in up to 33,000 different colors — approximately enough paint to redecorate every living room, bathroom, and kitchen in the UK.
The Ashington plant uses a variety of renewable energy sources, including photovoltaic cells and a biomass boiler, alongside an automated manufacturing process which saves water, waste, and energy. AkzoNobel estimates that the carbon footprint per liter of paint produced at Ashington will be reduced by 50% compared to the facilities it is replacing.
All manufacturing technologies within the plant are managed by a single integrated computer system. All key processes, from the ordering of raw materials to the shipping of finished products, can be initiated without operator intervention. A highly agile production system means the plant is capable of producing paint across the entire AkzoNobel range, which includes Dulux, Dulux Trade, Cuprinol, Polycell, Hammerite and Armstead.
The plant has created 150 skilled jobs in high-tech manufacturing for the North-East, while supporting more than 100 additional roles in the local supply chain. Covering an area of 100,000 meters, the factory has capacity to expand in order to support future growth plans.
“I’m incredibly proud to have attracted this major investment into the UK,” said Matt Pullen, Managing Director UK & Ireland at AkzoNobel. “Now the UK’s number one paint brand can boast the most advanced manufacturing facility anywhere in the world, securing 150 high skilled jobs in the North East.”
“The huge investment by AkzoNobel in Ashington has delivered the most advanced paint factory in the world, and an important boost to the local economy,” said Secretary of State for International Trade, Dr. Liam Fox. “As an international economic department we encouraged AkzoNobel to choose Northumberland because the UK has the right skills base, infrastructure and supply chains to grow their business. Their decision is a vote of confidence in the Northern Powerhouse as a destination for foreign investment, and demonstrates the rock-solid relationship between the Dutch and UK economies.”
Ashington will house the second Dulux Academy, a customized training center for painters and decorators to provide them with the expertise and know-how they need for business success. This follows the success of the first $1.9 million Academy in Slough, which has trained 1,600 people in its first year. AkzoNobel’s goal is to train and upskill 10,000 UK decorators by 2020, in order to play a part in tackling the skills shortage in the construction sector, which risks limiting the UK’s house building capacity.
Headquartered in the Netherlands, AkzoNobel employs approximately 46,000 people in 80 countries. Ashington is AkzoNobel’s second major investment in the North East, alongside its Performance Coatings plant at Felling, Gateshead, which employs more than 800 people, out of a total UK workforce of more than 3,500. Earlier this year, AkzoNobel announced an investment of $16.6 million in a technical innovation hub at its Protective Coatings Global HQ in Felling in Tyne and Wear. The new state-of-the-art R&D facility will enable more than 100 scientists to develop products in conditions equivalent to the world’s most extreme environments.