A THIRSK company is investing £1.5 million in new equipment to meet increased demand for its products.

Inspired Pet Nutrition – the UK’s largest independent producer of dry pet food – is making the investment at its Dalton Mill site.

In late November, the factory achieved a record weekly despatch figure of 5,300 pallets.

Its Harringtons brand continues to be a top performer, growing 38 per cent year on year with nearly 5m additional sales as awareness and availability increases.

The investment includes additional robotic equipment on the site’s four production lines to help meet demand – particularly from own label customers – for two different flavours on a single pallet.

The four new lines will handle both ten kilo and three kilo bags and the increased automation will boost production capacity by some 100 per cent for the three kilo size and by 50 per cent for the ten kilo bags.

David Wilson, operations manager, said: “Previously, to meet customer demand for two flavours on one pallet, each flavour had to be manufactured separately on single pallets and wrapped.

“The pallets were then moved to another part of the factory where they had to be manually unloaded and re-stacked to combine the two flavours.

“The new robotic equipment – which is linked to a £500,000 multi-directional conveyor – now does this automatically as part of a single process.

“It can complete 21 pallet loads in an hour and is fully integrated with the factory’s central conveying system. Completed pallet loads are then transported to the firm’s nearby £7 million distribution centre.”

The system can handle supermarket-ready 600mm by 800mm pallets – often used to display goods in-store – as well as the traditional 1200mm by£1.5m 1000mm size.

The investment will enable the company to save up to £190,000 a year in labour costs linked to the previous double handling, while the more efficient use of production equipment will create nearly 50 hours of additional production capacity a week.

The firm plans to invest a further £500,000 in another gas-powered generator, with the opportunity in subsequent years to utilise waste heat from the equipment.

It will significantly reduce the firm’s reliance on the Grid and reduce electricity costs as output can be more closely linked to consumption, in addition to bringing associated environmental benefits.