A SEVEN figured investment has been made by North Yorkshire dry pet food producer Inspired Pet Nutrition in a bid to a meet recent growth in demand.

The firm has spent £1.5 million on new equipment at its Dalton Mill site near Thirsk.

The investment follows a record weekly dispatch figure, achieved in November last year, when it sent out 5,300 pallets.

The firm’s Harringtons brand has been its top performer with 38 per cent year on year growth off the back of an additional five million sales.

As part of the investment, additional robotic equipment is being installed on the site’s four production lines to help meet demand – particularly from own label customers – for two different flavours to be combined on a single pallet.

David Wilson, operations manager at Inspired Pet Nutrition, 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 four new lines will handle both 10 kilo and 3 kilo bags and the increased automation will boost production capacity by some 100 per cent for the 3 kilo size and 50 per cent for the 10 kilo bags.

The system can handle supermarket ready 600mm x 800mm pallets - which retailers often use to display goods in-store – as well as the traditional 1200mm x 1000mm size.

The investment will also enable the company to save up to £190,000 every 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 is also looking to invest a further £500,000 in another gas-powered generator, with the opportunity in subsequent years to utilise waste heat from the equipment.

The new plant 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.