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.
The plant has created 150 skilled jobs in high-tech manufacturing for the North-East, while supporting more than 100 additional jobs 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.
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.
“Ashington has taken the best technology available globally, improved on it and put it all under one roof,” said Jeff Hope, Head of Manufacturing at Ashington. “It represents a significant step forward for the whole industry. I could not be more proud of the opportunity we were given to build this site in the beautiful county of Northumberland, and the loyal, committed and hardworking team who successfully delivered this incredible project.”
The official launch of Ashington coincides with the announcement of AkzoNobel’s 2018 Color of the Year, a curated color palette which the company’s color experts and global trend watchers predict will dominate sales in decorative paint markets for the coming year. The 2018 color will be Heart Wood, a “grown-up pink” that embodies comfort and ease. Heart Wood blends harmoniously with the materials from which it takes inspiration, giving consumers the freedom to balance softer shades with deeper, bolder tones.
“Ashington secures AkzoNobel’s future as a manufacturer of amazing high-tech products, including paints which improve air quality, increase energy-efficiency and protect against bacteria,” said Ruud Joosten, COO of Paints and Coatings at AkzoNobel. “That technical know-how is matched by our expertise in color, revealed today with the announcement of the AkzoNobel ‘Color of the Year’ 2018. Our inspirational trends and paint produced here in Ashington will together create beautiful, stylish living spaces all over the world.”
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.