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Sweet success

For the latest in our series of case studies on FM in extraordinary settings, Sara Bean took a tour of the British Sugar plant in East Anglia to see how the EMCOR UK team is embedded into the production process

Determining the contribution made by FM to the success of an organisation can, in the traditional office workplace scenario be difficult to do, but EMCOR UK’s partnership with British Sugar ably demonstrates the integral part facilities management plays in the success of Britain’s leading sugar producer.

As the sole processor of the UK’s beet sugar crop, British Sugar handles around eight million tonnes of sugar beet each year. This produces up to 1.2 million tonnes of sugar, which goes to half of the UK’s domestic sugar market and the British and Irish food and beverage sectors. The beets also generate a range of other resources, including animal feed, topsoil, aggregate, liming products (fertiliser), bioethanol (used during the pandemic to produce hand sanitiser) and power generation.

For EMCOR UK, what began as a core soft service delivery contract in 2010 has morphed into a 15-year contract to provide a series of services across the manufacturer’s plants. This includes delivering traditional soft services such as cleaning, reception and security, and in a manufacturing setting, extends to encompass mechanical and electrical, conditioned based maintenance, grounds maintenance, pest control, and traffic marshalling of vehicles in and out of sites, all while meeting stringent statutory compliance standards, inspections and audits. More specialist services provided or managed by the EMCOR UK team include welding, industrial cleaning and scaffolding.

Explains Account Director Steve Thomson: “We cover around four and half million square metres in total for British Sugar, covering all four factories, one customer supply site, and all the considerable landscape across the sites. Even though we do the amenities, like reception and desk cleans, we are also out there in the factory and on every square inch of the plants. My operatives drive around on little diggers. There are not many feather dusters in British Sugar.

“With, for example the heavy industrial cleaning we use high water pressure jetting which deliver pressures of 20 thousand per square inch, enough to cut you in half with the pressure lancers, so it’s a highly dangerous job.”

The EMCOR contract covers all five of British Sugar’s Bury St Edmunds (one factory and one customer supply site), Cantley, Newark and Wissington locations. FMJ visited the latter to see the partnership in action. Here the FM staff are highly involved in all aspects of the production process, from helping to process the raw beets when they arrive at the plant through to the ‘product intervention teams’ who are trusted to interact with the raw product before it goes into the bagging halls. Touring the extensive site which covers a multitude of buildings and processing towers it’s interesting to witness how entrenched the FM team is into the fabric of the production process.

Elliott Fisher, Site General Manager at British Sugar’s Wissington factory, commented: “EMCOR UK has around 80 people on this site and British Sugar around 250 and it’s a highly automated site, so their team is integral to running the core part of the factory.

“They understand us as a business, because the team puts an effort into not only trying to understand what we’re trying to do but help us shape what we want to achieve, particularly meeting standards and compliance, so we work together very closely.”

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