Essity Prudhoe Mill, one of Northumberland’s largest manufacturing employers, welcomed a delegation from the Norwegian business group Lean Forum Nordvest to see how toilet rolls are manufactured.

The visit was part of a fact-finding mission to explore the principles and implementation of sustainable lean manufacturing amongst major players in the North East manufacturing community.

Coordinated by change management consultants Access2Growth, Essity was one of three local companies to participate, the group also spent time with Paragon in Sunderland and Ebac in County Durham.

Lean Forum Nordvest specialises in promoting lean manufacturing practices among businesses in Norway. Their visit to Essity offered a unique opportunity to gain insights into the innovative strategies and operational priorities that drive success in the tissue manufacturing industry.

Led by Tony Richards, operations director for UK manufacturing and site manager at Prudhoe Mill, the visit involved an introduction to Essity’s strategic goals and an overview of how the company optimises its operations to deliver high-quality tissue products efficiently.

The group toured production facilities where they observed the technical processes involved in tissue manufacturing and spent time talking to the operational teams. They were also introduced to Essity’s manufacturing and maintenance strategy, which is built on three core pillars of equipment ownership, skills development and the 5S methodology, a system essential to enhancing overall efficiency and product quality.

“We are honoured to host the Lean Forum Nordvest delegation,” said Tony Richards, Essity operations director for UK manufacturing. “Their interest in lean manufacturing aligns with our commitment to operational excellence and continuous improvement. We believe that sharing knowledge and experience is crucial to the growth of our industry and we look forward to future collaborations.”

The visit concluded with exchanges of insights between the Essity leadership team and the Lean Forum Nordvest delegation, which represented a range of companies including the petrochemical giant Shell, Jets Group, manufacturers of vacuum toilets and NCE Ikuben, specialists in digitalisation and sustainability.

Describing the visit to Essity, Gabriele Hofinger Jünge, R&D manager at NCE Ikuben, said “This was an excellent opportunity to share best practices and explore potential collaborations to further advance the principles of lean manufacturing between our respective industries.

“Essity is taking an innovative approach to driving excellence in tissue production, placing great emphasis on skills development, putting people at the heart of the process and developing their own talent. This visit provided an excellent insight into their dedication to advancing industry best practices against a challenging back drop of rising operational costs and a shortage of manufacturing and engineering skills.”

Joe Booth, director of Access2Growth, who organised the visit on behalf of Lean Forum Nordvest, added “The strength of manufacturing in North East England is truly worldclass, therefore bringing industry representatives together to collaborate in this way helps to fill knowledge gaps and learn from lived experience to improve efficiency, drive productivity and increase innovation.”