Ardo UK is a frozen food processing and packaging company with headquarters in Kent, UK. The company is part of the Belgian Ardo Group, which is one of the largest frozen food companies in Europe. The company has two sites in Kent; Charing and Headcorn. The Charing site underwent expansion to increase processing and packing capacity to replace the Headcorn site.

The expansion on the Charing site included the construction of a £15m building that consists of a state-of-the-art operation for the freezing and packaging of fruit, pasta, rice and vegetables for the retail trade and food service industry. The factory also includes a food store, offices and cold storage facilities.

The plans for the facility were developed in conjunction with the Carbon Trust to ensure that the facility would have a low environmental impact. Ardo UK managing director Stephen Waugh commented: "The redevelopment will result in additional versatility and flexibility to the Ardo UK operation, bringing on site the capacity not only to pack, but to handle new and unusual pack types, and it will mean far fewer lorry movements in the vicinity of Pluckley and Headcorn."

The planning permission for the facility was granted in mid-2008 after consultation with local residents. Construction was completed and the plant was officially opened in March 2010.

Training

The two Kent sites employ around 185 personnel and the company is keen to promote training for staff.

"The company is part of the Belgian Ardo Group, which is one of the largest frozen food companies in Europe."

Ardo has been highly active in the ‘Train to Gain’ programme, which is run by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC). Ardo has assisted over 60 employees to work towards gaining a Food and Drinks Manufacturing NVQ as part of its corporate responsibility commitment.

Inspection

In June 2008 Ardo UK was inspected unannounced by Ashford Borough Council Environmental department and passed the inspection with flying colours gaining an award for food hygiene and the prestigious ‘scores on the doors’ five-star award. The ‘scores on the doors’ is a food safety inspection programme supported by the Food Standards Agency where food businesses are asked to display a rating from zero to five stars on their doors or windows to show how well they are complying with food hygiene law.

New conveyors and packaging lines

In March 2009 during an upgrade to equipment at the Charing facility, Ardo UK asked Habasit Rossi to supply four plastic link conveyor belts to help improve efficiency. Previous belts used at the plant had caused problems with poor drive and incorrect sprocket engagement.

The plastic link belts from Habasit Rossi have solved the problem and are being used on four conveyors, transferring frozen vegetables in temperatures as low as -5ºC. Ardo UK engineering efficiency manager Trevor Sharp said: "Habasit Rossi’s belt lasted between 12 and 16 months, whereas competitor’s belts only last between three and four."

The plant is usually run on a 25/5 production line and the belts had to be changed on overtime, which can take up to 12 hours. The Habasit Rossi belts have allowed the reduction of maintenance labour costs by two days. The plastic link belts have positive drive and sprocket engagement with an open sprocket design that allows water to drain away and not freeze in minus temperatures. The belt range is constructed using modules moulded from thermoplastic materials, and connected with solid plastic rods (the all-plastic design gives a long service life). Belts are provided in multiple widths by using a brick pattern that confers strength and stiffness in the lateral and diagonal planes.

A new bulk packing line was installed at the factory in March 2013. It can handling up to 400 cases an hour, packing 10kg or 15kg boxes for industrial customers.

Contractors

Groundwork for the food store, cold room and office extension was carried out by JP Dunn Construction in a contract worth £1.1m. The main construction contractors were Charlcroft Construction and Charlcroft Food projects.

Expansion

The facility is undergoing another expansion, which is expected to be completed in autumn 2014. It will increase the storage capacity by over 4,000 pallets to a total of 23,200 pallets. The £4m expansion will increase the size of the facility by over 20%. Chalcroft will provide assistance with the design and planning application. It will also install sensor controlled energy efficient LED lighting and a space efficient mobile racking system.