WD Irvin and Son (Irwins) is one of the best-known independent bakers in Northern Ireland. The company was founded in 1912 in Portadown and produces a range of traditional Irish breads for the UK market.

Irwin’s supplies a range of UK supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda, Somerfield, Waitrose, Morrisons) with brands of bread and cakes such as Irwin’s Brand (specialises in traditional Irish breads), Nutty Krust (Northern Ireland’s most popular bread first launched in 1963), Rankin Selection (Celebrity chef brand, launched in February 2002), Guinness Wholegrain Bread (produced with 17% real Guinness beer) and Howell House (cakes and biscuits company purchased in 2006).

The company is well known for the quality of its products, with a commanding brand presence and 33% market share in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The company has been steadily increasing the popularity of Irish bread products across the UK, with 40% of production destined for across the Irish Sea, at an annual turnover of more than £23m.

The company employs 450 people in Portadown, Northern Ireland and produces over one million units of loaves and morning goods per week. Products include pan and batch breads, potato farls, rolls, hotplate breads, speciality Irish bread, scones; muffins and pancakes.


With continuing success and demand for its products Irwin’s has repeatedly introduced state-of-the-art equipment at its 100,000ft² Portadown bakery. The company has dealt with Baker Perkins before and when there was need for a new moulder to increase production approached the equipment supplier again.

The company had been using a Supertex dough moulder from Baker Perkins, but this was being used for both plain and fruited doughs and the cleaning downtime required for changeover was decreasing the efficiency of the operation.

The result was that in April 2007 Irwin’s purchased a new Multitex dough moulder from Baker Perkins to handle the 400g and 800g plain loaves. The Supertex was retained for sole production of the fruited doughs.

The new dough moulder had already been set up by Baker Perkins prior to delivery and only required minor adjustments, after being installed by Irwin’s staff within 36 hours of delivery, before starting full production operations. Baker-Perkins has considerable experience and produced a custom set of factory settings for the machine prior to delivery.

There was an immediate increase in the quality of the plain bread products with use of the new machine, with the required characteristics of stronger sidewalls, white colour and improved texture being evident. The new Multitex has now increased throughput of production by around 25% compared to the Supertex.


As part of the continuing efficiency drive Irwin’s has also been looking at enterprise software to improve its business strategy. In mid-2007 the company contracted Lawson Software for the implementation of new business software systems at the bakery. These included QuickStep Food and Beverage and business intelligence on an IBM iSeries platform to improve the supply chain at the bakery, providing less administration and better monitoring.

“The new Multitex has now increased throughput of production by around 25% compared to the Supertex.”

The new systems will help to improve cost control and give better supply chain planning and execution, improved supplier relationship management and higher purchase efficiency.

Irwin’s had already seen the benefits of systems of this kind when it trialled the Lawson Opportunity Analyser and methodology in May 2007. This allowed the company to set better business performance targets and integrate this with the financial aspects.

Bill Brown, chief executive of Irwin, commented: “A key aspect of our growth strategy is based on maximising our internal efficiencies to deliver significantly enhanced service delivery across our customer base, which has seen rapid growth particularly within our export markets.

“We needed a solution that had the flexibility and functionality to scale with us as we grow across these important markets, which is why the QuickStep Food and Beverage was the right choice for us. Lawson has the industry-specific functionality and expertise we need to help us execute on our technology and overall business strategies faster and with greater simplicity.”