Banham Poultry is coming out of the last year in lean and healthy condition with plans to build their business like never before.

The company with its factory, based in Attleborough, Norfolk, draws from a 60-mile radius for its agricultural supply chain.

There has been major investment at its headquarters with more to come, which follows a period of planning and growth since the company was bought out of administration in 2018.

Managing director Blaine van Rensburg has been overseeing a major turnaround strategy over the past 18 months, which has seen a significant amount of money invested in the processing systems.
Already £160,000 was invested in updating the factory’s product handling and despatch areas at the back end of last year. A further £500,000 investment in the next phase of the upgrade, currently underway that includes a complete overhaul of the site’s “outdated and dilapidated” odour abatement systems to drastically cut down on any smells from the operations.

Over the past 18 months, Banham Poultry has invested a total of £11 million in the 12-acre site as part of the modernisation process.

Mr van Rensburg said: “This significant programme of improvements to totally transform our Attleborough plant will include industry leading technology, putting it on par with the most modern in the sector.
“The work will not only enhance the facility, which I’m sorry to say had previously suffered from years of under-investment, but it will also benefit those living in close proximity to our site by reducing both noise and odour emissions.”

Banham Poultry was originally based in another site nearby, but when it was destroyed by fire in the early 90’s they moved to the current location. This was always intended to be a temporary measure while rebuilding on the original site, which already has planning permission. The new owners still wish to pursue this initiative when circumstances allow.

Banham is currently processing around 750,000 birds a week and the recent investment means they actually have capacity to produce more than 1.2 million chickens a week.
The pandemic closed the plant for just two weeks over the last year, ensuring they could more or less continue to provide the service they had always done, which comprises about 70 per cent retail, 20 per cent wholesale, and the rest to food services.

Since the company was bought out of administration, staffing levels have been rationalised from around 1,000 to the current workforce of about 650. One of the upsides to that is that the company is using far more of its own labour rather than using agency workers, which provides more continuity and consistency to the workforce.

Mr van Rensburg says, “When the business was bought out of administration, it had been underinvested in and wasn’t keeping pace with current technology, which meant it ended up falling behind a little.
“We started a significant upgrade programme which required very careful planning, especially when Covid hit, which required us to carry out separate installation processes for the new systems.”
Since then, he says, yields and efficiencies have improved dramatically which makes Banham Poultry far more competitive.

While the bulk of their output is for the domestic market, they do export into a number of foreign markets, notably Western Europe, Africa and Asia.

On the decision to continue operating at their existing facility, Mr van Rensburg says, “The intention was always to build a brand new facility. When the original factory burned down in the 1990s the company moved to its current location and the replacement plant was never built.

“We assessed plans for the new plant and began reimagining what was possible in order to make the new build future proof and the most efficient in the industry. This required a different approach and mix of capabilities than what we currently have. Projects of this scale will take at least 2 years to come to fruition. Whilst embarking on this design process, we needed to improve the operations at the current site.”
“We are in a very competitive market and we need to be a diverse supplier,” says Mr van Rensburg. “What we have done over the past couple of years is turned the business into a lean and low-cost operation.
“Going forward we are now going to capitalise on that and access the markets that are there for the taking which the company is now in a great position to compete in.

“It’s been a tough year for everyone and like many business, we’ve had to seriously knuckle down.
“But now we can say that we are a business that is in turnaround and it might be a cliche but the only way is up for us now, and that is a result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people.

“The team that bought the company out of administration has a huge passion for running this business well, and that has been borne out by the investment that has gone into Banham Poultry and continues to go in.
“There s now a very solid vision for the future for Banham Poultry and after years of under-investment and a lack of development it’s now definitely on the right path.”

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