Denca Helps Peanut Butter Run Smoothly for Duerr’s

Duerr'sDenca has completed the automation of the control system for Duerr’s new peanut butter facility in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester.

Having been manufacturing peanut butter at its original Old Trafford site for almost thirty years, Duerr’s had found that a number of factors had conspired to make a move to a new state of the art facility essential. First of all, with increasing demand, it had simply outgrown the old site on which Duerr’s have been manufacturing since the 1881. Secondly, the company needed a location with the potential to work three full shifts as the original site, in a residential area of Old Trafford, was effectively restricted to one. Thirdly, some of the original equipment had become obsolete with its instruction manuals, in the event of breakdown, lost in the mists of time.  Finally and possibly most important of all, potential nut allergies have lead to tighter regulations which now demand that the Company’s peanut butter facility be completely isolated from its other manufacturing facilities.


The total cost of the new facility came in at a hefty £2.5 million. The location selected on an industrial site in Wythenshawe ticked all the boxes providing a separate location for peanut butter production and, with no residential neighbours’ sleep to disturb, the potential for round-the-clock shifts. Work on the new facility began in November 2009 with 85% of the original equipment being recovered from the Old Trafford site. On the automation side, however, everything was to be brand new. And that’s where Denca came in.


Having worked closely over a period of 3-4 years, the two companies had established a firm bond of trust. If Duerr’s wanted to get things done, it certainly felt it knew who to turn to. And Denca’s work at Duerr’s jam, honey and marmalade processing facilities had made the company a natural choice for handling the automation of its new peanut butter facility.


If Denca’s approach can be summarized in a few words those words would be: ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’. The secret of Denca’s success, in other words, lies in the thoroughness of its approach, leaving no stone unturned, nothing unchecked and absolutely nothing left to chance so that, on the day, and at the time, production is due to begin, production, well, begins.

So the first thing the Denca team did was to meet with their Duerr’s counterparts at the old Old Trafford site to assess the problems and challenges that lay ahead. Probing questions were asked to ensure that the solution would be as user-friendly as possible. A P&ID (process and instrumentation diagram) was produced enabling an exact price for the project to be arrived at along with a single line diagram and IO list specifying all the aspects of the project Denca was going to interface with.


The program was then written in HMI software and the control panel built and rigorously tested prior to installation. Two simulations were conducted to ensure that nothing had been overlooked (everything was found to work virtually right first time). And a Siemens S7 PLC with three racks was deployed with Mitsubishi inverters as part of the panel.

The next step involved getting the panel down and putting the cables in. A ladder rack was installed and the cables dropped through the ceiling using stainless steel trunking. All the wires were tested and power upchecks conducted. While the sensitivity of the environment demanded that all cable ties should be metal detectable.

Denca’s involvement also extended to the filling and packaging side of the facility with the automation of between 10 and 12 conveyors introducing automation to this part of the process for the very first time.

All in all, a large team was deployed on site with no less than ten electricians. While one of the major challenges involved positioning the control panel into a necessarily confined space.

In addition to getting things running smoothly from a technical perspective, however, Denca never lost sight of the importance of gently weaning the facility’s operators off a process that involved manual adjustment on to one in which automation involved the simple push of a button. Not only that but Denca’s programmer spent a full week with the operators on site to make sure they were familiar and comfortable with the new system.


For Duerr’s, automation of the new plant has proved a major success.

Not only did everything run smoothly from the very first planning meeting to the first push of the button that sent the company’s scrumptious peanut butter product coursing down the lines. But Denca, just as significantly, completed an already tight six-week schedule of work in a mere four weeks, maintaining production levels through a shorter period of shutdown than had been previously anticipated.

The new facility is the only purpose-built peanut butter factory in the UK with a process at the cutting edge of controls technology and an output of, on average, a whopping 2.5 tonnes of smooth and crunchy peanut butter an hour serving both Duerr’s brand and own label products.

And, just as Duerr’s mouthwatering product flows smoothly along the new production line, so do the plaudits continue to flow in for Denca’s contribution to making everything in the process run smoothly with Duerr’s Chief Engineer Nigel Jones commenting that: ‘Everything we asked them to do, they did it. And every hour we asked them to work they worked’. Duerr’s Project Engineer Roger Hinchcliffe, meanwhile, adds: ‘We simply knew it would happen without a hitch. And, sure enough, when we pressed the button at 8am on that very first morning we made peanut butter’. While Nigel adds: ‘I really will take this achievement to my grave. We’ve built the entire factory from scratch. We’re so proud of what we’ve got. And we certainly couldn’t have achieved it without Denca’.

But, while all these fine words might be very gratifying, Denca has no intention of resting on its laurels. Quite the opposite in fact. Because the company is determined to ensure that the legacy of its good work goes on. To this end, Denca has organized a monthly working relationship meeting with Duerr’s to ensure that things continue to run smoothly at the new plant while Denca’s Teleservice technology provides remote access to enable its engineers to deal with any potential glitches on the spot.


As a fifth-generation family business, with a family tradition of excellence stretching back over 120 years, Duerr’s has become one of those very rare things: a true British institution.

The company was founded upon the vision and foresight of one man, Fred Duerr, and one woman, his wife Mary, who began making preserves in her own modest kitchen in Heywood near Rochdale to supply the local Co-operative.

But, while Mary did the cooking, Fred would lay claim to his share of the limelight by pointing to a shrewd approach to fruit buying and, most significantly, a ‘secret method’ of fruit preservation that enabled it to be kept for longer.

In 1884, Fred raised the capital to build his first factory in Guide Bridge, which he swiftly outgrew, eventually moving to a purpose-built factory in Old Trafford which cost him the princely sum of £1,315-16s-4d!

In the years between then and now the company has grown apace thanks in part to a highly innovative approach to preserving technology which, for example, saw the company pioneering the method of vacuum-sealing jars to retain the natural flavour and colour of the fruit and allow the jam to keep indefinitely. While, in 1991, ever mindful of its customers’ health and safety, Duerr’s became the very first company to introduce a tamper-evident button cap and shrink sleeving.

In 1995 Duerr’s moved into its new 70,000 square foot warehouse in Floats Road, Wythenshawe, installing a new state of the art jam production line at the site the following year with all office staff moving to ultra-modern offices at the same location in 2001-2 and the final decision to relocate all its operations from Old Trafford to Wythenshawe after 115 years.

Today, Duerr’s remains very much a family business with its principal customers the major multiples with products sold both under the Duerr’s label and the multiples’ ‘Private labels’. The company’s expansion has made it one of the UK’s top three jam manufacturers (and the largest ‘independent’) with turnover of £50,000,000, a production line of over half a million individual products every day, a 15% share of the jam market and no less than 30% of the peanut butter market.

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