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Princes Jobs Lost to Automation

shelves filled with tins of varying colours

Princes Group have announced plans to close two of their plants, in a move that will drive modernisation by relying more on automated processes.

The closure of just one of these sites in Chichester is set to affect 200 jobs.

Consultation underway

The planned closures begin with the site in Chichester, with the Newton Heath juice plant set to follow. A statement from a spokesperson at Princes stated that: “We can confirm we have commenced a consultation with employees at our Chichester site. We regret that under our proposal, we are forecasting the closure of the Chichester site by the end of 2020. This is not a course of action that has been taken lightly. We face unprecedented market conditions and it is crucial that we make significant changes to our operations to future proof our business. Princes Group has strong foundations for growth and will continue to invest in its UK and international operations. This will be a very concerning time for all those that will be affected by this announcement and their families, and we will be supporting them through this difficult period.

It seems that the decision was not one that was taken lightly by the Group management. However, they eventually deemed that it was a necessary move if they were to be able to compete efficiently in future marketplaces.

There has been no comment on whether those in food jobs at Chichester might be offered redeployment to other sites, though statements on this matter will be given once the staff consultation period has come to an end.

The plant has until now been making ambient pastes and spreads, canned pies, canned ready meals, cooking sauces, sandwich fillings, stocks, and gravies. These were both branded and own-label goods.

As for Newton Heath, the spokesperson said: “Regrettably we announced earlier this year that our Newton Heath site would close in 2020. Chilled juice production is being transferred to our ambient juice production site in Cardiff where a £60m investment is underway to boost capacity and capability in our soft drinks offering.”

Manufacturing review

Rumours about the closure of the plants in question began to swirl back in February, when it was revealed that Princes were undergoing a comprehensive manufacturing review. As part of their planned restructuring, there are a number of decisions that have already been announced, although they have not yet concluded the full review.

They will be investing in a new production line at their site in Long Sutton, which will produce canned ready meals. It will also be the home of a new raw materials warehouse and handling facility, as well as a new processing kitchen.

The company has also invested in a new anaerobic digester and a new manufacturing execution system at the same plant. This overhaul is all aimed at making the business more agile, responsive, and efficient. Once completed, they will be better able to reflect the needs of consumers and retailers in both their products and packaging, and their product quality and manufacturing controls will be increased.

It has not been made clear whether any new food manufacturing jobs will be introduced as a result of the changes, or whether the loss of 200 jobs will be absolute across the company’s overall employment figures. It also remains to be seen whether any new sites will be required for fully automated processes.

Princes currently runs 11 factories in the UK, encompassing their canned food and fruit juice ranges. The brands which they house include the eponymous Princes, as well as Aqua Pura, Jucee, Napolina, Branstons, and Crosse & Blackwell.