Sponsor - LK Global Manufacturing Systems (UK).
Marks & Spencer's insistence on products of the highest quality is renowned - an insistence that does much to explain the devotion to excellence encountered at R F Brookes' factory in Rogerstone, Gwent. Much of the factory is given over to the production of half a million meat-and potato-based convenience meals for the high-street retailer each week: shepherd's pie, cottage pie, roast potatoes, potato croquettes and so forth.
The factory's record of achievement is impressive: sales have grown at a steady 18% per year since 1980, and sales-per-employee are 21% higher than five years ago. An absolute focus on customer requirements plays an obvious part in this, as does a carefully-considered investment programme that has resulted in as high a degree of automation as is consistent with the demanding quality standards required. Ian Mayo, manager of B1 unit, is rightly proud of a recently-installed line that optically sorts diced potatoes, with rejects (those containing 'eyes' or other blemishes) being spat out by tightly focused directed air jets.