AF Changemaker: packing a lot into our egg enterprise

My name is Martin Glinski. I’m the Managing Director of St Ewe Free Range Eggs. we specialise in free range eggs, so we farm, pack and sell free range eggs and pasteurised eggs.

What changes have you made?

Really excitingly we have just opened a new packing facility. So for probably about the first 14 years of packing eggs, or 16 years of packing eggs, we’ve done so on the farm. The business is growing quite rapidly, particularly over the last two or three years. It has meant we did not have enough space and capacity to pack the number of eggs we need to; we pack just over a million eggs a week. So we invested in a new-build packing facility. We had the help of some DEFRA grant funding to build our new facility which means our capacity to pack has gone up about 5 fold.

Our old site really was a limitation on the business. We can only package a certain number of eggs and we had got to that limit. Now we are in a new packing facility with lots of capacity, with a brand new grader which can pack probably about 5 times as many eggs as the old grader, so as you can imagine that is making a massive difference to the business.

We mainly built the new packing facility to allow for expansion. The original business is on the family farm, so you can imagine having a family farm that is getting bigger and bigger, with 5 or 6 lorries a day coming down farm lanes, going back to hen houses. Moving to a new packing facility would improve things like hen welfare b reducing disturbances, but also with avian influenza there was a risk in having both poultry and the packing facility on the same site. In the unfortunate event that one of our flocks caught avian flu we would have to shut down the whole packing centre, which was a huge risk for the business, so moving a few miles away has been designed to reduce that risk..

What are the results of the changes that you’re making?

We were up against it and short on space and equipment which was challenging. Are team were having to work with limited space, with limited facilities, and that can be quite difficult. One of the things that we did as part of the new site build was to really make sure that our team’s welfare facilities are top notch. It really appeals to them and that is exciting because they have got a lovely place to go for a lunch break, a nice area to work in with new equipment. It means that there is less down time, .new machines mean less frustrations with equipment, so that has had a really positive impact for our team.

We were concerned that because it would be new and different, that we might not take everyone on the journey with us. Actually everyone that has moved over to the new building has stayed which has meant we haven’t had to recruit. We are really pleased that our team has seen the benefit. They like the new facility, the new equipment is really great, so that is very positive. We knew moving to a better site, we should be more efficient, we were hoping for pushes to gains and productivity improvement. We see those coming through. We hope to pack more eggs in a day.

It’s always a bit nerve wracking when you do a new site, or a new project. You ask yourself ‘are we going to get the benefits that we are hoping for?’ In this case we are seeing that yes, we are absolutely getting the benefits.

How does AF help?

Cost prices have been a real focus this year especially as we’ve seen everything going up quite substantially.

Having the AF Group on hand for our fuel procurement is important as that is a big area of expenditure for us. We used to have a fuel card system, for example, for our lorries. We were having to go back to the fuel card company each week, so we were spending a lot of time chasing them down each week. At every opportunity they would put prices up.

With AF on our side we don’t have to do that; we trust the prices that come through each week. AF really does have a big impact on our business…. it’s the knowledge that somebody’s watching your back for you.

What next?

For us, it will be continuing on our journey of growth, but the most important thing is growing the right way. So it’s not just growth for growth’s sake, but doing it the right way which is important to us because the business is a family business. I’ve got Becks with me who, together with her parents, is one of the owners of the family business.

The most important thing for us is ensuring that we retain our family values. They were really important when the business started, it’s vital that they continue as the business grows. As we grow, we’re hoping to attract more farmers and producers to produce fabulous eggs for us, and we want them to share the same values as well… for our family of farmers to be on the same journey with us.

It’s the same with our customers. We really want our customers to buy into what we do as a business, to really appreciate the quality of the eggs we produce and appreciate the family values that our business has. So that is the future. It’s very exciting.