How Habasit UK and United Biscuits worked together in the aftermath of devastating floods.

The first weekend of December 2015 saw the UK hit by some of the worst weather it had ever seen. The North West of England was battered by a severe front that had raced in from the Atlantic, which came to be known as “Storm Desmond”. In just 24 hours over 300 mm of Water fell from the skies over the region of Cumbria, leaving huge swathes of some of the most beautiful country side in Britain submerged.

The images of the city of Carlisle, which was left virtually underwater, were seen around the globe. Scores of homes and businesses suffered serious damage, one of those being one of the area’s largest employers, the United Biscuits factory, based close to the city centre.

The floods hit the factory on the evening of December 6, with water levels of up to one metre being reported, devastating the production lines which at their peak could produce around 250,000 biscuits per hour.

With the factory facing a significant short-term closure whilst the clean-up and repair operations took place, UB had to face up to a difficult period, with the costs associated of getting the plant back up and running potentially running into the hundreds of thousands of pounds. There was over 500 tonnes of debris to be removed from the site before the assessment of the true damage could be carried out.

Early on in the operation, Habasit UK were called in to help with the enormous task facing the customer. Charlie Bell, National Accounts Manager, explains how things developed:

“We were initially contacted by members of the engineering management team on Monday December 7, the morning after the flooding had occurred. As UB Carlisle have their own in house belt fitting team, our initial task was to inspect and assess the damage to vulcanising presses and ancillary equipment for them to be added to their insurance claim.

The second and more involved task was to determine exactly what belt materials were needed and the sequence of scheduled replacement which had to be planned in line with the wider repair and rebuild of the facility. Working in close co-operation with those on site, we were able to demonstrate huge levels of flexibility in line with the dynamic nature of the clean-up operation.

Once the site was given the all-clear, UB needed to be in a position to start repairing the damaged belts on site as soon as possible. As some of the broken vulcanising equipment couldn’t be replaced immediately, we were able to offer the loan of some of our presses.

UB have placed a great deal of trust in Habasit to assist them through this particularly difficult time. Thankfully we have had an excellent working relationship with them over a number of years. Hopefully the way we have worked together through this particularly difficult period of time will only see that relationship enhanced.”

The temporary closure created a lot of media coverage about a potential “biscuit shortage” in the UK caused by the closure, so UB were obviously keen to get the production lines up and running as soon as possible. By supplying over 2500 m of belting as well as a host of ancillary products and presses, Habasit UK helped the customer to start the lines rolling again at the start of February, with the factory back to full production by the middle of March, just 13 weeks after being underwater. Despite “Desmond” being more than a storm in a teacup, the collaboration between Habasit and UB has ensured that there are still biscuits on the tables of homes around Britain.

STEPHEN CLARKSales Support Administrator

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