Our obsession with the world’s finest pet food and the world’s finest ingredients has led us to invest more than £80 million to build a state-of-the-art Ingredients Kitchen that tests, processes and stores all of these fantastic ingredients and finished products.
This investment will guarantee that partners can have complete confidence in the provenance and traceability of all recipes that are produced at GA.
As we currently work with more than 700 ingredients and more than 800 different formulas, the challenge has been to automate a very complex system. In true GA style, this has resulted in significant investment and the collaboration of many organisations from around the world to provide a cutting edge solution for all of our partner brands.
We also have automated guided vehicles (AGV’s) to assist in moving ingredients and foods on site. Three software companies have been involved in automating the entire plant, with a vision to exclude any human error.
In addition, part of the ambitious expansion will result in a new dark store/warehouse which will operate solely with robots.
Our Investment. Your Future.
How does it work?
At the heart of creating exceptional pet food is careful ingredient selection and rigorous testing. More than 600 ingredients produced by over 130 suppliers are carefully selected for use in the Ingredients Kitchen. Every single ingredient used in our recipes must meet our stringent tests before acceptance. GA’s automated sampling and testing capabilities set the standard worldwide.
Barley, wheat and rice are delivered along with other bulk ingredients either loose or in tote bags to the bulk delivery area. The bulk ingredients on delivery pass through two magnets to detect and extract any metal which may be present in the material.
Automated sampling happens at this point. This efficient system calculates the intake time of every delivery in order to collect random samples from the start to the end of intake, ensuring consistent testing of the whole intake. Samples are collected, labelled and delivered to the laboratory for testing; results are typically available within 48 hours.
Once passed they enter one of our ninety Quarantine silos, each silo able to hold 80 tonnes of bulk ingredients. Ingredients remain in quarantine until they have passed our meticulous laboratory testing. Only then can the ingredients be transferred via track system, to storage above the Ballroom, in preparation for dosing as required by a manufacturing order.
The Pick and Mix system has been designed to allow for the creation of 22,500 pick and mix boxes per year at the maximum output capacity of 120,000 tonnes per year. This equates to 62 boxes per day. Our buyers select from more than 130 trusted suppliers, from over 50 countries around the world, providing our Partners and GA with over 600 different ingredients as diverse as frankincense, marigold, aniseed, cinnamon, papaya and dried insects to create outstanding and unique recipes.
Our new Pick & Mix facilities in the Ingredients Kitchen provides GA with dosing precision and the ability to dose difficult-to-handle or delicate materials. Small or Micro-Ingredients can be dosed reliably by hand where the machine dosing cannot work to the precise tolerances and reliability that our standards demand. Materials which are not conducive to automated dosing can be properly handled and dosed. The Kardex system removes the opportunity of operator-error, by monitoring the location of every blue box and controlling which box is presented to the operator. The RFID system used at the tipping stations combined with our Genesis system, ensures operator accuracy first time, every time.
With 5,756 Red Box Containers holding up to 900kg of ingredients each, the Pantry has the capacity to hold over 5 million kilograms. Efficiency and traceability in-motion, the Pantry is made up of 36 bays across six aisles, on eight levels, with two sides two deep. Using the RFID system and Control Room operation, the Pantry provides full traceability and optimum ingredient freshness. Henry, one of GA’s Automated Guided Vehicles, transfers approved ingredients inside red containers from the intake pits to the Pantry shuttle system. One of several automated cranes places the tagged containers into appropriate locations in the Pantry warehouse.
The Pantry is run using our Integrated Warehouse Management System (IWS), which monitors in real-time where different containers are and their status. The IWS uses the RFID tag to enable operators to track the contents of each container or identify when a container is empty or requires cleaning. Ingredients are stored in three different zones according to their usage to optimise efficiency. The most frequently-used materials are store in Zone A which has the shortest travel time for the crane.
The Larder, capable of holding between 9.8 to 12 million kilograms of pet food, is fully controlled, with up-to-the-minute information on Partner stock. The blue containers (known at GA as BFC’s – Blue Finished Containers) are transferred to the warehouse cranes for storage via a Shuttle Transfer Vehicle. These vehicles move on tracks, much like a train, moving in a continuous loop, collecting BFCs from the Parlour and delivering them to the Larder. The Larder can hold 14,864 boxes, each containing 650-800kg of pet food ready for packing. The highly responsive and controlled environment can handle around 78 box movements per hour.
Camels and Mules (Europe’s first Outdoor AGV’s)
GA’s Camel and Mules are Europe’s first outdoor automated guided vehicles (AGV). Designed similar to a small van or truck, they use magnetic gyro systems for navigation. Designed and built in America, they both travel up to 1 metre per second. We built a road specifically for the camel and mules, which has barriers and traffic lights enabling two-way traffic and has three crossing paths for other site traffic. The road also has heat pads to ensure it is kept frost, ice and snow-free, ensuring a non-slip environment all year round.
After Arthur (one of our other AGV’s) has followed its dedicated pathway around the far side of the Pantry and completes its journey at a conveyor in the Station Area, the Batch Containers are loaded onto the Camel. The Camel can transport up to three Batch Containers to Pre-Extrusion in one journey. When a recipe has been manufactured, it is placed into a blue container called a Blue Finished Container (BFC) and sent via an AGV shuttle called a Mule to the Parlour area in the Ingredients Kitchen building. The Mule can transfer four BFC’s in one journey.