With an investment of £24m, Marshalls is expanding its operations at St Ives in Cambridgeshire, where we’ll be opening a dual block plant later this year. As Chief Operating Officer at Marshalls, I’ve been involved in the plans for this plant over a number of years, and I’m really looking forward to the first block coming off the press.
But, what does this cutting-edge technology consist of, and what does it actually mean for our customers, and for the hard landscaping market? In this article, I’ll share details of the technical capabilities of the new Marshalls dual block plant, as well as some of the benefits that our customers can expect to see by the end of the year.
The first of its kind in the UK
The new Marshalls dual block plant is the first of its kind in the UK, using cutting-edge technology to provide nearly double the output of a single plant. It will be run by a single operator, with enhanced safety systems that reduce the amount of intervention and handling needed. Whilst this dramatically boosts the efficiency of the plant, it also increases the capacity we have at Marshalls for manufacturing. This means more stock on the ground and a better availability of our key hard landscaping products.
Like we’ve already done with our Sittingbourne site in Kent, we’ll be installing a solar array system. This will generate over 690,000 kWh of energy every year, giving us just under 20% of the energy we need to run the site, supporting our sustainability strategy.
Not only is this an investment to benefit our customers, this is also an investment in British manufacturing. By increasing capacity and innovation at our UK-based side, we’re supporting the manufacturing industry and reducing customer reliance on foreign imports.
The processes of the Marshalls dual block plant
The machinery we are using to build the new plant is sourced from outside the UK, and it will be the first time it’s been used in this country.
At the start of the production process, the bespoke batching system is capable of mass production and smaller batch runs of high value products.
The combination of several cement silos and 24 aggregate bins, will give us a breadth of different aesthetics including low carbon alternatives, whilst offering bulk storage to overcome the current supply challenges.
2.Mixing and moulding
The new Marshalls machinery has a great deal of operational flexibility, which enables each machine to simultaneously produce products of different colour, shape, size, and family. The innovative colour blending technologies will provide extensive colour combinations; the first system produces a multitude of random or repeating blends, whilst the second disperses different colours in a sequence, to create a granite aesthetic.
The mixing and moulding process is what makes this new plant so unique; it’s the capabilities within this area that will give us the increased product choice and innovation that the market is looking for. On top of this, it will enable more customers to switch to British-made hard landscaping materials, which have shorter lead times and lower carbon footprints.
The dual block plant will be using the QUADRIX ®Kraft Curing system, which consistently cures products 30% faster than traditional methods. Combined heating and auto-fog systems will accurately control temperature and humidity, providing long lasting product quality.
This is the final stage before packaging where secondary processing equipment is used to alter the aesthetic and function of the paving.
The in-line, all-in-one bespoke secondary processing machine, will provide several traditional and unique finishes, which will enhance the products to increase choice even more.
Next steps for the new Marshalls manufacturing plant
With the build of the new plant now well underway, we’re expecting the first block to come off the press by late Autumn 2022. For the remainder of the year, the plant will be used to increase production volume for existing products, ahead of new product launches in early 2023.