AkzoNobel has officially opened its most advanced and sustainable paint factory in Ashington, North East England.

The Northumberland plant, which cost more than £100 million to build, is said to be the largest ever global investment by the decorative paints business and will become the new centre of production for Dulux.

The factory will be capable of doubling current UK production levels to 200 million litres per year, the equivalent of 80 million 2.5 litre cans of Dulux, in up to 33,000 different colours, approximately enough paint to redecorate every living room, bathroom and kitchen in the UK.

The Ashington plant uses a variety of renewable energy sources, including photovoltaic cells and a biomass boiler, alongside an automated manufacturing process which saves water, waste and energy. AkzoNobel estimates that the carbon footprint per litre of paint produced at Ashington will be reduced by 50% compared to the facilities it is replacing.

The plant secures 150 skilled jobs in high tech manufacturing for the North East, while supporting more than 100 additional roles in the local supply chain. Covering an area of 100,000m2, the factory has capacity to expand in order to support future growth plans.

All manufacturing technologies within the plant are managed by a single integrated computer system. All key processes, from the ordering of raw materials to the shipping of finished products, can be initiated without operator intervention. A highly agile production system means the plant is capable of producing paint across the entire AkzoNobel range, which includes Dulux, Dulux Trade, Cuprinol, Polycell, Hammerite and Armstead.

Thierry Vanlancker, Chief Executive Officer of AkzoNobel, said: “This is a significant investment in the UK and an important milestone for AkzoNobel. The UK is home to many of our world leading brands and the paint industry’s megabrand, Dulux. It is a vital strategic market for us. We are investing in highly innovative and sustainable production facilities such as Ashington to maintain and grow our leadership position, ensuring the best products for our customers in the UK and around the world. AkzoNobel’s growth strategy means that we will continue to lead the paints and coatings industry in both the strongest brands and the most advanced technology.”

The official launch of Ashington coincides with the announcement of AkzoNobel’s 2018 Colour of the Year, a curated colour palette which the company’s colour experts and global trend watchers predict will dominate sales in decorative paint markets for the coming year.

The 2018 colour will be Heart Wood, a ‘grown-up pink’ that embodies comfort and ease. Heart Wood blends harmoniously with the materials from which it takes inspiration, giving consumers the freedom to balance softer shades with deeper, bolder tones.

Ruud Joosten, Chief Operating Officer of Paints and Coatings at AkzoNobel, added: “Ashington secures AkzoNobel’s future as a manufacturer of amazing high tech products, including paints which improve air quality, increase energy efficiency and protect against bacteria. That technical know-how is matched by our expertise in colour, revealed today (12 September, 2017) with the announcement of the AkzoNobel Colour of the Year 2018. Our inspirational trends and paint produced here in Ashington will together create beautiful, stylish living spaces all over the world.”

Matt Pullen, Managing Director UK and Ireland at AkzoNobel, said: “I’m incredibly proud to have attracted this major investment into the UK. Now the UK’s number one paint brand can boast the most advanced manufacturing facility anywhere in the world, securing 150 high skilled jobs in the North East.”

Jeff Hope, Head of Manufacturing at Ashington, added: “Ashington has taken the best technology available globally, improved on it and put it all under one roof. It represents a significant step forward for the whole industry. I could not be more proud of the opportunity we were given to build this site in the beautiful county of Northumberland, and the loyal, committed and hardworking team who successfully delivered this incredible project.”

Ashington will house the second Dulux Academy, a customised training centre for painters and decorators to provide them with the expertise and know-how they need for business success. This follows the success of the first £1.4 million Academy in Slough which has trained 1,600 people in its first year. AkzoNobel’s ambition is to train and upskill 10,000 UK decorators by 2020, in order to play a part in tackling the skills shortage in the construction sector, which risks limiting the UK’s housebuilding capacity.

Ashington is AkzoNobel’s second major investment in the North East, alongside its Performance Coatings plant at Felling, Gateshead, which employs more than 800 people, out of a total UK workforce of more than 3,500. Earlier this year, AkzoNobel announced an investment of £12.5 million in a technical innovation hub at its Protective Coatings global HQ in Felling in Tyne and Wear. The new state-of-the-art research and development facility will enable more than 100 scientists to develop products in conditions equivalent to the world’s most extreme environments.