North East Connected

From coal mines to filling lines AkzoNobel goes back to the future

In a nod to its new site’s industrial past, North East-based global paints and coatings manufacturer, AkzoNobel, has named its filling lines after some of the region’s famous collieries.

As part of its in-house ‘Employee Works Forum’, AkzoNobel staff identified the nine coal mines that were geographically closest to the company’s £100 million manufacturing unit in Ashington in order to come up with the most appropriate names for the lines.

Correlating each production line with its colliery counterpart based on statistics such as the mine’s weekly tonnage versus the production line’s capacity, each line now has a name fitting to its manufacturing performance.

Jeff Hope, head of manufacturing unit at AkzoNobel Ashington, said:

“Naming the filling lines is something that we have wanted to do since before the factory opened.

“From the very early commissioning stages, we wanted the site to become embedded in the culture of Ashington and the area’s mining heritage is a key part of this. The age demographic of our employees is quite broad and it’s important that the younger generation, and the next generation, don’t lose sight of the past and so it’s important to keep this link.

“We have several AkzoNobel employees that used to work in the local collieries so naming the lines after the pits at Ellington, Lynemouth, Linton, Bates, Newbiggin, Woodhorn, Bedlington, Ashington and North Seaton seemed like a fitting tribute to what was once a huge part of peoples’ lives in the North East.”

The AkzoNobel Ashington site, which has been hailed as the world’s most advanced and most sustainable paint factory was built right next to the site of the old North Seaton colliery.

Operational for 102 years between 1859 and 1961, during its lifetime, North Seaton colliery employed over 11,000 miners and produced up to 6,000 tonnes of coal per week.

By stark comparison, AkzoNobel employs a workforce of around 150 people, however, when in full production, the facility will be capable of producing up to 100 million litres of paint per year.

Process operator at AkzoNobel Ashington, David Chapman, is one of several ex-colliery workers employed at the plant.

Having spent more than eight years working at nearby Ashington Colliery as a blacksmith until its closure in 1986, David’s knowledge was integral to the Employee Works Forum who were tasked with researching the names for the production lines.

“Ashington has a strong industrial heritage and to this day, there is a strong sense of unity between those who worked in the collieries in and around the area,” David said.

“Despite the intensity of the work and the effect that the pits closing had on the town and its people, there are still many ex-pitmen who remember their time working in the mines with great fondness because of the comradery among the workers and the sense of belonging this gave them.

“I think it is a fitting tribute to name our new production lines after the local collieries because it is like a coming together of Ashington’s manufacturing past with its present and future.”

“The opening of our state-of-the-art manufacturing unit in Ashington will hopefully, over time, create a new industrial legacy for the town,” Jeff added.

“We have taken the world’s most advanced and sustainable paint manufacturing technologies and created something in Ashington that is designed to perform, but that is also designed to stand the test of time.

“AkzoNobel is dedicated to helping bring colour to people’s lives and we want everyone to know that we’re here to make a positive impact.”

To find out more about AkzoNobel, visit

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