The company says that it has spent £2.5m (€3.16m) on upgrading the site with new production lines and robotics in a bid to meet the challenges of a changing dairy industry, in the first phase of an overhaul of its packaging operations. The refurbishment of the plant, which currently packs 800 tonnes of the company's cheeses a week, is part of Milk Link's Project Vision scheme, which aims to improve productivity throughout its operations. Besides targeting efficiency improvement in its own operations, the investment project is also designed to better serve the needs of retailers to which the company supplies, Milk Link says. Group chief executive Neil Kennedy said the completion of the first part of the scheme was a 'milestone' in stepping up the high-tech level of service it can offer. "Our customers will benefit from greater production capacity, even higher service levels and innovative packing solutions," he stated. Refurbishment According to the company, the funding has resulted in the installation of two new production lines at the plant, which can be used to slice and flow wrap products. Robotic technology has also been incorporated to the site as part of the investment for use in packing and palletising cheese slices. The company said it was also has the option to extend the use of robotic technology at the site to all of its flow wrap lines in the future following the overhaul. Future Development Milk Link says that following the technical focus of its first investment phase, training and staff development will be the next major concern for the company. The company's restructuring plan follows the failure of a merger attempt back in February between the company and rival First Milk due to unresolved valuation issues. Both Milk Link and First Milk stated at the time that they were convinced that strong farmer-owned dairy groups represented the best long-term future for manufacturers in the UK, but they conceded that this was not currently possible by joining forces. "As such, both will now continue with their plans to grow and develop their respective businesses" the two parties said. Milk Link is entirely owned by British dairy farmers, whose milk is processed into a range of products including long-life milk and creams, extended shelf life products, flavoured milks, custards, milk powders, soft cheeses and cultured ingredients.