Exclusive: DT&G continues global confectionery equipment development

UK chocolate coating and polishing equipment business DT&G Limited has sixty years of engineering heritage to its name. Neill Barston meets managing director Lyn Pitt at its headquarters in the Liverpool area, to discuss its continued evolution

Amid a highly competitive, specialised global equipment industry, there were plenty of challenges awaiting Lyn Pitt in taking on the test of managing her own business. But as she explains to Confectionery Production, she wholeheartedly embraced her role, and the many complexities that would greet her in the intervening years at the helm of DT&G Ltd.

As she acknowledges, it may not always be plain sailing in aiming to drive her UK business forward, yet witnessing the company cement itself within the marketplace has been hugely rewarding. (Catch the video version of the interview here as well).

“I feel amazingly proud of how the business has grown, as I realised that it was quite a large mountain to climb. But I am so proud of what everyone has done here – it’s my home, and l love the industry,” she says of the past seven years since taking control of the business, with plenty of ambition for its continued development.

To her credit, Lyn (pictured) clearly takes a hands on approach to operating the company based in Wirral, Liverpool, UK, which was originally driven by its founder member, Frank Finn, who leant his name to the chocolate coating and polishing machines at the heart of the business.

Designed to process a wide selection of confectionery products, the series is capable of handling ranges containing peanuts and raisins, through to more delicate praline infusions.

Under its founder’s keen eye, originally working out of a small workshop in Birkenhead back in 1962 to produce his flagship Finn belt coater, the company gradually expanded into producing a number of other equipment lines. This included peanut brittle and jelly cooking systems, though its current focus centres on its core coating and polishing series, with hundreds of machines being placed in a diverse mix of companies around the world, including within some of the largest international confectionery brands.

“We’ve a lot to thank Frank Finn for with his equipment, and we may in future look to expand our range of machinery again, as we have his original designs, and we’re glad that he was able to come to the opening of our present site here,” adds Lyn in tribute to the now departed company founder.

Clearly, hailing from a city with a long-established engineering history can only have been in his favour, offering an environment conducive to fostering emerging manufacturing operations. Indeed, this has been underlined by Liverpool John Moores University’s school of engineering owes its origins to the area’s groundbreaking Mechanics’ Institute way back in 1825, which was to lay the groundwork for future enterprising minds.


As for Lyn herself, she’s proud of her own roots in the region, explaining that transferring from her previous path within the finance sector, and seeing DT&G continue to maintain its international profile with projects as far and wide as across Europe, India, and across to the US, remains especially fulfilling.

“Though my grandfather had an engineering company, and I grew up around his office, I don’t have an engineering background myself, so I couldn’t have done this without the support that I’ve had from the Department for International Trade with our exports, as well as the clients that we have, who have been very open,” explains the managing director, who enthuses that it has been ‘quite an adventure’ in navigating the ebbs and flows of operating a globally-focused business.

It has certainly offered a notable contrast to her former career in finance working for Barclays Bank, which she says has instilled in her a belief in strong fiscal discipline. In terms of her own development, she adds it’s the positive engagement from the company’s customers including key discussions on delivering greater hygiene measures, improving downtime and dealing with allergen and bacteria control, and greater operator efficiency that provided her with a steep learning curve.

As she reveals as we chat at the firm’s boardroom, while the company has amassed plenty of projects around the world, it essentially operates from a small core of engineers who are responsible for driving its ongoing projects on-site. Indeed, touring the company’s headquarters, the level of industry reveals a strong demand for the company’s belt coaters – which is mirrored by the growth in the wider global chocolate market.

Most notably, the upsurge in premium confectionery ranges has also seen a positive impact on its order pipeline. However, as Lyn acknowledges, there remain supply chain challenges in terms of logistics operations in delivering to certain locations around the world in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and wider pressure on components chains impacting on freight operations. Despite the uncertainties of present operating conditions, the managing director says the company is continuing to deliver a healthy turnover, and she reserves a special note of praise for its engineers, who are playing a critical role in its fortunes in assembling its lines on-site prior to delivery around the world.

“I’m very lucky to have such an excellent team of engineers who have produced the machines that are required, and everyone has said, including myself, that the Finns we are building now are the very best we’ve ever produced,” remarks Lyn of her loyal team, who take time out to speak about how the company has developed over the years in terms of its technical ability.

Among the key cogs in the machine is Wayne Woods, engineering manager for the business. He offers an engaging demonstration of its test facilities on site, which include a micro pilot version of the company’s coating lines. As he reveals, this is an aspect of its operations that is increasingly significant in working directly with clients on testing products as part of their ongoing research and development.

The laid-back, yet refreshingly engaging senior technician, knows the business as well as anyone, having gained his first major work break in being taken on by the firm as a teenager. He explains: “I started as an apprentice with Frank Finn back in 1985, and remember my interview with him well. I have seen all the changes in machine requirements and we have constantly improved the Finn’s. “Now, as engineering manager, I feel an enormous sense of pride when I visit clients for installations, and also when I see some of our original machines I built that are still in operation. Our clients have given me the opportunity to design and build their equipment, I have a great respect for them, they are part of the fabric of DT&G.

“I along with my colleagues am very proud to be part of the Finn legacy and look forward to the years ahead.”

Out on the road

Moreover, as Lyn relays, there has been plenty of collective effort made by the team in continuing to maintain the relationships with its customers around the world. Indeed, Confectionery Production saw this first hand during the past year, as DT&G took to the road in the US, participating at this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo 25th anniversary event staged in Chicago (pictured below). The company joined the supplier showcase element of the show, which has recently been revived as a means creating a greater overall platform for gathering the entire value chain of the industry. By all accounts, it’s an experience that appeared to work notably well for participants.

As Lyn reflects, having the chance to directly engage with customers new and old alike certainly made a difference, with a number of promising business leads emerging from their decision to invest in being part of the show. Another highlight of the year came last September, when the company’s managing director came on board as a speaker at our World Confectionery Conference event in Brussels. It offered her a key opportunity to explain the company’s journey in the industry, underlining the fact that with a combination of plenty of hard work, application and a little good fortune, then more often than not, events can work in your favour in business.

“My concept of the world has changed – I have a big map in my room and I don’t look at it and go ‘that’s a long way away, I just see the people who I talk to on a daily basis, so the globe is much smaller to me now,” explains Lyn, who says its present work shop activity reflects that mindset, with equipment being assembled before us that is destined for Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Quebec, Canada. As she reveals, the company is also about to engage projects within Europe, Melbourne, Australia, and a further commission on the West Coast of America that will ensure that it will be getting off to a particularly busy New Year.

It is this determination to succeed globally that has seen the business gain Department for International Trade Northern Powerhouse Export champion status for the past three years. “Our machines are designed and built here in the UK, which enables us to amend certain things if required, and they’re then shipped out. From there, whether it’s an installation, or if I am personally visiting a customer, it’s an amazing feeling seeing a machine go from just being a frame, to seeing it fully working in production,” adds Lyn who says that there’s no room for complacency in terms of maintaining the high bar of build quality that it has aspired to with its ranges.

As she considers, there has been a strong emphasis on sourcing the highest level of components possible for its belt coaters, with their reliability being considered a strong point of difference for the lines. Furthermore, as Lyn puts it ‘we’ve taken a step into the modern world’ even further with devising capabilities for remote access and data reporting for fine-tuning equipment performance. This is being used to assist companies in terms of enhancing their operations to ensure optimum return on investment for equipment.

Leading the business

Turning her thoughts to her own role, Lyn enthuses that she ‘hopes that I’m a good boss,’ after completing management studies at Lancaster University in Lancashire, which she feels has honed her abilities to deliver an environment that is continuing to prove enjoyable to work in with its close-knit team, who come across as being engaged and thorough in their approach to their varying projects. Indeed, there’s a sense of it very much being a family-owned business, with its engineering staff having largely remained constant, with Lyn noting that it’s ‘great’ to have had the support of her two sons, Oliver and Harry, who have provided technical design assistance for components and its overall operations.

While the company’s MD concedes there may well have been some notable challenges during the past two pandemic-hit years in terms of levels of business being completed, she adds there’s a strong spirit of resilience that runs through the company. “I like that this is an industry that’s so involved. Indeed, the World Confectionery Conference highlighted the fact that without the cocoa farmers producing all that they do, then all the other industries surrounding it, and the pleasure we get from eating chocolate wouldn’t exist,” continues Lyn.

As for an eye to the future, she says that the business remains keen to support the next generation of future talent, taking on aspiring young engineers and support staff whenever possible. “I also like the fact this is an industry that has offered opportunities – there are so many stories where people have maybe started off making products at home and have grown to own several stores. “So, if I can support anyone in whatever way I can, I shall do so – which is why we donated some equipment to Utah State University, so people can see there are doors that will open for them,” concludes Lyn, who reflects that the biggest challenge facing her own business now is in keeping an eye on looking to develop its operations positively amid a wide range of background market factors. However, with an encouraging order pipeline around the world, there are plenty of pluses on the horizon to help enable its notable international ambitions.

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