It has just been announced that the production of Carr’s Water Biscuits has been halted for a couple of months due to the recent floods in Carlisle during December 2015. United Biscuits have run advertisements in The Times explaining that they had been unable to source alternative ovens that were suitable for making the biscuits. Interestingly, ten years ago, United Biscuits had the same problem, with Water Biscuits off the menu for a considerable period, and the future of the Carlisle factory at stake.
This outage demonstrates the difficulty in making key strategic decisions about expensive and unique pieces of equipment. Despite having had the experience of previously losing production of water biscuits, the decision appears to have been taken not to maintain duplicates of brick ovens in an alternate location. This is often the case in manufacturing processes, due in the main to the significant cost, but also, in part, to the added complexity to the production process that this would entail. The tone of the advertisement would suggest that prior planning had not already ‘scoured the country’ and identified the lack of alternative ovens. It would be interesting to know whether United Biscuits have formally accepted the risk of losing production having considered the financial and reputational damage, and have also accepted the lack of prior planning that may have clarified alternate production facilities. It would also be interesting to understand whether their decision-making had been guided by an effective Business Impact Analysis and risk assessment.
The latest United Biscuits update mentions the recovery of Gold Bars production, as well as work in the local flood-hit community. We wish them luck with their recovery, and look forward to the return of Carr’s Water Biscuits.