BEST PRACTICES FOR INDUSTRY LEADERS
Issue 179 2020
Launching a revolution Founded on the intention to be a ‘disruptor’, print solutions firm Catapult Print is harnessing the power of technology to redefine the US market • Factory technology • Talent and skills • Logistics • Data • Covid-19
Chairman Andrew Schofield
Managing Director Joe Woolsgrove Editor Libbie Hammond Assistant Editor Will Daynes
Staff Writer Alex McDonald
BEST PRACTICES FOR INDUSTRY LEADERS
Production Manager Fleur Daniels Art Editor David Howard Advertising Designer Rebecca Side Operations Director Philip Monument Operations Manager Natalie Griffiths Research Managers Jo-Ann Jeffery Ben Richell Editorial Researchers Mark Cowles Tarj D’Silva Jeff Goldenberg Mark Kafourous Richard Saunders Kieran Shukri Sales Director Alasdair Gamble Advertising Sales Mark Cawston Alex Hartley Dave King Theresa McDonald Sam Surrell
Agility and adaptability
Issue 179 2020
Launching a revolution Founded on the intention to be a ‘disruptor’, print solutions firm Catapult Print is harnessing the power of technology to redefine the US market • Factory technology • Talent and skills • Logistics • Data • Covid-19
elcome to the August issue of MT, and what a bumper issue we have for you! It’s been an amazing month for us, and we’ve been privileged to include positive stories from so many inspirational companies, some directly involved in the fight against Covid-19. What unites all of these companies is how quickly they have been able to react to new requirements and how traditional bureaucracy and drawn-out decision-making appear to have been put to one side, in favour of quick compromises and prompt judgement calls. This does require a high-level of trust from all involved, but I do hope that we can maintain a degree of this going forward – now we know what can be achieved when we all work together, it will be disappointing to see a return to the old ways. Additionally, this need for agility and adaptability means that messages have to be communicated to staff in a quick, clear way. With the advent of Zoom and Teams, real-time communications using videos have become almost commonplace – is your business on board? I’d love to hear your experiences.
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PS: I also wanted to highlight that if you have a story to tell, or require help with marketing materials, or have an email blast that you’d like sent out, the team at MT is very keen to hear from you. We have a dedicated Exclusive Feature team who would be delighted to assist you in sharing your message with a wider audience. Do get in touch! Please note: The opinions expressed by contributors and adver tisers within this publication do not necessarily coincide with those of the editor and publisher. Every reasonable effor t is made to ensure that the information published is accurate, and correct at time of writing, but no legal responsibility for loss occasioned by the use of such information can be accepted by the publisher. All rights reserved. The contents of the magazine are strictly copyright, the proper ty of Schofield Publishing, and may not be copied, stored in a retrieval system, or reproduced without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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Features 6 Factory technology
To realize the benefits of Industry 4.0 we must first acknowledge and overcome the challenges it brings
Focus on... 6
According to Mitch Luciano of Trailer Bridge Inc. what your supply chain needs is love and empathy
12 Talent and skills
Covid-19 has been a catalyst for and driving greater trust across manufacturing organizations which is changing the workplace
16 Manufacturing news
Updates and announcements from the manufacturing arena
Having grappled with recent supply and demand shocks, manufacturers are recognizing the need to drive operational efficiencies
Cobots from Universal Robots have contributed to the fight against coronavirus in a variety of ways
A multitude of factors are causing manufacturers to increasingly turn to mobile solutions and wearable technology to give workers access to the data they need
While there are currently limitations to just how ‘eco-friendly’ bioplastics are, every year we’re seeing new technologists hit the mass market
West Pharmaceutical Services, Inc.
30 New product development
It is vital that companies are better informed in their product development. Innovation must be matched by intelligent design, manufacturing and materials expertise
CLD Fencing Systems
Tough legislation on carbon emissions is forcing manufacturers to innovate across the automotive supply chain – vehicle weight reduction is a priority
36 Track & trace
Should the use of a bespoke track and trace system designed for the specific needs of a production line be considered essential?
With the likelihood of prolonged market uncertainty, Covid-19 may be the trigger for operations functions to adopt an agile approach to transformation
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The Marena Group
Fencor Packaging Group
e Chemicals & Minerals
Talent and skills
ICS Cool Energy
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Focus on... 104
Rieke Office Interiors
Smith & McLaurin
Scarab Sweepers Ltd
Eminox 4 l www.manufacturing-today.com
ner Pentaplast (kp)
Titan Steel Wheels
Mallard Creek Polymers
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How Zero-Trust and Industry 4.0 is enabling manufacturers in a new socially distanced world. By Mark Lomas
ndustry 4.0 has been described as a revolution but, in reality, it’s been slowly transforming the manufacturing world for the best part of a decade. The installation of connected devices, cameras and sensors into production lines and on to the factory floor has been bringing traditional IT and operating technology (OT) together. A survey, conducted by PwC, found that 85 per cent of businesses expect they will be deploying these Internet of Things (IoT) technologies in their operations by the end of 2020. But over the last few months, the appeal of the digitally enabled factory has grown further. IoT is providing greater scope for remote monitoring which promises increased business intelligence and operational efficiency – leading to greater productivity and profitability. But with social distancing now also a crucial consideration, this technology is helping to keep factories operational in difficult times. IoT enabled OT is helping to increase automation, introduce advance robotics and deploy sensors for proactive maintenance – all of which reduces the need for human presence on the factory floor. To realise the benefits of Industry 4.0, however, we must first acknowledge and overcome the challenges it brings. Cyber security is cited as one of the main reasons why 76 per cent of IoT projects fail – and if it’s not addressed it will pose a significant barrier to those entering this new age of manufacturing.
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Manufacturing OT has not previously been exposed to pernicious security threats that the IT world has been battling for decades, but it now is. So, how should manufacturers approach cyber security during this industrial revolution?
Cyberattacks in manufacturing
If manufacturers become increasingly reliant on automation, there needs to be a recognition that a compromised IT system could easily lead to disruption on the production line. A major incident could have a nasty knock-on effect to a global supply chain, which is already suffering from the Covid-19 pandemic. It could bring manufacturing to a grinding halt and create even greater backlogs and uncertainty. The growing prevalence of IoT increases the potential attack surface area available to hackers and therefore, the potential for large-scale disruption. This was evident when Renault-Nissan was forced to unplug its IT systems after a global ransomware attack infected its network, forcing stoppages at several international production sites. The harsh truth we have to face is that it might not be possible to stop every attack. However, we can limit the damage, especially if we make the assumption that a breach is inevitable and plan for it. Known as a ‘Zero-Trust’ approach, it encourages companies to increase their layers of defence.
The zero-trust philosophy
Rather than rely on a ‘castle wall’ approach, zero-trust is about segmenting your systems, and creating more obstacles for hackers to get over if they breach that initial external barrier. This will hinder the lateral internal movement of hackers within a compromised system, which we know can be so destructive – as a recent ransomware attack on a US gas pipeline demonstrated. In this case, the operational network was connected to the IT office, meaning the attack spread quickly. But with zero-trust, preventative measures slow down the hackers, giving IT teams the chance to kill off an attack before it can infiltrate multiple areas.
Prevention in zero-trust
Of course, you still need a firewall in place. Organisations must put several protective measures in place and unified endpoint management (UEM) is a good first step to developing an effective security architecture. UEM technology provides an organisation with the ability to enforce the compliance of all endpoint devices, offering monitoring protection throughout the network. We can then treat each segment within the network viewed as an independent and potentially insecure unit. A useful analogy is that of house where both the external and internal doors are locked. If one room holds particularly sensitive information – i.e. your IoT data – then limit the number of people with keys to that room. Investing in multi-factor authentication technology will help secure the house. Together with conditional access policies, these technologies
provide layers of barriers to hackers. They require multiple checks of the user, ensuring only those who have permission to access certain areas can do so.
Embracing the smart factory
IoT technology won’t replace the role of humans entirely. Thankfully, we are still needed to interpret and act on the information provided. It does improve our ability to increase social distancing though – which makes it an attractive proposition in the current climate. This will likely usher in the age of the smart factory faster. But, as it does, manufacturers must ensure they stay in control of their production lines and overcome the challenges this tech brings. In this respect, cyber security should be viewed a crucial enabler for Industry 4.0. By understanding the risks to their business however, and embracing a zero-trust approach, organisations large and small can put the right measures in place to protect connected factories and future production. v
Mark Lomas Mark Lomas is technical architect at Probrand, a leading technology services provider. It delivers IT products, managed services and solutions to over 3500 clients across small to medium sized businesses and all areas of the public sector. Probrand helps customers procure IT more efficiently through its ground-breaking marketplace, and deliver IT solutions, Cloud and managed IT services that run, manage and transform business operations. www.probrand.co.uk
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Company care How a little empathy drives big results across the supply chain. By Mitch Luciano
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ransportation costs are one of the top challenges decisionmakers face, with last-mile delivery driving the greatest costs in the entire supply chain1. Fuel costs, government regulatory updates, labor issues, cross-departmental decision-making and an economy constantly in flux can wreak havoc on even the most careful executive’s transportation budget. Today, close to 56 per cent of global companies use automation to some degree and can realistically expect to achieve up to 30 per cent increased production by deploying automation in the manufacturing process2. Is automation the answer to budgeting woes, as well? I’d argue that while analytics and predictive budgeting software can certainly drive more informed decision-making, it is the people of logistics who power successful transactions and cost savings. In fact, injecting the process with empathy and love is far more effective at driving precision and predictability in manufacturing budgets. (Did he just say all we need is love? Sort of. Stay with me.) Automation certainly has its place in manufacturing, where it is being used to improve efficiency while increasing both productivity and yield. US manufacturers face a looming skilled labor shortage, as 22 per cent
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of skilled workers—some 2.7 million of them—are set to retire by 20253. Automating repetitive processes and incorporating robotics can ease some of that pressure and free skilled workers for more complex, creative tasks. There are growing opportunities for automation across the full global supply chain, from raw materials management, to picking and packing, to purchase order management payments and invoicing, revenue and goal tracking, GPS-enabled package tracking at the consumer level and more. In budgeting, though, there are so many logistical variables stressing the process that manufacturers truly benefit from the creativity, experience and voice of the people behind the process. The transportation budget is affected by the decisions of other teams; in fact, this is often where it falls apart. Misguided attempts to reduce costs by cutting frontline staff can actually have an oversized impact on service and not save that much money. Cutting costs can mean cutting revenue. Operational decisions can add both time and money to the supply chain. Consider purchasing a widget from a vendor offering a lower
What you can (and must) do is lean on the experience and insight that logistics professionals bring to each transaction. When the highway closes and your shipment can’t move, an app can’t fix that. When a shipment is cancelled and your driver is not without a shipment, the automated phone system can’t do a thing about it. It is the knowledge and motivation of the person on the other end of that call for help that can dramatically change the outcome. At that point, when any one of 1000 things that could happen has happened, you need a person who cares and is invested to step in - to bring predictability and certainty back into the process. People matter. You need a person who understands the impact of a failure at Point A on the person awaiting the shipment at Point B, and how that affects the outcome at Point C or D. Just as you need that high-level overview of the challenges stressing your supply chain, you need people working on your behalf who understand the pain points and motivators that will drive improvements in timeliness, safety, and success rate, as well. Leaving emotion out of decision-making doesn’t mean removing emotion from the business entirely. Yes, we need accurate data on which to base our decisions. From that solid foundation, success comes from people who truly love what they do, caring about the outcome every step of the way. So back to empathy and love. In today’s world of such uncertainty in our own personal lives, doesn’t your professional supply chain need to be filled with people that care about what your needs are to make your life easier? Showing genuine empathy when the unpredictable happens and simply caring always makes a difference. Love comes in many forms and your supply chain requires it. Just as skilled workers’ performance is augmented by machinery, transportation professionals and technology work better together - one doesn’t replace the other. v 1 The Last-Mile Delivery Challenge, Capgemini Research Institute. Accessed June 21 at https://www.capgemini.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Report-Digital-%E2%80%93Last-Mile-Delivery-Challenge1.pdf 2 The Effects of Automation on Manufacturing, Production Machining. Accessed June 24 at https://www.productionmachining.com/columns/the-effects-of-automation-on-
per unit price than your incumbent, but not factoring in the additional transportation costs incurred because of the greater distance between the supplier and facility. This is where the right technology platform can help, by affording decision-makers that high-level view of their supply chain as a whole. With that enhanced understanding of each of the moving pieces, you can begin to explore the challenges, pain points, and needs of each person in the supply chain. And this is where the people of logistics can seriously, positively impact your budgeting and overall transportation costs. Inboundlogistics.com research cites that 36 per cent of enterprises strongly agreed they rely on their 3PL partners to drive cost reductions and business process improvements. These are the people who understand not only your needs, but those of your customers, the warehousing team, truck drivers, rail or dockyard workers, and more. There’s no magic bullet to take risk out of the supply chain completely. Every single day, trucks break down, economic and environmental circumstances change, and accidents happen. We cannot eliminate that risk and uncertainty from the transportation budgeting process.
manufacturing 3 The Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing 2015 & Beyond, Deloitte Manufacturing Institute. Accessed June 22 at http://www.themanufacturinginstitute.org/~/media/827DBC76533 942679A15EF7067A704CD.ashx
Mitch Luciano Mitch Luciano is CEO of Trailer Bridge Inc. Trailer Bridge is a privately held, asset-owned leader in the transportation of cargo across land, air, rail, and sea. Exceptional service has earned Trailer Bridge the #1 Ocean Carrier ‘Quest for Quality’ award and recognition as an Inc Best Workplace in America, as well as #1 Best Place to Work in Jacksonville. Headquartered in Jacksonville, FL, its 200 employees work from 17 offices across North America. www.trailerbridge.com
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Mobilize, prepare and communicate As lockdown measures start to ease across Europe, manufacturers are having to be extremely agile and adapt quickly as the landscape continues to change. It is imperative that they maintain open communication with their workforce
aving radically changed operations and processes in the face of a global pandemic only a few months ago, manufacturing organizations are having to adapt again to return to a new kind of normal. At a recent SocialChorus webinar focused on manufacturing communications, Nicole Alvino, Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at SocialChorus discussed issues such as creating
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new products for the good of society as well as mobilizing an entire manufacturing organization to respond in a safe, productive way with Brett Lutz from global food processing business ADM and Christine Miller from Dow Chemical. Here, Nicole explains how manufacturers need to communicate with their workforce in a transparent, clear way to help a safe and productive
Talent and skills
communicating to their staff, partners and customers about the crisis and its ramifications, their previous notions of high production, perfect content was falling by the wayside in favor of more real-time video communication filmed on a mobile phone. The need to reach everyone and align them around the right messages was the most critical thing while in crisis mode. By adapting and taking this approach, ADM’s CEO now creates direct communications through SocialChorus to help maintain a high level of trust through authenticity that they have worked so hard to build. Like many manufacturing organizations, for ADM and Dow, this next phase means that businesses need to continue communicating as they introduce a new way of work and a new way of returning to the workplace. Building on the reality of the level of stress of their workforces, both Brett and Christine agreed that it was important to acknowledge that it is normal for people to not feel normal. Each person has their own challenges, whether in the workplace, in their homes, or in their communities. Therefore, the role of communications must be to help people in both small and large ways. There are a number of ways that this can be achieved. Not only will workers expect information that they trust to help them return to work safely. They’ll be looking for a single source of truth for safety guidelines and new policies, while also seeking day-to-day information like site-specific scheduling, real-time updates and reminders of re-onboarding tasks. Christine stressed that it’s important for leaders to alleviate concerns about employee safety, reassuring their teams that we’re not rushing back. Manufacturers need to continue being open and honest with their workforces so they can be proud of what their organization is doing for the greater good. That also means an increase in both recognition and wellness programs, as well as a focus on enabling leaders to communicate more with their teams. What we learned from our conversation was that manufacturing companies need to ensure that their critical Covid-19 information is reaching all of their people, and to verify how their workforce is responding, all while providing a real-time feedback loop to address concerns and promote compliance. Returning to work is far from simple.The challenges and complexities will vary from business to business, but the following seven steps should help in mobilizing and preparing for both a safe and productive return to work:
1) Prepare groups for different locations and roles
return to normal. Both communications experts talked about their preparation for this next phase of this crisis ranging from communicating new safety protocols, to re-onboarding furloughed workers and supporting the return of employees working from home. During the first week of lockdown, both Brett and Christine came to the realization that, when it came to
From management to the front line, every worker will need personalized information to adapt to this new way of working. Your organization must be able to target the right message to the right employees. You can do this by: · Synchronizing your communications platform with your HR, and match with behavior data to create dynamic distribution groups that continuously update as employee data changes · Create manager-only groups based on seniority level or job title. This will enable you to use targeted content emails and targeted notifications to deliver specific back-to-work details and leadership guidance.
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2) Build a task force to communicate your return details
4) Establish feedback loops and real-time FAQs
To provide an up-to-date, localized, reliable source of truth during your return to the workplace, you must empower local health and safety decision makers to send communications to employees at their location. · The communications, HR and Risk & Safety teams should share responsibility for organization-wide communications. · Site-specific Risk & Safety decision makers should communicate local policies, procedures and scheduling to workers at their location. · Risk & Safety teams will need to convey manager-level information, such as decision trees, directly to those with senior titles.
To maintain employee trust, give workers a way to voice concerns as they occur. Enable communicators, Risk & Safety teams and local leaders to address those concerns in real time. · Encourage employees to submit questions or comments in your targeted channels. · Get your local Risk sand Safety staff respond in real time to answer questions. · Empower local managers to address issues, provide a single source of truth to give management answers, and promote idea sharing among managers.
3) Target each location with local information
5) Drive compliance with automatic reminders
Regulations and protocols can vary by city, county, state and country. Employees need site-specific guidelines for workplace safety, and you need to ensure they receive and put them into practice. · Confirm receipt of key site-specific content like shift schedules and track the reach of these communications across employee groups. · Develop unique alerts for new safe workplace guidelines, and gauge employee sentiment around them with polls. · Create real-time FAQs based on employee questions and offer easy-to consume micro-learnings on safe workplace guidelines.
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Employees may not review or act on information the first time they receive it. You need a way to ensure they mobilize around compliance and follow procedure. · Confirm that employees have received information by sending them push notifications that require confirmation. · Test their understanding of critical information with brief surveys. · Send automated reminders around key micro-learnings to encourage review and retention of content.
Talent and skills
6) Track reach and measure sentiment
Verify that your critical safety and change management messaging is having the impact you need. Track the reach of those communications and learn how employees are responding to your key initiatives. · Measure global engagement with your return-to-work communications to verify reach. · Drill down into your data; sort by site location, management level and specific initiatives to view impact. · Run pulse polls to further understand workforce sentiment beyond metrics.
7) Monitor and maintain employee health & wellbeing
Lack of physical and mental wellness is a barrier to both safety and productivity—now more than ever. From temperature checks to opportunities to disconnect, make sure you’re offering the right support. · Ensure completion of health requirements by giving employees easy access to health check platforms and tracking completion rates. · Check in with employees and measure wellness with polls targeted to locations or departments of concern. Have resources available to follow up with employees who feel unwell or are struggling. · Create automated reminder campaigns for patients in self-isolation due to Covid-19. Notify them to log into your health check platform to update their recovery status.
There’s no doubt we’re not out of the woods yet but Covid-19 has been a catalyst for removing barriers and driving greater trust and transparency across manufacturing organizations around the world. If every manufacturer can take this kind of employee-centric approach and carry it forward, we’ll be well on our way to much safer and productive workplaces now and in the future. v
Nicole Alvino Nicole Alvino is Cofounder and Chief Strategy Officer at SocialChorus, the leading workforce communications platform that enables organizations to accelerate and accomplish their business initiatives by reaching, aligning, and mobilizing every worker. We believe a mobilized enterprise is one in which companies can react quickly to change, aligning their workers, and giving them the right information, at the right time, in the right place, to achieve their business objectives. Communicators and leaders can focus on the message, while the platform ensures the content is acted on in a measurable way. SocialChorus helps the world’s largest global companies transform the way they communicate with millions of employees every day. www.socialchorus.com
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Manufacturing News News in brief Extended relationship
A member of the Volkswagen Group, and specializing in high-performance sports cars, Porsche AG was looking for a Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) solution to provide a digital end-to-end contract management process. Operating in an industry where large, complex value chains are common, Porsche AG required a cloud-based tool that could provide efficient co-ordination with all internal stakeholders. The company has expanded its relationship with Icertis and is rolling out the Icertis Contract Management (ICM) platform as its enterprise-wide contract management software. The platform is currently being deployed across an additional 18 organizational units of Porsche AG and will be used by more than 2000 users to manage over 100 different agreement types. “The correct handling of contracts is an essential component of Porsche AG’s success,” said Dr. Melanie Schenk, legal counsel, Porsche AG. “ICM now enables transparent integration of all relevant departments in the process of contract co-ordination.”
Illustrating the future
Canvas GFX, Inc, the leading technical illustration software provider, has announced that specialist Aerospace and Defense manufacturer GlenDee/ MGI has selected Canvas X3 technical illustration solution to drive measurable improvements in its manufacturing workflows. The management team at MGI turned to Canvas X3 after becoming frustrated at the laborious and inefficient process of having CAD engineers provide endless product screenshots from CAD packages and provide them as images for inclusion in key documentation. Canvas X3 allows users to import, manipulate, illustrate and annotate 3D models created in all leading CAD packages to create images for use in technical product documentation assets including installation and maintenance instructions. It puts sophisticated illustration capabilities in the hands of everyone involved in the design and manufacturing processes, without the need for specialist CAD software and training.
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Looking inside A team of scientists from the University of California is set to unlock the inner workings of lead batteries with the help of nanoscale technology. Working with the Consortium for Battery Innovation (CBI), the new industry-academia partnership based in Los Angeles will explore the fundamental processes occurring inside lead batteries as part of the Consortium’s plans to deliver performance improvements in the technology for the growing automotive and utility grid storage sectors. The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) will use an innovative implementation of Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy (STEM) that allows researchers to observe the crystallization and dissolution of the phases involved in the charge and discharge of a lead battery during operation at the nanoscale. This pioneering work, spanning 18 months, will provide deeper understanding into sustaining these materials to deliver improved battery performance and longer lifetimes. Prof. Chris Regan, who leads the research team from UCLA said: “Lead batteries have been a mainstay technology for more than a hundred years, but there is a significant amount that is still to be understood about the fundamental reactions occurring in this chemistry. We believe this new technique will help unlock new technological data to improve the performance potential.”
New business launch INEOS, one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies, has launched its new global healthcare business, INEOS Hygienics. The new business will produce a range of hospital grade hand gels, sanitiser sprays for hands and surfaces and sanitiser wipes, for retail sale, available for the home and to the public. It will be headquartered in the UK and operate manufacturing plants at Newton Aycliffe in the UK, Herne in Germany, Etain in France and at Jacksonville and Neville Island in the USA. George Ratcliffe, Chief Operating Officer of INEOS Hygienics, says: “To date, we’ve delivered more than four million bottles of sanitiser to hospitals around the world, bringing confidence to thousands of frontline medical staff and care providers. Now, we’re able to offer that same level of protection to the public. INEOS sanitiser products will now help us all to target viruses and bacteria with confidence at home, at work and beyond.” The launch of the INEOS Hygienics business was announced at the British Grand Prix and is supported by six-time double world champions, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. Toto Wolff, Team Principal & CEO of the Mercedes F1 team, is delighted to have the backing of INEOS Hygienics and to be back racing at Silverstone, saying: “It is fantastic that we’re back racing and it’s only possible due to the stringent protocol measures that are in place across sport, including team members prioritizing hygiene. The INEOS Hygienics range of medical grade sanitisers is helping to protect the team, giving us confidence to get the job done at the factory and on the track.”
Clad Metals: Unique Properties for the 21st Century The methods used to join lithium-ion cells into battery packs are almost as diverse as the packs themselves: spot, laser and friction welding; fasteners; wire bonding and other joining techniques. Clad materials can assist all these processes by facilitating ease of joining but combining with good electrical and thermal conductivity. EMS and its parent company, Wickeder Westfalenstahl in Germany, have been producing clad metals for over 100 years. Clad metals are different metals roll bonded together, then sintered to produce a permanent bond. Clad materials with their unique properties open up a world of possibilities for design engineers. For the battery industry, the copper core of SIGMACLAD® gives class-leading conductivity, combined with excellent weldability of the stainless and nickel layers. Aluminum-copper can be produced as “overlay”, or side-by-side Corelok®, or as in “inlay” stripe, all with the purpose of allowing easy, corrosion-free series connections between the copper and aluminum terminals of prismatic and pouch cells. There is no measurable impedance between the copper and aluminum in the clad products. For cell internal materials, Copper-Nickel anode connection tabs significantly improve the performance of cylindrical cells compared to pure nickel tabs. Exciting innovations such as bipolar cell architecture and controlled expansion substrates are made possible with clad materials. James Craggs, Europe Business Manager, said “Not many people in Europe know this, but if you watch an American movie, and you see an American truck driving past in the background, you are looking at EMS clad material. From cookware to class-leading mobile phones to thermostatic bimetal, there are endless potential applications by combining properties in clad metal.”
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Technology will help manufacturers navigate the new normal. By Wael Elrifai
he fallout from Covid-19 is forcing manufacturers to pivot quickly in a number of ways – moving from just-in-time to justin-case inventory management models, addressing workforce availability challenges and rethinking approaches to employee health and safety. To ensure business continuity, many manufacturers have adhered to their local government’s imposed measures, including split shifts to enable social distancing and prevent high rates of worker absence. Some have even mandated quarantine areas for goods arriving from ‘high risk’ countries. This, however, has had an enormous knock-on impact. Not only on ways of working but also on logistics, storage and even energy consumption of manufacturing plants. Don’t get me wrong. The majority of manufacturers have viable business continuity plans in place. But these are short-term, based on relatively low risk or infrequent scenarios, like tsunamis or earthquakes. Without much in the way or forewarning, manufacturers are now facing a truly global crisis, likely to wreak havoc on the industry. The United Nations has estimated a potential $50bn decrease in exports across global value chains as a direct result of the virus. And while it might be too early to draw a line on the balance sheet, the real gaps that the pandemic has exposed are clearer than ever. While manufacturers
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have been grappling with both supply and demand shocks, many realised that traditional supply chains are not fit for purpose. In many cases, resilience has been sacrificed for greater cost or time saving efficiencies. Now, manufacturers need to find ways to become more agile. They need to future-proof their operations by integrating new technologies to maintain both an effective supply chain and operational workforce. Trends we have already seen emerge, such as using data analytics to drive operational efficiencies, will, and indeed must, be accelerated.
Establishing the foundation for antifragile supply chains
What we’ve seen up until now is that when companies are under budgetary pressure, they rely on data to secure buy in from the wider business. This is smart thinking when it comes to making an investment during an economic crisis. But in the face of a global pandemic, manufacturers need to be nimble and agile enough to continue operating during times of unrest. Let me give you an example. I grew up in Lebanon, in the Middle East. Today, years after the Civil War ended, people still have access to electricity only 12 or 14 hours a day. But most of them rely on their own generators. As power production is so decentralized, this allows the
to consider an optimal solution and build greater resilience to mitigate detrimental effects on the operations. Gaining real-time insights into where supply chains are strained can open an opportunity to predict the risks and help diversify the available options.
Transforming the workplace for a safe return to production
system to be resistant and antifragile to unanticipated shocks. The point here is simple. The reason manufacturers are struggling to deal with the fallout of Covid-19 is because their supply systems are fragile. What this doesn’t allow them is to be flexible – for example, very few manage to use the data they have to identify and connect with alternative suppliers when there are sudden shocks to their supply chain. The overreliance on manual processes and the lack of visibility into their supply networks has created tangible impact on their production. So, how can manufacturers retool their supply chain to find an optimal solution in times of crisis? It might sound obvious, but the foundation of an antifragile supply chain is to become digital. Data and analytics have enormous potential to modernize and transform manufacturing operations. Yes, most manufacturers are already gathering useful data throughout their operations, but it’s essential that they use it effectively. Don’t rush out to install sensors on everything, oftentimes what you’ve got is more than enough to build a robust view of your manufacturing operations and supply chain. One way is by using what we call an Asset Avatar - AI algorithms that help simulate scenarios and take into consideration all costs, such as fuel or storage, alongside any other factors as the distribution curves in each country or city. This will allow manufacturers
A study by The World Economic Forum looking into building resilience across manufacturing, revealed that the number one priority for manufacturers is to protect their workforce. Manufacturers have already taken measures such as implementing home-working policies, pushing travel restrictions and visitor bans, or making wearing of protective equipment mandatory. However, protecting the workforce to safely return to work should go beyond PPE. Driven by manufacturers’ reliance on human capital and the impacts of social distancing, it is critical that they maintain the safety of their workers. And this is where new technologies can be levelled up to directly solve these pain points to also benefit in the long run. New technologies such as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) are already being deployed to help ensure social distancing in manufacturing facilities as well as optimise people flow. By using thermal cameras and LiDAR technology, manufacturers can detect the temperature of a person from a distance, so that workers can be screened for symptoms of Covid-19, while workspaces can be monitored for compliance with distancing recommendations. By combining this data with existing sensor data, manufacturers can perform machine learning analysis and identify potential high-risk areas, optimise operations management, and even develop policies around what to do when an employee has a fever or hasn’t washed their hands. Protecting human life has become even more of a priority during the pandemic. It’s essential that manufacturers look to new solutions and take a proactive approach to prevent and mitigate the impact of future pandemics. The manufacturing industry is not only a driving force behind the global economy, but it also contributes to a better quality of life. We depend on the success of manufacturing for ensuring continued production and quality of goods, while advances in technology will ensure a safer work environment suitable for the future production systems. v
Wael Elrifai Wael Elrifai is VP of Big Data, IOT & AI at Hitachi Vantara, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd. Working alongside each customer, Hitachi Vantara applies its unmatched industrial and digital capabilities to their data and applications to benefit both business and society. More than 80 per cent of the Fortune 100 trust Hitachi Vantara to help them develop new revenue streams, unlock competitive advantages, lower costs, enhance customer experiences, and deliver social and environmental value. www.hitachivantara.com
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Cobots vs. Covid-19
Cobots are emerging as a tremendous force for good in the global battle against the coronavirus
obots from Universal Robots have contributed to the global response to the pandemic in a multitude of ways - we take a look at disinfection and test kit solutions along with some less easily categorized (but just as exciting) solutions that this technology has made possible.
Disinfecting with cobots
The global pandemic has seen massive demand for effective deep cleaning and disinfection technologies that don’t involve direct human contact with potentially infected areas. In mid-April, researchers at Nanyang Technological University. (NTU) presented their solution to this problem with the unveiling of the eXtremeDisinfection roBOT (XDBOT), which comprises a UR5 cobot fitted with an electrostatic spray nozzle, all mounted on a mobile platform. Researchers programmed the cobot to mimic human hand movements so that it can get into hard-to-reach areas such as under beds and tables a - feature that’s missing from traditional disinfection robots that are not as dexterous. The system’s spray nozzle and large 8.5 liter disinfectant tank enable XDBOT to spread disinfectant quickly over a wide area, without sacrificing deep-cleaning capabilities. Another important feature of the XDBOT is that it’s semi-autonomous. This allows cleaners to remotely control the bot via tablet or laptop, thereby avoiding contact with potentially infected areas. Capable of running continuously for four hours on a single charge, XDBOT has been successfully tested in public areas in the NTU campus
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and the team is preparing to trial the technology at local public hospitals. Also in April, a team at the University of Southern California (USC) revealed its prototype Agile Dexterous Autonomous Mobile Manipulation System-UV (ADAMMS-UV). It’s similar to the XDBOT in that it uses a UR5 cobot mounted on a mobile platform. But instead of spraying disinfectant, the ADAMMS-UV uses a UV light wand with an additional UV light source mounted on the base; the UV light is able to break down the DNA of the virus. Fitted with a gripper from our UR+ partners at Robotiq, the ADAMMS-UV can manipulate objects, enabling the cleaning of hardto-reach surfaces. Like the XDBOT, the ADAMMS-UV can be remotely operated, ensuring that human workers maintain social distancing regulations and avoid possible infection. Cameras mounted on the cobot assist human operators with navigation. A time-of-flight camera on the robotic arm scans its surroundings and uses infrared light to determine depth. Using this visual information, the ADAMMS-UV then builds a 3D model of the area to be disinfected. “We actually started developing the mobile cobot application as a solution for machine tending,” says Satyandra Gupta, director of USC Center for Advanced Manufacturing. “We chose a UR5 cobot for this due to the built-in safety, that meant we could use it in collaborative mode around people. UR is the leader in the field of cobots so it was a clear choice for us,” he says, explaining that when the Covid-19 crisis hit, USC was required to clean its own labs. “A lab is complex, you can’t just spray everything with bleach. We looked into UV disinfection and
analysis. The entire process takes around seven minutes in total, with the swab itself taking just 25 seconds. The system was officially launched in Denmark at the end of May. Meanwhile, Houston, Texas-based portable detection manufacturer DetectaChem unveiled a unique smartphone-based Covid-19 testing solution in late May. The company’s at-home, low cost Covid-19 test provides results via smart phone in just 15-30 minutes. Three UR10 cobots deployed in the Detecta Chem manufacturing facility are used to remove plastic sheets from around the test kits as they are presented on a rotary table, enabling DetectaChem to quickly ramp up full scale production of its Covid test, pending FDA approval.
Wait, there’s more!
realized that this could work, however, the solutions on the market were for more large-scale disinfections of rooms and would not be able to for example open a drawer, take out an item, place it down and place the disinfection wand over it,” says Gupta, adding that his team is now working on incorporating a second UR5 cobot, so ADAMMS can disinfect twice as fast; one arm can i.e. open a drawer while the other arm carries the wand. The team has successfully tested the prototype in the lab. Further testing and validation is underway to ensure the technology can be used in public places including hospitals, hotels and offices
UR cobots’ inherent flexibility helps support the rapid development and deployment of automation –a feature that really comes to the fore in times of crisis. In March, for example, the Spanish car manufacturer SEAT decided to transform one of its assembly lines from its original automotive role to ventilator production. The auto giant installed a UR10e at the end of the line to perform a quality check of the locking mechanism on the unit’s control box. Elsewhere in Spain, plastics manufacturer Pepri turned its talents to the production of plastic components for hospital beds in high demand. Exploiting the rapid redeployment capabilities of UR cobots, Pepri quickly shifted to production of plastic supports for hospital beds, including lateral supports, headboards and footboards. The UR cobot is used for cutting the blow-molded plastic parts. v
Covid-19 testing with cobots
Covid-19 has also resulted in unprecedented demand for medical testing. In response to this extraordinary demand, Universal Robots co-founder Esben Østergaard turned his creative energies to the design and development of the world’s first autonomous throat swabbing robot launched by Lifeline Robotics, a company he co-founded with the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Institute at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU). Developed in collaboration with robotics researchers from SDU, the robot uses UR3 cobot arms fitted with a custom 3D-printed end-effector. The process is simplicity itself, beginning with the patient scanning their ID card. Right away, the robot prepares a sample kit, consisting of a container with a printed ID-label and it picks up the swab. Then, using its built-in vision system, the robot identifies the right points to swab in the patient’s throat. As soon as the swab process is complete, the bot places the sample in a jar and screws on the lid. The jar is then sent to a lab for
Universal Robots Universal Robots was founded in 2005 to make robot technology accessible to all by developing small, user-friendly, reasonably priced, flexible industrial robots that are safe to work with. Since the first collaborative robot (cobot) was launched in 2008, the company has experienced considerable growth with the user-friendly cobot now sold worldwide. www.universal-robots.com
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Wearing your data on your sleeve Nick Castellina looks at the rise of wearable technology in the quest for real-time data
n this digital era, data is recognized for its intrinsic value in smart decision-making and enhanced business insights. In manufacturing, data helps personnel on the shop floor manage goals and tasks, understand details of work orders, and visualize critical conditions, such as machine configurations or engineering specifications. But, in the typical plant, access to real-time data is often a challenge. Workers, including
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managers, are seldom at a desk, rarely at one workstation, and seldom in an environment that is free of noise, extreme conditions, or potential hazards. These factors are among the many causing manufacturers to increasingly turn to mobile solutions and wearable technology to give workers access to the data they need â€” whenever and wherever the job takes them.
How wearables are evolving
Adoption is increasing at a phenomenal rate. MarketWatch projects the industrial wearable segment will grow from $1.5 billion in 2017 to $2.6 billion in 2023, a 73 per cent jump, and that may be a conservative estimate. Forrester predicted that by 2025, 14 million workers will use smart glasses and similar devices to increase performance. Mobile
solutions and the use of voice-recognition will add more opportunities for expanding productivity in the plant, where personnel need access to timely data the most. Innovations are being seen in the devices used, such as glasses with drop-down mini display panels and hardhats equipped with screens. Software developers now are creating responsive designs that can scale
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and be viewed in small formats. Wearables can range from devices worn on the sleeve, to a hardhat-mounted camera that projects real-time asset repairs back to the maintenance department’s senior technician. Ruggedized tablets, constructed to withstand high heat, excessive moisture and frequent bumps, are the most common remote devices used. Whether the company provides users with smart phones or has a bring-your-own-device policy, smart phones are often used in plants as the flexible, easy-to-use devices for connecting to email, collaboration tools, and portals for fast access to relevant resources or knowledge bases. Manufacturers can also turn to AI-driven ‘personal assistants’ with Natural Language Processing (NLP) to allow users to access data and perform tasks without the need for a keyboard. This supports remote usage and applications when the user may appreciate hands-free convenience. Shipping, receiving and warehouse personnel, who may be driving forklifts or scanning pallets, benefit from the ability to ask questions or enter data through voice commands, rather than typing.
Taking a closer look at the use-cases and benefits
Understanding the driving factors and industry trends will help plant managers weigh the pros and cons of investing in mobile and wearable technology. Thin margins and limited resources mean managers must be cautious about areas of investment, going forward with options they are confident will bring a fast Return on Investment (ROI).
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When evaluating possible solutions and tools, it’s important to project savings that could come from the full range of benefits, including increased accuracy and productivity. For example, access to details on customer orders, design specifications, CAD drawings and last-minute change orders will help ensure that customized products meet expectations. This increased accuracy, in turn, reduces waste from re-works and eliminates the high costs of customers rejecting shipments. Use-cases for wearable technology and mobile applications continue to expand. Here are nine examples of when and where these technologies provide major benefits: 1. Role-based workbenches and dashboards. Modern ERP solutions often contain role-based workbenches and dashboards to help personnel manage their own Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and ongoing responsibilities, whether maintaining safety stock levels, monitoring resources committed to Engineer-to-Order orders, or optimizing supply chain deliveries for just-in-time strategies. Those tools only work, though, if they can be used when and where the user needs them. That could be on the shop floor, in the warehouse or at the loading dock. Remote access through mobile or handheld devices is essential. 2. Empowering always-alert executives. Top managers of business units and the shop floor are often vigilant watchdogs. They want to stay connected 24/7 to real-time status alerts, especially when the plant
Data 5. Supervising remote workers. Video cameras mounted on hard-hats can also be used to support junior-level technicians in the field. The video can be streamed to a central locale, where a veteran technician provides advice and supervises activities remotely. This helps the new technician learn the ‘tribal knowledge’ and speeds resolutions. 6. Faster resolution rates. Whether field service technicians are dispatched to customer sites or in-plant to perform maintenance or service, the timely access to asset details - like service history, inventory of replacement parts, status of warranties or service agreements, and previous resolutions - will help technicians make well-informed decisions about repair vs. replace. 7. Upsell and replacement opportunities. Field technicians with access to account information and inventory details will be able to make in-field recommendations to customers and sell replacement or up-sell equipment on the spot — when the purchase decision is critical. Technicians, seen as trusted advisors, tend to have very high close-rates for on-site sales. 8. Tracking and monitoring personnel. Some plants can be massive, covering many buildings, yards and warehouses. Assets can range from pipelines and rail lines, to rooftop exhaust scrubbers and barges for hauling raw resources. Personnel can be scattered over a wide vicinity. Some locations may also pose dangers. Wearables, like vests equipped with GPS tracking, can be used to help monitor location of employees, supporting safety and security, as well as encouraging productivity. 9. Speed pick-and-pack in the warehouse. Warehouse functions are some of the most relevant and valuable applications of wearable devices. Wrist-mounted, glasses-view, or dashboard-displayed screens help forklift drivers to find and fulfill orders quickly. Those loading and unloading trucks also appreciate the ability to confirm order numbers verbally rather than trying to type long series of digits accurately, often while wearing gloves and moving. runs three shifts or has global operations in different time zones. Portals for remote access for personnel and partners are increasingly important, as global operations, ‘work from home’ and outsourcing business models are more widely adopted. 3. IoT data where it counts. Manufacturers are increasingly embedding sensors in machinery and capturing performance and maintenance-related data points through Internet of Things (IoT) technology. It’s logical that maintenance managers and technicians have access to the data near the machine. As the user approaches the piece of equipment, a real-time diagnostic view of the machinery and its components can appear on a hand-held device. The screen can highlight key performance stats and red-flag any anomalies requiring attention, giving the technician the vitals needed to perform any necessary maintenance or repairs quickly. 4. Training and onboarding. As the shortage of skilled workers continues to plague manufacturing, often less experienced, junior-level candidates are brought on board, requiring extensive in-plant training. The complexity and high value of machine assets make plant managers reluctant to assign inexperienced technicians to perform maintenance on those assets. Augmented Reality can be used for training, giving users the chance to visualize machine issues and ‘practice’ engaging with the hightech tools and repair tactics. This gives new recruits valuable experience.
As manufacturers strive to optimize resources and boost productivity, remote access to data is an important issue to be considered. Some tools are simple, such as equipping field technicians with mobile devices. Other applications, like Augmented Reality for training, will provide more commitment of resources. Each specific use-case should be evaluated not only for the gains in productivity, but also the improved speed of service, enhanced customer experience, and improved quality control. Managers considering their wearable strategy should also keep in mind that the competition is readily adopting this technology and empowering their workers. Keeping pace with trends is important in today’s fast-changing manufacturing landscape. v
Nick Castellina Nick Castellina is senior director, industry & solution strategy at Infor. He works across product management, product marketing and sales, working with Infor’s North American industry strategy team for Product Industries, including discrete and process manufacturing, as well as distribution. Infor is a global leader in business cloud software specialized by industry. With 17,300 employees and over 68,000 customers in more than 170 countries, Infor software is designed for progress. www.infor.com
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Bioplastics Bioplastics: can they help solve the global plastics problem? By Rich Quelch
eeting in Nairobi in December 2017, the United Nations Environment Assembly claimed, unless we take action, our oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050. That one fact alone sent shockwaves around the world. The problem is, plastic is one of the most versatile materials for industry and consumers, yet the most damaging for the environment. While there remains a degree of skepticism about the detail, nature and geographical source of global plastic waste, there is clearly no time to be lost in addressing the bigger issue. There are aspects to the plastics crisis within our control and opportunities to demonstrate our commitment cooperatively across the world. Bioplastic is one innovation helping to reduce the environmental impact, alongside other Let’s explore each material technology in more detail…
What are recycled plastics?
Recycling plastic is one of the oldest and most widely adopted ways of reducing plastic waste. It involves repurposing scrap or waste plastic items by melting them down into their raw components to create ‘new’ recycled plastic. Broadly, there are two ways plastic can be recycled: mechanical recycling, whereby plastic is washed, ground into powder and melted, and chemical recycling where chemicals break down plastics into its basic components to be remolded. While this has been the status quo for years, it’s a fundamentally flawed approach for the long term. That’s because it’s difficult for recovery facilities to make money from low-value plastic items, different plastics when melted phase-separate like oil and water causing structural weaknesses and limitations on future applications, and in the recycling process new plastic materials have to be added in order to improve the integrity of the material. This can only be done two or three times before the plastic is unusable. In addition, many resin types aren’t yet widely recycled, leaving consumers confused.
What are bioplastics?
Bioplastics are built on the premise that to make a more sustainable plastic, its chemical components must be more sustainable. Plastic, as we know it, is a carbon-based polymer made mostly from petroleum, a non-renewable fossil fuel. This makes its safe disposal difficult because the burning process gives off toxic chemicals such as dioxins. Recycling all the different forms of plastic is also too much of a challenge for most local authorities, given the multitude of processes needed to recycle each individual type of resin. In a bid to overcome these challenges and reduce the amount of plastic waste in landfill, a range of bioplastics have been developed. These are made from a host of natural
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materials and have two environmental advantages: they absorb as much (if not more) CO2 before being converted into plastic as they release when they break down, and when they’re disposed of they are generally compostable, meaning they do not harm the natural environment. Bioplastics are currently being used or developed from raw materials such as sugarcane, corn, soy, agave, woodchips, and food waste (polylactic acids - PLA). PLA is the cheapest and most widely used bioplastic today. Then there’s PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates) made from microorganisms which is increasingly being used in medical devices. Other types of bioplastics are cellulose-based plastics, starch blends and lignin-based polymer composites. However, not all bioplastics are biodegradable, which undermines their
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effectiveness in the fight against plastic waste. Although, it’s important to stress it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
What are biodegradable plastics?
Biodegradable plastics help to overcome the challenge of what to do with plastic when it’s disposed of. While bioplastics are made up of biological-based polymers, a plastic is only considered biodegradable if it degrades in water, carbon dioxide, or biomass. Bio-based PLA, for example, is compostable but only under strict environmental conditions such as high temperatures, UV light, pressure and nutrient concentration, and specific chemical ratios. In addition, there are oxo-degradable plastics which are simply conventional plastics with additives called prodegredants that accelerate the oxidation process.
What can we expect from bioplastics in the future?
In recent years, there has been a big shift towards bioplastics by large multinational corporations and small eco-brands alike. Consumers are also growing more aware of new plastic technologies and their benefits. So much so, the bioplastics market is expected to reach over $68.5 million by 2024. But while this sounds like a lot, it actually still only represents a very small slice of the overall plastics market. What’s holding the mass adoption of bioplastic back is how these bio-based materials perform in comparison to cheaper traditional plastic which can sometimes compromise packaging and the product inside. And, of course, the biodegradable problem. Packaging and product manufacturers are working hard to overcome
these challenges, developing formulas which allow any type of plastic to degrade naturally and faster in both aerobic and anaerobic environments without the need for UV or high temperatures. For example, BioPAC which is a unique plastic additive added into the base polymer - such as PP, PE, PS, PET, and other major resin types - and enhances its biodegradability. Specifically, the formula allows acids, secreted naturally by over 600 microbes, to soften the macromolecules within the plastic. Other new techniques being explored include programming microbes to degrade plastics using synbio techniques and developing the relevant enzymes for degradation through protein engineering. There are also positive strides being made in reducing the amount of land needed to grow raw materials, which form the basis of bioplastics; land which is needed for crop cultivation to feed people and animals. Scientists have recently developed a sustainable plastic that doesn’t need land or water for production, created from microorganisms that feed on seaweed. So, while there are currently limitations to just how ‘eco-friendly’ bioplastics are, every year we’re seeing new technologists hit the mass market which help solve some of the fundamental problems of biodegradability and resources needed for their production. And with this scalability, the price of bioplastic will fall dramatically. Coupled with growing consumer awareness for sustainable products and practices, this in turn will help drive the market towards the mass adoption of bioplastics. v
Rich Quelch Rich Quelch is Global Head of Marketing at Lifestyle Packaging. Lifestyle Packaging designs, customizes and supplies packaging to a range of industries – including CBD, fragrance, skincare and aromatherapy – and is a market leader in child-resistant packaging. Lifestyle Packaging also specialises in supply chain management, with a unique model to reduce costs and increase speed to market. www.lifestylepackaging.com/biodegradable-plasticpackaging
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Connections and collaboration Hannah Leslie explores the future of the manufacturing sector, the challenges that lie ahead and the potential changes it should prepare for
or a manufacturing company to thrive, it’s widely accepted that its operations must be lean – both efficient and cost competitive – and agile – quick to respond to market demands. The manufacturing industry has met and overcome major challenges in recent years; from fluctuating prices in oil and raw materials to varying currency exchange rates, and now as with many sectors, it has been negatively impacted by Covid-19. The pandemic has vastly disrupted consumer trends for demand and consumption alongside the supply and capability of companies to deliver effective goods to the market. However, the unprecedented challenge of the pandemic has required companies to reinterpret the situation, allowing for new product development opportunities, enabling them to diversify and explore new markets. Companies have seized upon this prospect and tapped into new markets to expand their product offering, venturing into new areas where there was not an apparent concern before. For example, the expansion into the production of products that assist with social distancing, and the development of ventilators and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) have all created opportunities for new design prospects and manufacturing routes. These are allowing companies to expand on their product offering while helping address a variety of Covid-19 related challenges.
Preparing for the future
The looming issue of plastic pollution and global warming are still matters that need to be addressed and more companies than ever are required to account for circular economy considerations in their product development; not just for cost and waste saving purposes, but in response to demand for transparency throughout the life-cycle of their products. Amidst consumer and governmental pressures, undoubtedly there will be an increased demand for product traceability; to easily source where a product comes from, its journey, the source of the material, and importantly what happens at the end of its useful life. Companies will need to trace their manufactured products right through design,
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manufacturing, installation and maintenance, to decommissioning or end-of-life. In the face of climate change and amidst increasing consumer expectations, further incorporation of this into legislation in the future is likely. It is reasonable to expect that eventually companies will require an end of life route mapped out for any manufactured product. Can it be maintained, repurposed, or recycled? If there is no other option but for a product to go to landfill after its use, there must be a robust justification as to why. Although many companies are adopting circular practices as part of their business models, for the majority, it will take the introduction of such legislation to see that change fully take place. As the discussion on this continues, it will be interesting to see where the responsibility ultimately sits. During a product development project there are multiple key players involved, but who will be legally accountable, ensuring that products have a responsible end of life plan; will it be the company that owns the product, the owner of the IP, the design consultancy or the manufacturer? As this discussion evolves, there will undoubtedly need to be a collaborative approach between the public and private sector, not only for the benefit of the planet but also for the companies involved. We have already seen the introduction of legislation to encourage more sustainable operations across some sectors, such as oil and gas, where changing attitudes about the environmentally detrimental aspects of the industry has resulted in multiple companies investing in areas such as offshore renewables. There was a measured change in approach taking place prior to the recent disruption caused by Covid-19. Longer term, this may act as an opportunity to re-shape our thinking in the transition towards cleaner energy sources.
The demand for end-to end-sustainability
Similarly, manufacturers will need to re-adjust to increasingly sustainable
New product development
approaches and invest in cleaner energy to meet the ever-increasing criteria set by companies and their customers. Customers are increasing their knowledge on how factories are using energy and how efficient they are when it comes to where their products are being produced. Companies based in the UK will potentially be more inclined to manufacture locally to respond to drivers regarding the environmental impact of freight or shipping, and mitigating potential risks from using overseas imports, which have been highlighted in a critical way during the pandemic. To meet expectations regarding sustainable practices, embracing technology and innovation within UK manufacturing will continue to be of vital importance. By adapting processes and operations, re-shaping supply chains and embracing assistive technologies, such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), the manufacturing industry can take steps in recovering from the current crisis, and prepare for future challenges that may lie ahead. Now more than ever, it is vital that companies are better informed in their product development. A great innovation must be matched by intelligent design, manufacturing and materials expertise. There is no one size fits all solution to manufacturing a part; there are numerous processes and materials that can be considered to ensure that the part meets sector regulations in a sustainable and cost effective manner while meeting demands in quality. To grow and innovate from sector to sector, it is vital that companies continue to build connections and collaborations in order to develop new solutions that meet the worldâ€™s ever evolving needs. v
Hannah Leslie Hannah Leslie is a Knowledge Exchange Associate within the Design Engineering Team at the University of Strathclydeâ€™s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC), part of the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS). The National Manufacturing Institute Scotland is a group of industry-led manufacturing research and development facilities where research, industry and the public-sector work together to transform skills, productivity and innovation to attract investment and make Scotland a global leader in advanced manufacturing. The University of Strathclydeâ€™s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) and Lightweight Manufacturing Centre (LMC) are specialist technology centers within NMIS. www.nmis.scot/get-in-touch/
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Meeting challenges Mikko JĂ¤rvikivi discusses meeting quality control challenges across the automotive supply chain
ough legislation on carbon emissions is forcing manufacturers to innovate across the automotive supply chain. Earlier this year, the US Environmental Protection Agency followed the international example by announcing its developing new rules to decrease pollutants in vehicle emissions. Similarly, China 6a emissions regulations are set to come into force this year, with the EUâ€™s next phase of Euro 6 standards coming into effect in 2021. As global legislation becomes increasingly stringent, innovations in
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materials, vehicle design and propulsion systems are bringing fresh challenges. Light-weighting is a key strategy to meet this next generation of emissions targets. Further, as CO2 emissions fall by 8.5g per 100km for each 100kg lost, cutting weight remains a priority for manufacturers striving to get more from every drop of fuel or battery charge. Moreover, the emerging generation of electric and connected vehicles contain a myriad of complex components and require new material specifications, too.
This evolution is bringing crucial analysis and quality control requirements across the supply chain - from foundries, fabricators and metal component producers to electronics suppliers and recycling facilities. Here we consider the trends and technologies enabling the automotive supply chain to succeed in a time of rapid change.
The road to light-weighting
Two of the key metals facilitating vehicle weight reduction are aluminum and magnesium. Aluminum weighs about a third of steel, while magnesium is the lightest structural metal – 75 per cent lighter than steel and 33
per cent lighter than aluminum – and is abundant and easily recyclable too. BMW recently used aluminum to more than halve the weight of the 5-Series tailgate; and Opel (part of PSA group, Europe’s second biggest car maker) used magnesium to replace steel in the Vectra’s dashboard support, shaving 5kg in weight. By 2022, the average car is expected to contain around 100 kg of aluminum as a replacement for steel and other materials, and the global market for magnesium and aluminum-alloy automotive components is predicted to be c.$48 billion by next year, growing at a c.7 per cent CAGR.
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Consequently, in a bid to regain market share, steel makers are developing super-lightweight steels that are stronger, cheaper and (almost) as lightweight as aluminum. These are expected to reach the market in 2021. To meet automotive manufacturing requirements, a range of carefully controlled alloys are required to provide the properties needed for vehicle components. By itself, aluminum can be relatively weak. And, while the introduction of lithium significantly increases its tensile strength, Al-Li alloys can be brittle and subject to deformation and fracture. The machinability of an Al-Li alloy can be improved with the addition of phosphorous and sulphur, but this needs to be strictly controlled as both have a detrimental effect on corrosion resistance. Similarly, magnesium is also brittle, with the addition of rare earth elements (REEs) - such as dysprosium, praseodymium and ytterbium - needed to improve this.
Adapting to the EV evolution
The electrification of vehicles is also disrupting the supply chain for the
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automotive industry, and poses a significant, imminent threat to the forging and metal casting sectors in particular. The average powertrain in an internal combustion engine (ICE) has about 107 forged parts and around $550 worth of metal castings, but an electric vehicle such as a Tesla typically has fewer than ten forged components and about $200 of cast parts, and those are mostly die castings. Several factors are coalescing to make, inevitable, the looming fleet change to EVs (electric vehicles), including global environmental concerns and legislation, and the subsequent decision by the worldâ€™s largest auto market, China, that all its cars will be EVs. Companies such as Volkswagen and GM have announced they are not conducting further research and development into ICEs, in part to avoid hefty EU penalties for noncompliance of â‚Ź30,000 per vehicle per day. The push to improve vehicle range is also driving the global pace of change towards vehicle light-weighting. Every part of a vehicle is undergoing intense scrutiny for possible redesign and all materials are likely to be new and improved in the new generation of EVs heading for our roads.
Automotive for the right component will be paramount. As vehicle designs evolve and new materials are developed, technologies are evolving to provide effective materials analysis and enable manufacturers at every stage of the supply chain to improve quality control for incoming materials and outgoing par ts. There’s a growing trend towards 100 per cent PMI (positive material identification) too and more companies are investing in tools to improve quality control processes in the pursuit of 100 per cent quality. In the case of raw materials and metal components, we are seeing that companies are relying less on supplier cer tificates and investing more on analyzers. Given the critical and increasing role of electronics in demanding markets like automotive as well, reliability and accuracy in production and quality control are paramount for safety, with many switching their analysis in-house. The quality of new alloys being developed stems from manufacturers having the right tools. From making sure the right material is used to controlling the metal melt, it is crucial for organizations to invest in analyzers that provide results fast and accurately for decision making. This includes providing teams with handheld laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), X-ray fluorescence (XRF) or optical emission spectroscopy (OES) analyzers for materials analysis and quality checking to verify material grades. For analysis of alloys to the ppm level, OES technology gives the most precise results, covering the complete spectrum of elements in metal, including phosphorous, sulphur and boron, which can’t be measured at all or with the necessary detection limits with either a handheld LIBS or XRF analyzer. The new generation of OES analyzers are designed for fast, reliable and cost-effective melt and raw material analysis. They allow analysis of all main alloying elements and identification of exceptionally low levels of tramp, trace and treatment elements in metals.
While the predicted transition in the US is slower than in countries such as China, manufacturers across the whole automotive supply chain are being forced to rethink their business models, with a renewed focus on developing innovative processes and materials in order to weather the approaching storm. Although the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that EVs will represent only five per cent of cars/light trucks and 0.5 per cent of freight trucks on US roads by 2033, savvy businesses should be gearing up now for the inevitable change – as the old adage goes, a stitch in time saves nine. As foundries, metal casters and other manufacturers adapt, this will likely see them work more rigorously to produce the highest quality parts at the most affordable prices. Achieving this goal naturally presents new material analysis challenges that will need to be dealt with too.
Analysis technology developments
In five years, it’s likely that vehicles will use a larger range of materials than ever before, and the need to ensure the use of the right material
The pace of industry innovation brings crucial quality control challenges across the automotive supply chain and, in response, the field of materials analysis has been rapidly changing. The continued development and application of technologies like OES, XRF and LIBS is making analysis easier, with huge potential to unlock commercial value. Choosing the right technologies for every stage of the automotive development process is critical to ensure analysis keeps up with industry innovation and changing regulatory demands. Continued innovation and development of analysis technology is vital to help the automotive industry meet its current and future challenges. v
Mikko Järvikivi Mikko Järvikivi is the Head of Global Product Management at Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science. For over 45 years, Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science has specialized in high-tech analysis solutions designed to meet the tough challenges of a rapidly evolving industrial sector. Today, it is helping thousands of businesses streamline their costs, minimize risk and increase production efficiency. Its range of laboratory-based and robust high-performance infield testing instruments deliver materials and coatings analysis that adds value throughout the production lifecycle, from raw material exploration to incoming inspection, production and quality control to recycling. https://hha.hitachi-hightech.com/en/
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Today’s must have? O
Gary Day explains the key principles of track and trace, how an effective system should work, and the industries in which the concept has become essential aid to compliance
ver time, the complexity of manufacturers’ supply chains has increased, bringing with it a growth in the requirement for traceability. While a manufacturer may need to know the origins of its raw material inputs from upstream, its downstream customers are just as likely to require the option to revisit when and where the product was made and by whom. In an age of heightened quality standards and regulatory demands, traceability is vital. The consequential benefit of this is a greater level of accountability at each stage of the supply chain. One way in which companies can achieve this through automation is via a track and trace system.
What is track and trace and why is it needed?
The term ‘track and trace’ may not be new, but the manner in which it is implemented by today’s manufacturers is often much more technologically complex than its earlier iterations. In simple terms, a track and trace system applies unique serialization coding onto products during production and packaging, which stays with the product throughout the logistics phase and connects machine automation with factory business systems. One significant development which has increased the need for track and trace systems is the introduction of new legislation and regulations from the governing bodies of industries. There has been a clamp down on the accountability applied to products within certain sectors, and the
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serialization of packaging through track and trace can help companies meet those now mandatory requirements.
How does track and trace work?
To ensure products are fully traceable through the supply chain, track and trace systems use unique codes at every stage of the packaging process. This coding is given to each individual product, so it can be traced at any point. The process begins at the primary packaging point and unique codes are assigned at each stage, until the product is placed on a pallet to be shipped out. These codes are usually generated by a system with an external interface and can be applied in various different ways, including laser, inkjet or ‘print and apply’ technology. A key aspect of track and trace is the validation and authentication of the unique codes at each stage of the process. Once the code has been applied at each packaging point, it is verified, validated and authenticated before the product can move onto the next stage of the production or packaging process. If there is an issue with the code, a non-authentication alert is triggered, and the product packaging will not go any further along the supply chain. In short, if the code cannot be traced, the product will be removed. Crucially, the same code stays with the product throughout the logistics phase, with serialization connecting machine automation with the business systems of the factory in question.
Track and trace
Which industries requires track and trace?
One sector in particular where the need for serialization has become imperative is tobacco, due to the introduction of new legislation. In May 2016, the EU Tobacco Products Directive (EUTPD II) came into force, bringing with it stricter regulations. To understand exactly how the tobacco industry is innovating, it is important to understand Article 15 and 16 of the EU TPD legislation, which has implications for traceability and security. Tobacco legislation states that manufacturers must implement a traceability system (Article 15), under which all unit packets of tobacco products are required to be marked with a unique identifier. In this context, track and trace prevents spurious products from entering the market. The pharmaceutical industry is another with an extensive requirement for strict track and trace systems. Due to the number of stakeholders involved in the supply chain – manufacturers, distributors, dispensers and patients, for example – pharmaceutical products are passed through many pairs of hands which could lead to misuse and counterfeit products entering the market. Track and trace in the pharmaceuticals industry is integral to mitigating the risks posed by counterfeit drugs and allows the pharmaceutical supply chain to manage is products more efficiently. Pharmaceutical track and trace legislation is already in place around the world – the EU enforced serialization in 2017; the US has the Drug Quality and Security Act; and China implemented mandatory serialization on more than 500 products deemed to be an essential list.
The demand for traceability is developing at such a rapid rate that we are now seeing legislation begin to drive requirements for coding and tracking of other product categories such as soft drinks and alcoholic beverages as well as the aggregation of pharmaceutical products. In some markets, such as Russia, the expectation is that all consumer products will require unique traceable codes which are tracked at every stage of the supply chain, just as tobacco is now. The ultimate aim is for a greater number of global markets to eliminate the illegal trade of contraband and counterfeit products. Rather than being a ‘nice to have’, the use of a bespoke track and trace system designed for the specific needs of a production line should be considered essential for helping the business to meet regulation and improve its processes. v
Gary Day Gary Day is technical director at Sewtec Automation. Sewtec Automation designs, manufactures, installs and commissions complex industrial automation systems for global blue-chip clients in the pharmaceutical, medical, food and beverage, personal care, pet care and tobacco industries. In excess of 85 per cent of the company’s sales are exports. Last year, Sewtec Automation’s turnover more than doubled to a record £28m with EBITDA of £9m and the company aims to achieve a turnover of £50m by 2023. https://sewtec.co.uk
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Agile approach Five ways to jumpstart operations in the next normal. By Katy George
n the wake of radical and rapid disruptions from Covid-19, organizations have a window of opportunity to rewrite and transform their entire operations strategies The coronavirus pandemic has challenged supply and demand norms across sectors, and the speed of disruption exposed points of
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weakness and fragility in global supply chains and service networks. Yet at the same time, the crisis forced operations teams to achieve long-term ambitions that would have been considered impossible before the virus. Leading retailers boosted ecommerce capabilities virtually overnight to deliver food to millions of customers confined to their homes. One
European healthcare provider jettisoned its two-year plan for the rollout of e-health services so that in only ten days it could deploy a new, remote-treatment system to thousands of patients. These are just two examples among many that show how companies took quick action to adapt, achieving new levels of visibility, agility,
productivity, and end-to-end customer connectivityâ€”while preserving cash. Let no learning go to waste. Many business leaders are looking for ways to embed what they have discovered during the Covid -19 crisis, and theyâ€™re now aspiring to create a new kind of operational performance,
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one where increased innovation enables agility, and agility creates resilience - and at lower cost. As response efforts converge with the ambition to transform, our ongoing work and discussions with leaders in multiple industries suggest that five themes will shape resilient and reimagined operations on the other side of Covid -19.
Building operations resilience
Successful companies will redesign their operations and supply chains to protect against potential shocks. More companies will set up dedicated supply-chain risk-management functions, working alongside the manufacturing, procurement, and supply-chain functions. The resulting actions may involve accelerating decentralization, deploying inventory closer to customers, and developing crisis-response plans and capabilities. Companies will also revisit their global asset footprint. The onceprevalent global-sourcing model in product-driven value chains has steadily declined as new technologies and consumer demand patterns encourage regionalization of supply chains. The trend is likely to accelerate, as companies reassess the risks of globally integrated asset networks and supply chains. Services may follow a similar pattern, with providers emphasizing regional operations, slowing the last decadeâ€™s growth in global services trade. To win in the next-normal environment, companies will need to achieve this step-change in resilience without unsustainable increases in their costs.
Accelerating end-to-end value-chain digitization A lot of what had been done to deliver on visibility was based on
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algorithms - but even algorithms cannot help predict an unprecedented phenomenon. Accelerating end-to-end operations digitization will be critical in resolving the long-standing trade-off between efficiency and resilience, and competitiveness will be based on technology. Those organizations who previously invested in end-to-end visibility of supply, inventory and demand were much better prepared to accommodate the significant changes the crisis brought to each of those areas. Going forward, this will likely change the way companies are working, with daily decisions and much tighter alignment between operations and the commercial/ sales functions. In another example, many companies were able to continue production and delivery to customers by automating processes or developing self-service systems. These approaches can accelerate workflows and reduce errors in the short term, and when applied endto-end, they can transform the customer experience and significantly boost enterprise value. For example, in call centers, the application of robotic process automation (RPA) for back-office and invoicing tasks can free up agents to deal with complex queries, areas where they could add the most value. The crisis demonstrated again that low-cost, high-flexibility operations are not only possible - they are happening and they are beneficial. Research by the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with McKinsey, shows that companies often achieve significant and simultaneous improvements across multiple performance measures when they integrate advanced digital technologies across the value chain. Digital approaches can transform customer experience and significantly boost enterprise value when applied end to end.
Covid-19 how to complete tasks remotely, using digital communication and collaboration tools. In operations, this means future of work trends will accelerate, with a marked reduction in manual and repetitive roles and an increase in the need for analytical and technical skills. This shift will therefore require an unprecedented wave of reskilling in operations roles, and organizations will need to ramp up their reskilling efforts significantly to redeploy talent at speed and scale. For example, some companies have set up internal training academies focused on specialized skills by using a combination ad of e-learning, classroom training, and on-the-job coaching. In tandem with reskilling, companies may adapt their operating models to manage physically distributed operations teams, with staff on the ground in local markets able to draw upon the expertise of specialist colleagues who provide support remotely via digital connectivity tools.
Reimagining a sustainable operations competitive advantage
Rapidly increasing capital - and operating-expense transparency
To survive and thrive amidst the economic fallout, companies can build their ‘next-normal’ operations around a revamped approach to spending that enables a different cost structure. And they will need to make these changes quickly. Organizations can begin with an in-depth review of their operating costs. Technology-enabled methodologies can significantly accelerate cost-transparency work, compressing months of effort into weeks or days. These digital approaches include procurement-spending analysis and clean-sheeting, end-to-end inventory rebalancing, and capital-spend diagnostics and portfolio rationalization. Operations functions can also play a central role in companies’ cashand liquidity-management activities. Optimizing an organization’s cash position in the potentially volatile post-crisis environment will require companies to increase the visibility not only of their own cost structures, but also those of their suppliers. Leading organizations are adopting increasingly sophisticated techniques in their capital planning, assessing each project’s return on investment against multiple scenarios, and continually reviewing their capital-project portfolios. This is a unique moment where companies likely won’t face the same trade-offs between flexibility and cost that they did in the past.
Driving the ‘future of work’
The future of work - where all people in every industry use digital technologies, data and analytics in new ways to perform their existing jobs - was a change that was already underway. With Covid-19 upending the way work is done, employees across all functions have learned
Operations can play an essential role in creating lasting competitive advantage and in meeting environmental and social-responsibility goals. We are already seeing multiple ways in which organizations are responding to these opportunities – informed by customer insights, some companies will reinvent themselves entirely in the coming years, focusing on specific technologies or market niches, or by changing their relationship to their end-customers and intermediaries. Others will transform the way they develop products, using agile processes and digital links to improve their connection with customers. Still others are adopting manufacturing technologies and supply-chain arrangements to consume less material, use less energy, and generate less waste. Importantly, these changes won’t just apply to individual organizations, instead, entirely new ecosystems will emerge that include suppliers and adjacent industry players to collectively shift into the next normal. With the likelihood of prolonged uncertainty over supply, demand, and the availability of resources, Covid-19 may be the trigger for operations functions to adopt an agile approach to transformation. As companies transition to the next normal, they can retain these powerful and effective approaches and structures, which have helped many organizations achieve unprecedented visibility and crossfunctional agility in their operations, rather than dismantle them once the crisis has passed. v
Katy George Katy George is a Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company, and leads the Operations Practice, which includes the firm’s services in manufacturing and supply chain. Katy’s 23 years of client service have focused on operational performance improvement, linking operations strategy to business strategy, and operating model design. McKinsey & Company is a global management consulting firm committed to helping organizations create Change that Matters. In more than 130 cities and 65 countries, its teams help clients across the private, public and social sectors shape bold strategies and transform the way they work, embed technology where it unlocks value, and build capabilities to sustain the change. www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/operations/ourinsights
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A healthier world When it comes to the design and production of integrated containment and delivery systems for injectable medicines, customers around the globe rely on the exemplary services of West Pharmaceutical Services
ounded nearly a century ago in 1923, today West Pharmaceutical Services, Inc. (West) manufactures over 100 million components every day, totaling over 40 billion a year. From its 25 manufacturing sites operating in North and South America, Europe and Asia Pacific, more than 8000 team members pride themselves on the delivery of excellence, safety, and
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dependability in injection molding, highly automated contract manufacturing assembly, and finished packaging. As a global business, West maintains extremely high standards of quality and reliability wherever its customers are located, and this is achieved via the â€˜West Business Systemâ€™, where cross-functional teams work towards having its activities aligned and focused
West Pharmaceutical Services, Inc.
on the customer. “We are all focused on our mission of improving patient lives,” is how David Montecalvo, Senior Vice President, Chief Operations and Supply Chain Officer, aptly describes it. “We are positioned to serve as a global partner to our pharmaceutical and medical device customers wherever they manufacture their products. The ultimate goal is to implement efficient processes and utilize innovative approaches to meet and exceed our customers’ requirements. Our objective is to drive the highest quality in the work that we do for our customers and ultimately the patients we serve.”
Working in partnership
This focus on the customer is shared with careful attention to the patient – the ultimate end user of a West product. While the contents of a vial or injectable system may steal the limelight from the packaging itself, in fact these outer components are of critical importance to the successful storage and delivery of many lifesaving drugs and the vital role they play should not be underestimated. David continued with some more details about the range of systems that West creates, designs, manufactures, and delivers. “Within West’s proprietary business, we produce products to serve our customers in the Biologics, Generics and Pharma market areas,” he began. “Our elastomer and seals products, which are used in injectable packaging systems such as vials, help
ensure drug compatibility and stability, while also supporting operational efficiency in the filling operation. “We offer a range of High Value Products, such as Novapure® and FluroTec® which provide an effective barrier and stability for drug molecules while maintaining container closure integrity. We also provide syringe and cartridge components, including custom solutions for the specific needs of injectable drug applications. Our Analytical Services capabilities also provides our customers with expertise in particle analysis, container closure integrity, and performance in packaging and delivery systems among other methodologies. As a result of our understanding of our delivery systems and their compatibility with drug products, we can assist our customers in navigating the challenge that they have in the evolving regulatory landscape.” Daikyo Crystal Zenith® vials and cartridges are also part of the product line, and these are made of a proprietary material that provides higher performance than glass. It is break resistant and withstands cryogenic or ultra-low temperature environments. “We also offer a range of devices used in both the hospital and in-home environments, including patient-centric wearable self-injection systems,” he continued. “These devices are easy to use and can be combined with connected health technologies for delivering drugs directly to the patient.”
Another essential element of West’s Operations is West Contract Manufacturing services, which features six contract manufacturing locations, both in the US and Europe, and provides a single-source solution for customers from product conceptualization through to manufacturing and final packaging. “In support of our contract manufacturing customers, we partner to assist in the design and the development of the manufacturing processes for their device product. We often partner to implement higher levels of automation as a way to increase the output of high-quality devices, where high volume efficient manufacturing is needed and offer vertically integrated material capabilities such as advanced injection molding technologies,” David noted.
Single source solution
Closely linked to West’s contract manufacturing expertise is the West Integrated Solutions Program, which in David’s words “brings together our primary packaging, our device analytical testing, our regulatory, and then our contract manufacturing expertise into a single source solution for our customers.” The Integrated Solutions Program is designed to help reduce risk, mitigate regulatory complexity and ‘Simplify the Journey™’ from molecule to
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We have invested in several centers of excellence here in the U.S., in Europe, and in Asia Pacific as part of our evolving research and development strategy to support our global customers. Our global investment in R&D and innovation demonstrates our focus to deliver the most advanced packaging and delivery systems designed to meet our customers’ growing demands
market, and West is able to work with clients at any stage of their drug development life cycle across all injectable formats.
Moving onto the Global Operations function at West, its strategies are focused across the key areas of manufacturing strategy, global supply chain, process excellence, global procurement, and advanced manufacturing engineering. “One of the goals of our manufacturing strategy is to optimize the global footprint of our facilities, including the development of our capabilities and core competencies to ensure that our manufacturing processes are creating competitive advantage in the marketplace and delivering the highest quality products, on time, with efficient lead times, all in a safe environment,” said David. “Our integrated global supply chain strategy facilitates a sustainable and efficient supply of products through optimizing the utilization of all our global manufacturing facilities and assets. This includes harmonization of our planning systems, driving market leading lead times, and an ability to efficiently scale when needed. We also offer redundancy of supply for customers who require risk mitigation by having multiple sites able to produce a product for them. “Process excellence is another key focus area, which links to our integrated West Business
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System that I mentioned earlier – ensuring a customer-centered focus and efficient processes to meet and exceed the needs of our customers. At each of our global facilities we’ve implemented a lean daily management system, with common KPIs, and process improvement initiatives centered around value stream mapping, maturity modelling, Gembas, and lean kaizens which have become integral in our daily operations. “We are always focusing on driving advanced manufacturing engineering,” David added. “This core competency provides early stage design considerations for manufacturability, ensuring lean principles, automation, and digital manufactured environments are established within our global plants, with our goal of driving towards zero defects and optimizing lead times. “During the last three years we have seen that implementing this overall program and strategic initiatives have improved our ability as a company to be in an effective position to support our customers, as we strive for year over year improvement in our operations performance in our key KPIs of safety, quality, service, and cost.” David noted how West’s strategy has also proven essential during the Covid-19 pandemic, before shedding light on how the business itself is playing a vital role in the race to develop an effective vaccine to the virus. “We are receiving
requests for containment solutions for the development of vaccines for Covid-19, and our product offering, FluroTec®, is preferred by most customers having proven to be compatible with a variety of drug molecules, particularly in the area of vaccines. “We are already the critical supplier of coated stoppers and seals for many pharmaceutical companies who are working on vaccines for Covid-19. We have been approached by our customers because of our reputation for certainty of supply for their manufacturing plants which is derived from our global scale and our ability to flex our operations. These customers are seeking components to support the development work, clinical trials, and potentially post-approval launches, and we are committed to scaling the production to meet our clients’ future volume requirements. “We are also supplying primary packaging components for therapeutics used to treat Covid-19 patients. In addition, we are supplying critical components that are used in some of the diagnostic kit products that are being used to detect Covid-19.” The urgent demand for a Coronavirus vaccine places a considerable amount of extra pressure on West and its clients, and this can magnify the challenges that come with any new product development. “Communication with customers is crucial, so we listen carefully to their needs, which can range from the material component selection, the biocompatibility, and the component requirements for storage, right up to the delivery platform. Vaccine formulation
West Pharmaceutical Services, Inc.
is challenging and the compatibility of the vaccine with the vial including containment features as well as the injecting device is integral to ensuring an accurate and efficacious dose based on the viscosity and the volume to be delivered,” David explained.
Improving patient lives
West is understandably proud to be part of the fight against Covid-19 and David described the West team’s response as ‘humbling’. “We’ve had two priorities at the outset. First to ensure the health and safety of all of our team members and second, to ensure we have our global plants executing and supplying product to our customers without interruption. Our team members have been outstanding and I am so proud of the high levels of engagement and a high sense of pride that exists in having the opportunity to significantly contribute to the health of our global patients in this Covid environment,” he added. From speaking to David, as he described the integrated systems that West has introduced and the innovative products that it
manufactures, it was apparent that creativity and invention are two areas of focus at West. “We strive to continuously innovate, not only to further develop our product and service offerings, but also to create disruptive opportunities,” he confirmed. “We utilize an innovation process focused on the needs of patients and customers in seeking to understand the whole user experience. We also leverage rapid prototyping techniques and are constantly exploring new possibilities to accelerate our development times and allow our teams to learn an idea quickly and early. “We have invested in several centers of excellence here in the U.S., in Europe, and in Asia Pacific as part of our evolving research and development strategy to support our global customers. Our global investment in R&D and innovation demonstrates our focus to deliver the most advanced packaging and delivery systems designed to meet our customers’ growing demands.” As West approaches its 100th anniversary, David is confident in the long-term prospects of the injectable drug market and
predicts new therapies in clinical trials to be predominantly injectable drugs, especially biologics and large molecules. “These sensitive drugs, particularly in the Biologics areas, require some of our highest value product components and delivery platforms,” he said. “So, we will maintain our focus on the primary containment and delivery of injectable drugs. We will continue to scale our worldwide manufacturing footprint to meet future demand, while raising the bar on our industry leading quality and service levels, and we will operate more efficiently and open up opportunities to add more innovative products. Overall, we will always be guided by our mission and that is to provide products and therapies that improve patient lives.”
West Pharmaceutical Services, Inc. Products & Services: Leading manufacturer of packaging components and delivery systems for injectable drugs and healthcare products www.westpharma.com www.manufacturing-today.com l 47
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The Marena Group
The mask crusaders Harnessing its years of experience in the manufacture of medical-grade compression garments, The Marena Group has turned its expertise to the creation of masks and gowns, to assist in the fight against Covid-19 Linda Burhance
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The Marena Group
aving commenced operations over a quarter of a century ago and starting from a humble garage,The Marena Group (Marena) now employs over 200 members of staff and serves customers in over 58 countries around the world. Created by the company’s founders Bill and Vera Watkins, the breakthrough product for Marena was a patented fabric, from which they designed and made medical-grade compression garments for use after surgery. Working closely with both leading US textile mills and surgeons, Marena continued to test its new inventions and improve patient comfort and care through innovation, winning a variety of awards along the way, and introducing products such as shapewear and activewear to its product line. In 2015, the company received private equity investment to enable its next level of evolution, and by 2016 it was partnering with NASA to develop compression garments for astronauts, and embarking on new medical and retail partnerships. Already a US Class 1 medical device manufacturer, and no stranger to innovation, Marena was ideally placed to get involved in the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, its first foray into mask manufacture had a somewhat unconventional start at the kitchen table of Linda Burhance, VP of Product Development, as Dale Clendon, President and CEO of the business explained: “Linda’s career has spanned clothing and fabrics as well as medical devices, and she is a rock star in that world,” he began. “Back in March, just as
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this was starting to happen, and the wearing of masks came to the fore, Linda realized that the characteristics of our fabric in terms of it being cool, comfortable, wearable and easy to put on made it ideal for masks. So, she developed and designed a mask in her kitchen at home and came to me and said ‘I think we can do this.’ “I believed we needed to sell $100,000 worth of masks to make it at least worthwhile to the business – and no sooner had I said that, people started coming out of the woodwork asking for masks and when we started reaching out to businesses we discovered that the demand was actually huge!”
In fact, requests for its masks escalated to such levels that Marena had to create a new manufacturing facility from an existing warehouse, and form a relationship with a contract manufacturer in Mexico, too. “We thought we were trying to maintain our business and help some people, but it just went kind of crazy!” exclaimed Dale. “We had the credentials with our medical background, which gave us a lot of credibility, and we did spend a lot of time educating the buyers, which really helped us as well. We were supplying to a lot of businesses that were trying to get their people to continue to work during the pandemic, or get them comfortable so they felt able to get back to work, and some of the larger organizations literally had unions saying they weren’t going to work if they didn’t get protection. So, we
have made masks for really large global business companies like General Mills and UPS, some of which we branded for them - we were in the right place at the right time I think!” In just a few short months the company has sold millions of masks and this has now also lead the business into the area of gowns too. “We could transfer our garment manufacture expertise into this segment and because we are already a Class 1 medical device manufacturer we meet all the requirements and the diligence that is required so it has spawned another whole new business for us,” added Dale. Going quickly from zero to over a million in terms of production numbers is not an easy process at the best of times, but add in a global pandemic and traditional processes like materials sourcing bring in a new batch of challenges to overcome. “For the masks, we are using our own unique, patented material, which includes a lot of Lycra and is warp knitted, which meant that we had to locate other warp knitters to create enough raw material, and we had to find other components as well, and this was extremely difficult,” agreed Dale. “As we have gone into the gowns side, we have found the same thing, where we have had to do global searches for materials, both on the reusable and disposable side.” This pursuit for materials revealed some unorthodox suppliers, particularly from the automotive sector. “We have found that a lot of the manufacturers who make fabrics for cars actually create very unique textiles that can meet the requirements for reusable and
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“Another area where we are in discussions with a large university and a defence contractor is on a project where we are using some science to try and make an N95 mask out of a new material that we believe that could make it into a reusable product.That has never been done for an N95 before, and that has got us heavily involved with a whole lot of new people and areas and is creating a lot of new opportunities for us.”
disposable gowns, which is highly regulated,” Dale revealed. “Another challenge was that many American companies and hospitals wanted to source their raw materials from America rather than the Far East, so we needed to find these materials close to home as well.” The team at Marena took these challenges in their stride, because as Dale explained, not only were they getting to help people in a dire time, but they were also contributing to the continuing success of the business in what were very difficult circumstances. “I would say that my team here at Marena has been incredibly motivated and excited, and we created a lot of camaraderie and a tremendous amount of enthusiasm as we really felt like we were doing good things for a lot of people,” he stated. “Also, our suppliers were not only looking to help from an altruistic perspective, but they have a lot of employees as well and they need to make a living.” From speaking to Dale and hearing of Marena’s continually expanding plans, the company’s suppliers will be very busy going forward. Mask production continues at pace with new products for children gaining in
popularity by the day – for example, the State of Indiana recently purchased a million masks from Marena for all its children from first grade through to high school. “Our children’s masks come in three different sizes and ours are antiflammable and they have to be comfortable for kids, too. We believe that is an underserved area and we are looking at doing education programs for that as well, to explain to children why they need to wear a mask – we are looking at developing a mascot and materials for teachers and schools in order to alleviate some of the confusion around mask wearing,” Dale highlighted. “We are also in the midst of launching a material that is treated with an anti-viral and anti-bacterial coating, which kills any viral or bacterial material that comes into contact with it. It was created during the Ebola outbreak and given its ability to kill 99.999 per cent of bacteria and viruses we think in a consumer environment it would make people feel a bit more comfortable, particularly for children. You can rewash it up to 50 times and it still has the potency on the mask.
Not content with introducing new innovations into the mask segment, Marena is keeping its focus on the compression garment side too, where it is investigating incorporating therapeutics into recovery products so they would deliver a form of pain medication while being worn. “This wouldn’t be a narcotic, but medication to reduce pain when you come out of procedures,” Dale noted. “That is new horizon and we have got a technology that would allow us to do that, so we will be looking at that in the future and expanding into other areas, as well,” he added. As mask wearing becomes more commonplace and countries such as the UK enforce more rules about wearing these products in shops and public places, the environmental impact of disposable masks is becoming an issue that will have to be addressed. To this end, another of Marena’s activities is continuing to highlight the benefits of reusable masks and gowns – the company historically has always manufactured reusables, and while it is venturing into disposables with its gown manufacture, Dale and his team believe that reusable is the way forward. “Globally the gown business before the pandemic was about seven billion dollars a year, and they say it may be as much as ten times that now, so you can only imagine how much landfill that creates,” he said. “With reusables you can use them multiple times at pennies per use, so you reduce your cost and your waste and they are also biodegradable at the end of their life. We just think that is the right way to go and we have never made disposables up until now, so we believe that reusable is the future in the way the world is today.” Having been extremely busy over the past four months, not just meeting many new manufacturing challenges but also checking in with staff working at home, participating in companywide Zoom meetings and making sure employees are rewarded for their hard work under such difficult circumstances, Dale now has his eye on the future, where he sees infection control products as a permanent addition to the Marena portfolio. “We have created an
The Marena Group
The Marena Group Products: Medical grade compression garments, masks and gowns www.marena.com opportunity and I believe a quarter to a third of our business will be in PPE/infection control kinds of product, which I see as normal business going forward,” he confirmed. “We hope to make some acquisitions both in the US and globally to add technologies to our set-up, so that we can leverage our existing access to 58 global markets, and introduce our products to more people. For a small company our global reach is fairly rare and by continuing to look at acquisitions that can make us a bigger player we can look at our manufacturing and our cost situation and get to customers in markets that we are not in today.” As Dale looked forward to the coming years, Marena’s mask production numbers look set to climb to new heights, especially in the short-term, as with no national policy, it is up to individual US States to decide their approach to masks, and the number of States with a mask mandate is rising quickly. “It is great to be busy, but the circumstances are tragic and while it is good business, it’s not what we want in our hearts,” Dale confided. “We will help while we can and it is good for business, but at some time we hope that we can maintain this business in a normal world. We do think that people’s behaviour will probably change and in the West the propensity to wear masks will become much higher. We believe there is probably a retainable piece of the business, but probably nowhere near what it is now and that is fine with us!”
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Since Schouw & Co acquired the company in 2017, BORG Automotive, Europe’s biggest independent automotive parts remanufacturer, has been launched on an impressive trajectory of growth 54 l www.manufacturing-today.com
ith more than 40 years of history behind it, BORG Automotive has experienced its fair share of important milestones on the road to becoming Europe’s foremost automotive remanufacturing company. In 1991, the company moved its production to Poland – a move that would give
BORG a financial advantage over its competition for years to come. In 2004, the company was assigned the main European license for Lucas products and between 2007 and 2012, BORG made key strategic acquisitions in the shape of competitors DRI and CPI. Though all these landmark events have played a key role in BORG’s rise to prominence,
none has been more instrumental than when Schouw & Co purchased the remanufacturer in 2017. A major investment group with a diverse portfolio of companies on its books, Schouw & Co boasts a turnover more than 20 billion DKK and is known for its active, valuecreating, long-term ownership. As far as BORG’s Business Development Director Jesper Møberg
is concerned, Schouw’s investment has been nothing but positive. “It has enabled us to have a much more aggressive growth strategy,” Jesper reveals. “The good thing about Schouw’s ownership is that we know they are not in it for the short-term. They have a long history of being in projects for the long run and they have proved time and again
that they are not a company that wants to just optimize profit and sell a business on. “Schouw’s investment has boosted our growth, our development, and it has opened up opportunities for us to confidently tackle different markets. Most importantly, it has given us a solid foundation for taking BORG Automotive to the next level and I think that will
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are remanufacturing existing ones - it is very important for us to reman what our customers need and then incorporate this as part of our product portfolio.” Serving wholesalers as well as Original Equipment Manufacturers and Suppliers, BORG benefits from a network of modern production facilities located across Europe. All BORG remanufacturing sites adhere to the company’s focus on lean assembly and thorough testing processes to ensure that all the company’s products are of an equal or superior quality to its competitors. “I think what is important to understand during remanufacturing is that you are working in line with a huge range of preferences,” Jesper says. “The nature of our work means we produce small batches, so it is very difficult for us to use automation. We rely greatly on the skill of our workers and the efficiency of the layout of our factories.”
be made abundantly clear in the coming years.” Offering more than 12,000 part numbers across eight main groups, BORG prides itself on having one of the industry’s broadest and most diverse product ranges. Among its collection of starters, alternators, compressors, brake calipers, EGR valves, and three steering system components, BORG supplies a number of rare and specialty units to help secure the company’s position as the only supplier its customers will ever need to rely upon. “The vast range of products we offer covers 96 per cent of all references and that is what sets us apart from our competition,” Jesper asserts. “We are able to go to a customer and provide a full programme of remanufactured products and services, so I think we have a huge competitive advantage. Product development is key to staying
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at the head of the market and the process we use is two-sided. When it comes to our existing products, we have a whole NPI process that is driven by technology out of the factories. We understand that we must extend our range at all times in order to maintain our 98 per cent market coverage. By carefully analyzing the sector, we can identify gaps in the market and then develop something that will soon move into the factories and onto our process line. “In terms of new products, we are guided by indications from the market and by observing what is moving at the scrapyards. Collecting this information is what gives us an idea of what our customers require and from there we have a whole process of development and looking into individual business cases. Due to the fact that we are not developing brand-new products - we
Even through periods of severe market uncertainty, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, BORG is able to maintain high levels of efficiency thanks to some of the industry’s largest warehouse facilities and most comprehensive stock management systems. “We want to ensure fast delivery on our broad range because if our customers have that competitive advantage, then we will be able to produce more products and make more money,” Jesper comments. “For us, it is important to use our warehouse and stock management strategies to enable us to be proactive with our customers. We truly believe that we are not just another supplier – we are more than that, we want to forge partnerships. We manage stock for customers, replenishing it when needed and helping them build the right stock profile in their warehouses to enable them to be competitive. We are trying to get much closer to the customer in that sense and also in exchanging data on inventory status. We believe in working together as part of an eco-system in a circular economy.” Sustainability has always been a core focus for BORG and the company is committed to a business model that reduces CO2 emissions and works towards creating a greener environment for all.The Fraunhofer Institute has calculated that remanufacturing saves up to 79 per cent of the energy used when manufacturing an original product. When applied to the remanufacturing industry worldwide, this is an annual energy saving equivalent to the power generated by eight nuclear plants or 16 million barrels of crude oil. “When it comes to creating a circular
BORG Automotive economy, we are a highly-advanced company because we do not just dispose or dismantle scrap, we prolong the life of the unit, keeping it alive again and again. This is the finest form of sustainability,” Jesper declares. “Studies show that remanufacturing uses 85 per cent less CO2 than new product manufacturing. I think this whole agenda is of critical importance and that is why we are an active part of the European Climate Research Association and similar organizations because we need to highlight the sustainability capabilities of the reman sector. We need to work out how to improve our visibility and change public perception so that someone who needs a new starter or alternator actually requests a remanufactured product.” Although BORG has experienced a significant fall in demand since the Coronavirus pandemic began, the company is starting to see its order book filling up again and Jesper believes the company is now entering a period of revival. “Yes,” he begins, “we are seeing an increase in sales again after a very difficult period in April and May, but there is still work to be done. We will continue to rebuild this year, but the impact of Covid-19 will be felt well into 2021 due to
mobility issues and social distancing. Still, thanks to our progressive ownership that is keen to invest, we see opportunities to come out of this crisis even stronger. Before the pandemic, many companies were relying on Chinese suppliers, but I think this crisis will show that having a reliable second supplier in Europe is a good idea. As a remanufacturing company, we believe we can draw something positive out of this challenging period.” A truly value-driven business, Jesper believes BORG will continue to build a better future by focusing on its key principles of responsibility, competence, independency, interdependency, and continuous improvement. Within the next three to five years, Jesper hopes the company will be able to expand its product range and ultimately, harness the power of its workforce to double the company’s turnover and profit. “Our parent company believes that it is people who create profit,” Jesper states. “We are very much focused on the human aspect of our business and our workers’ ability to add value to the company. Going forward, we will be pushing for growth as a collective and we are looking forward to exciting times ahead.”
AUTOFREN – SEINSA Autofren – Seinsa is the integral supplier of components for brake calipers with over 12,000 references in its catalogue, which grows every day. It is also a specialist in the manufacturing and design of technical parts for hydraulic brakes for the Reconstruction, Aftermarket and OEM markets, backed by the IATF 16949. Pertaining to the Azkaetxa family group of companies with over 50 years of activity located in Navarre (Spain), leaders in Europe and present in over 80 countries with three plants in Europe (Spain) and one in Asia (India).
BORG Automotive Products and Services: Automotive parts remanufacturer www.borgautomotive.com
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Making paper Already offering hygiene paper products that are manufactured to the highest quality standards, Star Tissueâ€™s ambitious investment plans include warehouse expansions and new technology
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hen the late Allah Ditta started to sell toilet rolls to market traders, little did he know that his efforts would lead to the creation of a major UK manufacturer. Now run by his sons, Abid Ditta, Sajid Saifullah, and Khalid Saifullah, Star Tissue has evolved into one of the UK’s leading independent manufacturers of hygiene paper products. “My brothers set up Star Tissue in 2003 and we have been developing ever since that point,” began Managing Director Khalid Saifullah. “This year we were included in the Sunday Times FastTrack 100 list as one of the fastest growing and most profitable companies in the UK in this sector, which goes some way to illustrating how well the company has flourished since those early days.” It is impressive to consider that from those humble beginnings, Star Tissue now manufactures a wide range of household and away-from-home paper products at a custom-built production facility in Lancashire. These include domestic and luxury toilet tissue, dispenser toilet tissue, center feed rolls, hand towels, kitchen towels and facial tissues to name a few. What connects all these products is that they are manufactured to the highest standard of quality, and supported by extremely high levels of customer service. “We built our business by building relationships, so we work very closely with our customers, making sure they get their products as quickly as possible and at a competitive rate so they keep coming back,” agreed Khalid. “We like to help our customers grow by providing them with the products and services that they need, when they need them. Equally, we build relationships with our suppliers, so it’s not really just about selling products to customers - it is also making sure that we have a good source of supply, with the right grades of material, to ensure the quality of that product is always consistent and is of the highest grade.”
This approach enables Star Tissue’s clients to trust in their products, and be confident that they are of superior quality to the competition. “As a company, we are very focused on our output, we understand our customers and we have built our products and services around their needs. We keep in touch regularly, so we are not just there to sell them paper products - we are there to help them build their businesses. Many of our customers have grown as fast as we have and the bigger they grow the more they buy and the better we do!” Thanks to the adoption of this continuous improvement mind set, Star Tissue has garnered a sterling reputation in the market, and this extends from its products and services, to its
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own internal workplace culture. “People are another key factor, and I think as a family business - we are still run by three brothers – it is crucial that we create a family atmosphere and our staff fits into that ethos. So, we have got a very good team here, who all take a lot of pride in what they do, they feel a part of the business and they have a good strong stake in it. Everybody wants to do the best that they can for the company and that is obvious in all our activities - how we work, what we produce and how we deal with other people.”
Focus on sustainability
Meeting the needs of its customers as well as making sure it is ahead of the curve in production capabilities requires Star Tissue to make continuous investments in the latest technology, and as Khalid explained, this means it
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can consistently produce better and faster, every time. “This also results in our lead times being reduced and our production capacity increasing too, and that means we can make more to sell to more people, and again increase our service levels to customers,” he said, before going on to give an example of how the money is spent. “This year alone we are investing £5m, so we have just completed one new warehouse, and we are in the process of completing the second one, in about four to six weeks’ time [at time of writing]. This will give us an additional 60,000 square feet of capacity, which enables us to manufacture and then hold stock for customers, which brings us back to our focus on customer service.” Further developments are underway on the factory floor too, as more space is created for a new production line. “This is being installed in August, and will feature some of the latest
available technologies in producing hygiene paper products,” Khalid stated. “This is a very large investment and we have been working with the machine manufacturers in Serbia and Italy for two years. That relationship is so strong that it actually led to the Italian company purchasing the Serbian company so they are now working as one business. We have been analyzing every aspect of the machine with them, from unwinding the paper, to making the toilet rolls, to packaging them and palletizing them. “That machine will allow us to make 800 toilet rolls a minute more than what we do already, so it is adding to our capacity by about 30 per cent. It also offers some innovative packaging opportunities, including going plastic free, so we can offer more environmentally sustainable packaging for our customers who require that.” In fact, sustainability in general is on the radar for Star Tissue, and the business is looking at how to reduce its carbon footprint. “We are looking at how we can make products more compact, with more paper, as they will require less transport, and less packaging overall. Our customers are pushing us in that direction and the market is moving that way too, so it is then our responsibility to meet those requirements,” Khalid noted. As the UK makes its way out of the extreme lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it wasn’t that long ago that the panic buying of toilet roll and other hygiene products gripped the nation and Khalid admitted that did bring a surge of enquiries to Star Tissue. “We already had full order books but we were in high demand and had to put people off so we could focus on our day-today operation,” he said. “But as the lockdown took effect and many of
the sectors where our products are used closed, that did have an impact on us and our production. Unfortunately, it’s not something we have control over, so until those sectors come back we are making sure to use this time effectively. “We’re pushing ahead with the investments mentioned previously, and we are usually running at such a fast pace that we don’t have the opportunity to undertake some of these actions. We are doing them now, whilst things are quiet, so that we will be much better placed, and much stronger when things get back to normal again. We will have our new production capability, as well as existing production equipment that is being upgraded and renovated. We like it to be busy, but these tasks are important and we want to be taking full advantage of this time so that we can be ready for what comes next.”
looking for new ways to improve. “We do like to innovate as much as possible,” confirmed Khalid. “We are already looking at further automation in our warehouse and logistics operation, so we can dispatch products to customers a lot faster. This includes automated guided vehicles for example, and shuttles, and supplying real time information to customers. “We are looking at investing in technology that gives us access to more data, so that we
can make decisions faster, too. We are investing in Industry 4.0 and Internet of Things solutions, looking at how we can get our machines communicating more effectively, and we want to maximize the potential for utilizing technology in the business to make it more efficient, more responsive and to be able to service our customers much better. “Our vision is to be the best in our industry,” he concluded, “and that means looking at our products and the most effective ways to manufacture them - combining the finest people with the most productive technologies available. If we mix that with our own flexibility, then we can continue to meet and exceed the diverse requirements of our valued customers large or small.”
Star Tissue Products: Hygiene paper manufacturer www.startissue.co.uk
That could be a surge in demand – as Khalid pointed out, as schools, offices and businesses reopen there will likely be a higher requirement for cleaning, as well as hand washing and drying. “We expect the usage of our products to go up in general, but we will likely also see certain sectors decline as people work from home. There could be some new requirements for specific products, which we are looking at, but I can’t really say what they are yet! “We had already formulated the plans for our new production machine before we even knew what the pandemic would mean, and with this new line we will be able to undertake some activities that not many others can do, and we will be able to test the market a little bit and then fast track some of those products if the demand allows it. I think that we are well placed to benefit from any increase in demand once everything is back to normal.” From speaking to Khalid, one point that was abundantly clear was that Star Tissue never slows down or rests on its laurels – it is constantly
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To protect and secure For several decades now, CLD Fencing Systems has brought world-leading innovation to the physical perimeter security industry, and continues to revolutionize the market with both its permanent and temporary solutions
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CLD Fencing Systems
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With our FenceSafe products, we truly believe that we have revolutionized the temporary fence sector. The system was the first temporary fencing range to use the same rigid mesh panels and posts that are used in the rest of the company’s permanent range, but in a format with zero ground strike
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he roots of CLD Fencing Systems can be traced back to 1969, when the business was first established by the Wells family. Since then, it has evolved into what is now the UK’s largest manufacturer and supplier of rigid mesh fencing systems and security gates, with the family still very much involved in its day-to-day operations. Working with architects, main contractors, local authorities, and Government organizations such as the MoD, the Royal Air Force, and leading security consultants, CLD Fencing Systems has risen to become one of the main drivers of innovation when it comes to the concept of perimeter security systems. “CLD Fencing
Systems was among the first companies to bring rigid mesh fencing to the UK market, and since then it has remained the core ingredient of all of our perimeter security fence systems and our range of temporary fencing products,” explains Chief Executive Officer, Russell Wells. “Where we excel,” Russell continues, “is in producing fencing systems designed to deter and mitigate intrusion, that are aesthetically pleasing, yet never compromise on delivering the highest of security levels that our clients wish to acquire. When we design and manufacture any mesh fence system, we will typically have it comprehensively tested independently by the British Research Establishment (BRE), who will certify said system to determine key characteristics such as its cut-through properties.This rigorous process has resulted in the creation of a range of products that are used in a wealth of different sectors, and our work can be seen in projects of all kinds, from individual schools, warehouses and distribution centers, to large scale infrastructure projects such as HS2. With the latter, we continue to supply temporary fencing products to its various sites, while also working with its architects to devise a permanent fence system.”
CLD Fencing Systems Headquartered in Sandbach, Cheshire – home to a 4.5-hectare site that includes the company’s manufacturing facilities – CLD Fencing Systems also has satellite offices in London, Sydney and Dubai, as well as distributors around the world in more than ten countries. Further to this, in 2017, the company became the first UK entity to export rigid mesh fencing systems to China for a number of specialist sports projects. “Our global presence enables us to have the necessary skills and expertise available in multiple time zones, and to service needs at a local level, which are particularly attractive commodities to have when supplying international clients,” Russell states. “It is important to remember also that the UK is still upheld as being a global leader in the manufacture of security products and standards, which makes a UK manufacturer such as ourselves a go-to when international clients are seeking products and standards to accompany their security infrastructure.”
As Russell goes on to detail, in the last five years alone the company has doubled in size, achieving an average of 20 per-cent year-on-year growth in
that time. “As of today, we are manufacturing over three kilometers of high security fencing products every single day, and to support this growth we have invested significantly in new floor space. This includes a new 9000 square foot, two-story office building in Sandbach, which we moved into in January 2020, and a brand new five-acre
distribution center in Middlewich, Cheshire, which opened its doors in June 2020.” It is from these new facilities that the company has been able to increase production of some of its newer product ranges, and invest in evermore efficient processes. A prime example of the former is CLD Fencing Systems’ collection of
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Rivetwise Rivetwise are proud of their working partnership with CLD Fencing Systems and applaud their innovation and growth over the last 40 years. As application specialists and recognised for their technical knowledge and expertise, Rivetwise are importers and distributors of high quality and competitively priced fastener and fixings products. They serve a wide range of customers including traditional light manufacturing, automotive, rail, aerospace, electronics, domestic appliance, HVAC, building and construction. Their dynamic team deliver a high level of service with good attention to detail and can offer a one-stop-shop, and provide many cost-saving solutions as well as value-added services such as tool hire, maintenance, repair and tool sales. Committed to quality, Rivetwise is an ISO 9001:2015 registered company. Rivetwise is currently adopting 14001 Environmental and AS 9120 Aircraft Parts Stockist to its current ISO standard and is a certified strategic partner of Stanley Engineered Fastening products for the United Kingdom and Ireland.
temporary security products that fall under its FenceSafe brand. “With our FenceSafe products, we truly believe that we have revolutionized the temporary fence sector,” Russell enthuses.The system was the first temporary fencing range to use the same rigid mesh panels and posts that are used in the rest of the company’s permanent range, but in a format with zero ground strike. At present, the company’s temporary fencing solutions are being utilized across a wide number of the UK’s Covid-19 testing centers. These sites have been ring fenced with secure temporary fencing systems from its FenceSafe range, enabling the operators to remain
confident of having a well-protected boundary. It also allows for the erecting of debris netting, shade netting and anti-vision screens, all of which can ultimately be taken down and removed from site once no longer in use. Today, a dedicated R&D team continue to work to create quicker, faster and more efficient ways of developing and deploying temporary security fencing that can suit an increasing number of needs and/or specifications. Furthermore, in the summer of 2020, the company will also be establishing a new business called FenceSafe Hire, which will provide customers with the ability to hire out CLD Fencing Systems’ temporary fencing
CLD Fencing Systems products. “We see huge potential in this field, and we feel that the ability to offer customers rental agreements on either a short or long-term basis – as well as the ability to purchase our products outright – will help make us an even more flexible and versatile proposition,” Russell declares. Another recent innovation that the company is keen to highlight is the development of an entire new hoarding system. “Your typical hoarding system nowadays tends to incorporate traditional materials such as timber,” Russell says. “What we have done is design a reusable system, which makes use of recycled composite plastic for its main board, and is supported by a network of steel uprights and rails that allow it to be taken down and redeployed as necessary. Where this differs from timber alternatives is that these tend to be scrapped after just a single installation, whereas our reusable system could give users as much as ten-to-fifteen years of reliable service.” Meanwhile, within the confines of the company’s manufacturing premises, the most up-to-date machinery aids in the creation of its products and systems in an effective, timely and accurate manner. Alongside the usual CNC machinery that one would expect to find, the company also makes use of fully automated picking systems.These include the Lean-Lift automated in-house picking solution, and the WinMan Go service, which forklift drivers and pickers can access on handheld devices to scan individual products onto and off delivery vehicles. While the business may have continued to grow in size, scope and reach, the management of CLD Fencing Systems has nevertheless endeavored to retain the family values and atmosphere that have served it so well for more than 50 years. “To this day, the Wells family remain very hands-on, helping to oversee the activities of every department,” Russell affirms. “As Covid-19 began to spread across the UK, they joined the rest of the board of Directors in plotting a course for the company in which the safety of our employees was the foremost priority, ahead of the prosperity of the company and ultimately job security.This forward thinking helped us to trade and remain profitable throughout the months that the UK was in lockdown – in a socially distanced manner with no outbreaks of the disease amongst our workforce – which I think was a massive achievement.” Moving forward, the company expects to maintain its recent growth rate of around 20 per cent year-on-year, thus doubling again in size in five years’ time. “This is the pattern of growth that we are forecasting, and in achieving this we hope that we can go on to solidify a reputation as being the global market leader in the manufacture and supply of innovative, secure fencing systems,” Russell concludes.
CLD Fencing Systems Products: Rigid mesh security fencing systems www.cld-fencing.com
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Positive corrugation An environmentally-conscious designer and manufacturer of corrugated packaging and display units, Fencor Packaging Group is a customer-focused business that continues to invest in a better future 68 l www.manufacturing-today.com
ed by Group Managing Director David Orr, Fencor Packaging Group has grown significantly since 2000. In the last seven years alone, the company
has ploughed close to ÂŁ10 million into improving its manufacturing capabilities and increasing its factory and warehouse space. Now boasting a workforce of 140 employees, and a turnover of
Fencor Packaging Group
David Orr (Group MD) and Tony Clifton (Group SD)
almost £20 million a year, it is clear that the firm’s investment strategy is paying off. “It all comes down to a simple rule,” David says. “We will not hesitate to invest where our
customers need us to. We will follow the needs of our customers, and if we don’t do that, we don’t deserve to keep them.” Fencor’s commitment to the needs of its
customers, as well as its willingness to invest in areas of need, were in evidence at the end of July when the company took on an extra 25,000 square feet of working space.
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We’re talking all the time with companies that want to change from plastics. We supply a number of horticultural businesses and we were tasked by one of them to come up with a recyclable alternative to vacuum-formed trays for plug plants. Historically, cardboard wasn’t considered feasible because it is too absorbent, but we found a special coating that had never been used for this purpose before and we were able to get it to work for the product. We have also been able to apply the same principle for a customer in the personal care and cosmetics industry, so we are using the environmental qualities of cardboard to help customers move away from plastics
Fencor Packaging Group “By adding the new space, we can hold extra stock, but more importantly, we can free up room within our manufacturing unit so that we can install more machinery,” David explains. “Within the next week, we will be placing an order for a flatbed die-cutter and a few other bits of equipment. This follows recent orders for automatic taping and gluing machines. The total bill is going to be around £750,000, but we believe it is the right thing to do, and as a Board, we will not hesitate to do what is right. We’ve already communicated these plans to our customers and hopefully they will understand and appreciate the fact that we’re doing something to keep pace with their requirements.”
More than manufacture
Operating as two distinct companies – Manor Packaging and Easypack POP Displays – Fencor serves a variety of industries, including the pharmaceutical, cosmetics, food and drink, retail, and horticultural sectors. Whilst Manor Packaging produces conventional corrugated boxes and flexographic print products, Easypack focuses on the manufacture of three-dimensional cardboard displays for end-of-aisle promotions. “The displays we create are very specialist and retail oriented. There are some businesses that can only get their products into stores through the use of promotional displays and that is where we come in,” David states. “We’ve got specialist equipment, including two Hewlett Packard large format digital printers around 3.2 meters by 1.6 meters in size, so these are big beasts which eliminate the need for printing plates. The specifications of display products tend to be extremely complex and require huge design elements that are relatively costly in comparison to a normal brown box, so it favors digital technology. That’s why we’ve also got probably the biggest hand platen die-cutter in the country, which measures 3.2 meters by 1.8 meters and weighs about 23 tons. It’s also why we have just installed a new large format Elitron digital cutter, which is ideal for producing short runs. “Still,” David adds, “as is the case across the whole of our business, the real differentiating factor is customer service and design and everything that surrounds a product but isn’t actually the product itself. It’s the customer experience, it’s the lead times, it’s the nurturing element of the business and that requires good people, engaged people, and continuous investment in state-of-the-art equipment.” As David suggests, Fencor is more than just a manufacturer. In 2019, the company’s extensive design capabilities helped it take home a Silver Award in the Temporary Display Confectionary category at the POPAI Awards. The award-
winning product was a sustainable, recyclable Oreo Cookie Shark Display, designed and manufactured for Cadbury in partnership with Total Marketing Support (TMS). This followed a POPAI Gold award in 2018. “TMS handle Mondelez’s print and packaging requirements and they use us to design and produce displays,” David reports. “We have a similar arrangement with another marketing services company working with a global brand, who, before we could qualify to do the work, put us through a really stringent audit, including cyber security, colour management and confidential manufacturing. We’ve also been designing frustration-free packaging for satellite boxes that is fully recyclable and allows for easy delivery. “As a business, we are very fortunate to have two highly skilled and experienced design teams full of people who can see a structure out of a flat sheet of board. It’s a rare talent and they are really capable people. Our Group Sales Director started life as a structural designer, so it is a really good place to begin working for us. We’ve got other salespeople and account managers who started as designers too. We
like to carve a career path from designer on to other roles, if that’s what people want. If you’ve got that intimate knowledge of the product, you can find solutions for complex client requests much quicker than someone who hasn’t got that background.”
Fencor’s response to 2020’s Covid-19 pandemic has been widely recognized in the media and David is particularly pleased by the resilience on show throughout the business. After modelling a ‘worst-case scenario’ budget and receiving financial reassurance from the bank, the firm tackled the challenges of Coronavirus head on. “We knew we needed to focus on the end game. We had the kit, we had the finances, so we turned to our workforce and assured them it would be worth going through all this to come out intact and in a strong position. We said to our team, we can make it through this with no job losses and no financial damage or harm to any employee, but we have to stick together, we have to be there for our customers,” David reveals. “The response was absolutely magnificent. We
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Manor Packaging staff
did everything we could to protect our staff and they volunteered to work through weekends and bank holidays. The resilience the whole company showed allowed us to maintain our reliability,
whilst also creating a bond of trust. It’s something that has really served us well.” Having experienced a huge surge in demand in March, both Manor Packaging and Easypack
remain busy. Demand for e-commerce packaging continues to soar and David is thankful for the investments Fencor has made in recent times that have allowed the company to cope with – and profit from – such a significant increase in activity. “Among the equipment we’ve purchased is a Bobst Casemaker,” David comments. “Bobst is the Rolls Royce of our industry, so this is a machine that has been hugely beneficial in our battle to cope with the surge in demand. Only last year, we added a speciality multi-point gluer that helps to manufacture boxes that form instantly when you twist them. That’s been particularly useful for e-commerce and even though we only installed it a year ago, it’s now one of the busiest machines in our group. The company is really seeing the advantages of always staying on the front foot from an investment point of view.”
Having made it through the first half of the year relatively unscathed, Fencor is expecting to see more growth on the e-commerce side of the business over the next six months. Alongside the firm’s continuing program of investment, David suggests that the company is also in a strong enough position to add new recruits to its ranks. “We’ve taken on three new team members in the last month and we plan to take on more before the end of 2020,” David notes. “It is a healthy position to be in and we really are counting our blessings.” As far as the future is concerned, sustainability and environmental strategies will guide Fencor on its journey through the next decade. Assisted by the fact that the company’s core product
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Fencor Packaging Group
Fencor Packaging Group Products / Services: Designer and manufacturer of corrugated boxes and display units Chris Hall (Group BDD) and Phil Hubbard (General Manager-Easypack Displays)
is inherently green - all Fencor packaging is 80 per cent recycled and 100 per cent recyclable – David hopes the firm will be able to persuade more companies to use corrugated materials over plastics. “We’re talking all the time with companies that want to change from plastics,” he declares. “We supply a number of horticultural businesses and we were tasked by one of them to come up with a recyclable alternative to vacuum-formed trays for plug plants. Historically, cardboard wasn’t considered feasible because it is too absorbent, but we found a special coating that had never been used for this purpose before and we were able to get it to work for the product. We have also been able to apply the same principle for a customer in the personal care and cosmetics industry, so we are using the environmental qualities of cardboard to help customers move away from plastics. “Fencor is a part owner of Corrboard UK, which provides the majority of our raw material and which is the world’s first corrugated sheet board manufacturer to be powered by a sustainable energy generation facility fuelled by organic waste. Internally, we continue to invest in LED lighting and we are working in conjunction with Suffolk County Council to install solar panels on one of our factories. The next big push for us will be to source all our power from renewables. I imagine it will be in place before the end of the year, which will be a big step towards our stated goal to be carbon neutral by 2030.”
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Patients are a virtue Above: Paul Eakin - UK CEO
A manufacturer of disposable stoma products that help to improve the lives of patients across the UK, Pelican Healthcare achieved record levels of production throughout the Covid-19 pandemic 74 l www.manufacturing-today.com
ased in Cardiff, Pelican Healthcare, a manufacturer of ostomy appliances for patients with a stoma following bowel operations, was purchased by the Eakin Family in 2007 and acted as a significant springboard towards the creation of a larger Eakin Healthcare Group. “The acquisition of Pelican was a very important move for us,” states Pelican’s UK CEO Paul Eakin. “In the 1970s, my father established TG Eakin Ltd in Northern Ireland, a single product focused medical device manufacturer making a specialist adhesive. We wanted to broaden the base of that business, and as TG Eakin was already in the ostomy space, the purchase of Pelican Healthcare was a fast track approach to being able to provide a much more
complete range of ostomy related products. The fact that the products were manufactured in Cardiff by Pelican was really central to our motivation to buy the business. Pelican and TG Eakin are both manufacturers in their own right, one of specialist adhesives, and the other of ostomy appliances, and together it gives us a really wide coverage and manufacturing capability.” Since 2007 Pelican has undergone a number of major developments. In the early stages of ownership an accelerated program of investment, which allowed for a complete remodeling of the company’s headquarters, as well as a substantial increase in the levels of automation used for the ostomy products enabled a meaningful reduction in manufacturing
Pelican Healthcare “Pelican Healthcare sees that as a new pillar in our strategic development going forward,” Paul elaborates. “We use our relationship with patients to better understand their needs, and from that we try to understand the fundamentals of what really constitutes an improved product for the future. We do focus groups and engage with nurses and users and any stakeholder that can help us drive product development forward. The feedback we get from people is used to improve our offering.”
Dedicated to customers to around ten per cent. Though the market has grown substantially since then, Pelican has grown with it. Around its core range of ostomy bags, the firm has developed soft convex derivatives including most recently, a bag with Vitamin E enriched adhesive. With more new products scheduled to be released in the latter half of 2020, Paul says it is important for Pelican to maintain strong links, and an open dialogue, with patients.
As a provider of vital healthcare appliances, Pelican has enjoyed a surge in demand during 2020’s Covid-19 pandemic. From February onwards, the company experienced increased consumer pressure for the supply of products integral to the everyday lives of stoma patients throughout the UK. As concern among patients grew regarding the sustainability of the supply of these fundamental products, Pelican responded with unprecedented levels of production. “We were looking at a rapidly developing Coronavirus situation where GPs were seeking
costs and the introduction of Pelican’s products to international export markets. Investment in bespoke, fully automated, end to end production systems for stoma appliances greatly enhanced the company’s production capability and capacity. “The process of re-equipping Pelican Healthcare started in 2007 and is ongoing today,” Paul notes. “It’s put us in a position where we can achieve significant levels of international sales for Pelican Healthcare products but also greatly improve our manufacturing capacity for the domestic UK market.” Around the same time that Pelican was purchased by Eakin Group, the healthcare firm became the first company on the market to offer a ‘soft convex’ stoma bag – a specialism that helped the business grow its UK market share
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to ensure that patients had sufficient product available to them. We needed to make sure we had adequate stocks to be able to supply those patients and give them security of supply for a foreseeable period,” Paul recalls. “In terms of how we responded to that, we put great emphasis on our ability to supply at a rapid pace. We have always held significant stocks of raw materials and finished goods, which was greatly beneficial. At Cardiff, we now have four of the manufacturing systems we first ordered when modernizing Pelican’s production systems, plus ancillary automation around other activities. Each machine provides rapid throughput and we routinely operate for 24 hours a day, five days a week, and we can expand that to 24/7 if we require. These machining capabilities, a reliable stock of raw materials and finished goods, plus the ability to increase production by 40 per cent enabled us to meet the requirements. Not only did we supply the UK market, but as I mentioned, we pushed the Pelican products through the wider TG Eakin supply chain and we were able to meet that demand also.” Understandably, Paul is proud of the way Pelican’s workforce has reacted to the challenges presented by the pandemic, suggesting they have performed ‘magnificently’ throughout an
‘exhausting’ period. A firm with Investors in People status, Pelican’s parent company, Eakin Healthcare Group, hired its first HR Director in 2017. The move will help Pelican continue its impressive record of recruiting and retaining employees that embody the core values of the Eakin Healthcare Group. “We enjoy good relationships with our staff and understand the reliance that patients have on our people,” Paul asserts. “Nobody in the Eakin Healthcare Group, or at Pelican specifically, would ever want patients to be in any way disadvantaged by a lack of supply of our products. Our people are always stepping up to the mark in terms of doing that bit more to make sure we have goods to supply. We do sometimes expand the workforce on a temporary basis when required and we have done a lot of cross-training internally so that people are able to step into different roles within the operation. Cross-training has helped enormously throughout this pandemic and investment in that area is very important to us. “Most importantly, as an employer, we see it as our obligation to provide a safe working environment. All our staff are viewed as essential workers and have been working in the factory continuously throughout the pandemic. Our policies are developing all the time, but our workforce continues to receive the utmost protection.”
Entering the latter half of 2020, Pelican saw its sales numbers return to the more regular levels that the firm had become accustomed to before the pandemic. Looking to the future, Coronavirus continues to limit opportunities for the business to promote a variety of new products, but Paul and his team are working to discover new ways to access Pelican’s client base. “We’re very
optimistic about the future and anticipate that our business will continue to grow,” Paul declares. “I’m confident that the shortfalls we had in our first quarter will be recovered by the end of the financial year.” Whatever happens in the coming years, Pelican will continue to forge strong relationships with stoma patients that extend beyond the firm’s products and are instead built upon each patient’s individual experience. At the heart of this lies the company’s online blog and lifestyle column offering patients information, advice, and a sense of community. “Understanding the patient journey is really important,” Paul remarks. “Not only the journey through surgery and their initial experiences with products that they are potentially going to be using for the rest of their lives, or until their stoma is reversed, but also as that person embarks on the rest of their life. Our website offers patients advice on how to live a regular, healthy life with a stoma bag. It explains that, even for people in their 60s and onwards, you can still enjoy good levels of physical activity such as swimming or tennis and it includes information on how that situation changes as you get older, or if you are less mobile. We care about the overall patient experience and we want to extend that journey.”
Pelican Healthcare Products: Stoma care products www.pelicanhealthcare.co.uk
Donaldson Pelican Healthcare Partners with Filtration Technology Leader Donaldson to Ensure Highest Standard Medical Products Pelican Healthcare takes pride in its quality products manufactured at the highest standards. For this reason, the company partners with Donaldson who provides solutions that are specifically adapted to their precise manufacturing needs and feature its proprietary Tetratex® ePTFE membrane technology to warrant the topgrade end product. Donaldson’s enclosure protection vents for medical applications are hydrophobic with gas permeable water barrier, removing 99.999% particulates and bacteria while ensuring high airflow rates to provide adequate venting and pressure equalization to help medical product providers achieve the highest standards for its consumers.
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ICS Cool Energy
Cool operators From humble beginnings, ICS Cool Energy has grown into an international market leader in temperature control solutions, turning over £80 million a year
ffering an unrivalled range of temperature control and HVAC products, Southampton-based company ICS Cool Energy has built a 30-year reputation as a customer-focused business providing cost-effective, energy efficient solutions to suit the ever-changing needs of its clients. A trusted partner for a variety of customers, the company serves a vast array of industries, including medical process engineering, plastics, pharmaceutical packaging, food, aviation, and warehouse storage. Though it specializes in the delivery of industrial cooling and heating - from minus 40 to 400 degrees centigrade - which the company can tailor to the needs of the customer, the firm is also a full provider of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) services. “Our customers have primarily industrial needs, so we tend to be heavily involved in these processes rather than in HVAC, although we are happy to do HVAC if the need arises,” says Russ Baker, the company’s Director of Rental for the UK and Ireland. “The majority of our workload
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comprises the provision of cooling or heating technologies (and sometimes both) for various settings including factories, warehouses, Grade 1 listed buildings, and marquees. Sometimes we are required to help with products that need to stay within a certain temperature window, and facilities management commercial buildings, data centers, and petrochemical sites are quite
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a big thing for us. A lot of what we do is determined by the season, so in the winter we perform cooling for ice rinks, for example. Large events are always in need of our services and we are experienced in working on occasions like graduation ceremonies for universities and events in stately homes, where we not only have to provide the heating and cooling, but we need to
be sympathetic to the building we are in - we canâ€™t be knocking holes through ancient monuments!â€? In terms of its products and services, ICS Cool Energy is divided into a capital sales and service division and a rental division â€“ the latter of which is headed up by Russ. On the capital side of the business, the company is focused on providing the most energy efficient solutions possible.
ICS Cool Energy “A customer might ask for 500 kilowatts of cooling and you could install a 500-kilowatt chiller for them, but that might not actually be what they need,” Russ explains. “We might be able to provide them a free cooler instead, which is a way to use the ambient air temperature to precool the liquid before it hits the chiller. Alternatively, we might be able to employ a cascade system using the free cooler during the night and as the temperatures raise during the day, bring in the mechanical cooling, oscillating between them as temperatures change. It’s a particularly interesting solution for sites that run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
On the rental side of the business, ICS Cool Energy offers a fleet of chillers ranging from three kilowatts through to 1.4 megawatts, as well as electric, gas, dual fuel, and diesel boilers from 20 kilowatts up to two megawatts as a single unit. Energy efficiency comes in to play here too, and also as a company committed to compliancy, ICS Cool Energy ensures that all its units fulfil current regulations and every piece of equipment is rigorously serviced and tested before being
sent out to the customer. The rental fleet also includes so called Free Coolers, which are items of plant designed to cool liquids using air passing through heat exchangers driven by fans, as well as adiabatic coolers, evaporative coolers and cooling towers. This range features 250kw, 500kw and 2MW units that can be connected in parallel to provide MW cooling systems. “We are very, very focused on the quality of our equipment and we have a high-spec boiler in there and a very high-spec burner too,” Russ states. “The environment is important to us too and all our products comply with the Clean Air Act. We are proud to say that our units are actually up to 97 per cent efficient when converting fossil fuels into heat energy and everything is tested at our warehouse and commissioned by a qualified engineer. It’s important for us to make sure everything is compliant and in working order because we might be operating halfway up a mountain in Switzerland where the oxygen content is different and that sort of detail needs to be recognized and adhered to.” With 30 years of experience behind the business, ICS Cool Energy has been able
Kilfrost No compromise with ALVPLUS Industrial refrigeration systems now often have an additional second closed-loop system, which requires a heat transfer fluid. Traditional heat transfer fluids have their drawbacks, Acetates and Formates contain no corrosion protection which deteriorates all metal components overtime. MPG does provide corrosion protection but has poor thermal performance and viscosity, which requires more pumping power resulting in higher energy usage. MEG has a better performance than MPG but is toxic to humans. Why compromise? Kilfrost’s Advanced Low Viscosity range has been specially engineered, the fluids are organic, NonToxic, ALVPLUS is FDA/NSF accredited. Outperforms MEG, MPG, Bio-PDO and ethanol-based fluids. Contact Kilfrost or our distributor, ICS Cooling, for more information. Kilfrost has been proudly family-owned and run, for three generations. As a global leader in intelligent fluids for eight decades, Kilfrost believes that businesses have the right to and deserve the best quality products to allow them to succeed.
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to assemble one of the industry’s most comprehensive training programs and the firm spends a lot of time developing the skills of its workforce. Thanks to its thorough training regime, the company can trust its employees to deliver projects from consultation to installation on a full turnkey basis. “One of our key selling points is that we do a lot of things our competitors won’t do,” Russ claims. “We can arrange road closures, ‘lift and shift’, cranage, and all those things that take stress away from the customer. For example, in
the past, we have delivered full packages into hospitals where we have had to close roads, offload the equipment onto skates, and skate it into the location as it wasn’t accessible with a standard vehicle or crane. We can also ‘flatpack’ machines, disassembling them into their component parts and then reassembling them in rooftop and underground plant rooms where the fully built machine was too large to access. “For anything that we supply, we provide 24/7 aftersales support. My phone can ring at 2am if the customer has a breakdown or requires new
equipment. We are one of the few companies that has sales engineers and service people on call, so my team are capable of organizing delivery of a two-megawatt boiler in the middle of the night, on the weekend or during a holiday.” With 21 locations worldwide and a high presence in Europe, ICS Cool Energy offers huge flexibility for the global rental market, which now makes up over half of the company’s business. Around 25 per cent of the firm’s contracts are based outside the UK, and though Brexit will pose challenges for the company’s European contingent, a shared European fleet supported by experienced local staff at local depots has created a solid foundation from which the business can tackle any potential upheaval.
Investing in the future
Undaunted by the unknown, the impressive way ICS Cool Energy has responded to 2020’s Covid-19 pandemic will fill the firm with confidence about its ability to overcome adversity in the future. Over the last few months, the company’s rental division has seamlessly serviced the demands of the NHS and private hospitals, as well as working with temporary building suppliers to help customers increase their effective commercial footprint. As Coronavirus restrictions are lifted, ICS Cool Energy’s capital division is also experiencing an increase in activity, particularly in the area of servicing and maintenance. “Over the last decade, people have been moving away from the ownership model. We have customers that just come to us every summer for some extra cooling or every winter for extra heating, but they are not buying capital in the way they used to and I think that this pandemic situation will probably stimulate that market,” Russ predicts. “People are moving towards a sharing economy and we are a very busy part of that. “Overall, it’s been an incredible few months,” he says, before continuing with some details about how Covid-19 has affected the organization. “We have gone from a business of more than 100 in the office to everyone working from home and connecting virtually. I run a team of 15 salespeople dedicated to the rental business. The admin team have done a great job implementing social distancing and we’ve got 30 guys out there in our depots preparing equipment in their masks and face visors and gloves. It’s been absolutely stunning the way that the team has rallied in a difficult time. “We have also worked with a major broadcast organization to ensure they could televise their particular sporting event around the world. As part of our preparations we
ICS Cool Energy
ICS Cool Energy Products: Temperature control and HVAC solutions www.icscoolenergy.com carried out a ‘virtual’ Factory Acceptance Test prior to shipping our hire units to their site, with their engineering representatives watching our test engineers put the equipment through its paces over a video link.” Backed by supportive corporate ownership, ICS Cool Energy will continue to invest in the future of the company and ensure that the firm has the latest, state-of-the-art equipment. Environmental issues are also on the agenda, and the company is already looking into the possibility of adding more energy efficient and environmentally sound options to its product range. These include the replacement of R134a refrigerant gas with R513a and R1234ze, as these significantly outperform R134a in terms of GWP (Global Warming Potential). “This is in addition to the introduction of high performance heat pumps as energy efficient alternatives to traditional fossil fuel burning boilers, with the use of booster technologies capable of bring waste heat water temperatures up to 80˚C,” added Russ. “As part of the Gigaton Challenge, we are dedicated to reducing the carbon footprint of our customers by a gigaton over the next decade,” Russ continues. “It’s a long-term and very real aspiration we have. We want every piece of plant that we put into the hire fleet to be as energy efficient as it can be. We could add cheaper alternatives and the hire rate could be lower, but we are serious about putting in equipment that is A and AA rated for energy efficiency.”
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A material world Having evolved from a part-time business in Halifax into a leading upholstery fabric expert turning over $30m a year, Mobus Fabrics is now focusing its attention on improving efficiencies, building the brand and becoming a benchmark for excellence
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riginally buying yarns from Italy and India, and undertaking the weaving in the UK using local suppliers, upholstery manufacturer Mobus Fabrics experienced significant success in the first seven years of its existence. Then in 2001 four UK dyeing suppliers ceased trading, and with that turn of events Mobus reassessed its options and decided to look at buying finished goods from China. “In 2003 Mobus launched its first collection from China and grew slowly in the first few years,” said Lee Paxman, Sales Director, as he takes up the story. “In 2008 Mobus invested in a China-based Fire Retardant (FR) finishing plant - Mobus Sian - which was established to offer a credible Fire-Retardant finish to sell to Chinese furniture factories importing furniture into the UK.” That establishment of close links with China proved pivotal to Mobus, and today it operates with two sourcing teams based there, as well as a sales team and the FR finishing plant. “We regard all parts of our operation as different asset centers, where each team has responsibility and has the opportunity to grow,” Lee commented. “Our primary sourcing team has been with us since we started working in China. They are a wonderful group and we are all good friends. Like the rest of our suppliers, we consider them as partners who are equally responsible for our success,” noted Lee.
We offered open cancelations to all our customers and rather than fighting cancelations we understood the full supply chain had to realign and reset. We also gave bulk processing commitments to our UK finishers so they had the confidence to reopen and take staff back off furlough. This helped restart production for the sector and keep our stock plan ahead of demand
The Chinese Finishing Plant was very successful indeed and 2015 saw Mobus invest in a new plant in the country to offer better quality finishing, a greater variety of finishes and increased capacity. In fact, such has been the success of Mobus’ Chinese venture that its growth in cross trade direct from China was acknowledged in 2017 with a Queen’s Award for International Trade, which also recognized the company’s growth in exports from the UK. This success was swiftly followed by a management buyout in 2018. “This gave all directors an equal share in the company, and
allowed the company founder Mike Presley to retire but stay on with a reduced shareholding as non-exec director and still have some involvement in the company he created,” added Lee. The flurry of activity that started for Mobus in 2003 finally culminated in January 2020 with the relocation of its head office from Elland to Brighouse. “We received the keys on the 3rd Jan 2020,” noted Lee, before going on to highlight just how significant this move was. “We have changed our processes so that all inbound stock arrives at our site (we used to have direct deliveries to UK FR finishers). We now batch plan the finishing and work on a stock system rather than a just-in-time supply base. This is already improving service levels and giving much greater processing and working efficiencies. “We have created stock classifications for every product; each classification uses different stock routings to reduce handling and improve efficiencies. We have also changed the outbound processes so that we consolidate more shipments, reduce packaging and shipping costs.” Thanks to this astonishing growth journey, today Mobus is able to offer a wide range of fabrics specifically designed and engineered for the UK upholstery market. “We offer all fabrics with the UK Fire Retardant (FR) finish, which we can supply from the UK or from the finishing plant in China. All fabric is tested and certified to ensure full compliance with full traceability and due diligence,” noted Lee. “We invest with our key
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partners in new designs, create our own color lines and work with UK retailers to offer bespoke ranges.” Mobus prides itself on working closely with customers and retailers within the product development cycle, as in Lee’s words: “It always helps us focus on styles we are missing in our collection, and helps us identify emerging colors which have become increasingly important to consumers.” This product development capability also keeps Mobus up-to-date with important trends, and an area to watch is fabrics with a more environmentally-friendly pedigree. “Recently we have developed a new type of finish with our chemicals and finishers, which is a greener alternative to the old Deca-brominated FR systems,” Lee revealed. “This new chemical will launch at the end of 2020 on the Mobus Eden, which is a new 100 per cent recycled polyester velvet. But I don’t want to give too much away now!” The launch of the Eco range also coincides with the rollout of an enhanced social media presence and advanced website that is currently in development, as well as images of a new distribution center, testing laboratory and development center, all of which will help to promote the future direction of Mobus Fabrics. “Eventually we plan to move all our collection onto the Green-FR finish and drive forward with other eco-friendly products,” Lee continued. “We will also invest in the development and testing teams to improve our quality and due diligence even further. “We have recently consolidated our Chinese operation so all our purchasing, QC and sales teams come together under one company. This consolidation will give us a platform to expand our Asian market presence further. It will also give a foundation to open up other export markets around the world, many of which we are still actively seeking distributors for.” Having such close ties to China has created a multitude of opportunities for success for Mobus, however, it also meant that effects of the Coronavirus pandemic hit the business earlier than many in the UK, and the challenges that followed required the business to pull out all the stops to meet orders and keep performing up to customers’ expectations. “The outbreak for Mobus started at the end of January, when we were made aware of the pandemic and the subsequent China lockdown. The lockdown extended the Chinese New Year holidays by another four weeks, leading to huge stock shortfall on many top selling collections. “The China lockdown then coincided with our move and put our sales team under huge
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Mobus Fabrics pressure. At that stage, some of our customers were unaware of the severity of the issues and felt the problem was ours to resolve as we were buying from China. As the severity of the outbreak hit the UK media and impact to supply chains was more clearly understood, customers became a little more understanding. We were working 12 to 16 hour days to support our customers, re-work priority lists, allocate stocks and support our suppliers with weaving and dyeing plans,” Lee highlighted. “We then hit a period of calm between China re-opening and Europe going into lockdown. In that period, we shipped 19 containers of fabric (circa 600,000m) but sadly, as it started arriving, the UK went into lockdown. We also had a huge order book with our suppliers who had invested heavily, but we had to stop all future shipments leaving China.”
Understandably, the impact on the business of these circumstances has been huge: “Like most people, our outlook swung under lockdown from really negative to positive and back again,” Lee admitted. “As a board of directors, we had a conference call every day at 10am and collectively picked our way through the issues. We had a skeleton warehouse team to unload the containers and complete the move to our new site. We moved our head office and while working from home we prepared a full stock plan, categorized stocks and set up the warehouse routings and procedures. “The cash flow impact on the industry has been a real challenge. However, with the support of HSBC and commitments from suppliers and customers, we have managed. We have pushed all our customers for payments so we could keep making payments to our suppliers - the flow of funds at such a time was critical to keep the supply chain alive and ready for the hopeful bounce back.” Thankfully, Lee was able to report that since the return to work at the end of May, sales have steadily grown and are definitely moving in the right direction. “We offered open cancelations to all our customers and rather than fighting cancelations we understood the full supply chain had to realign and reset. We also gave bulk processing commitments to our UK finishers so they had the confidence to reopen and take staff back off furlough. This helped restart production for the sector and keep our stock plan ahead of demand. We hope to post a break-even year and if the bounce back continues we hope to even post a small profit.” From speaking to Lee, the contribution that the staff made to Mobus’ efforts to maintain
Lee Paxman, Sales Director at Mobus Fabrics
its standards throughout this time cannot be underestimated and he declared that ‘the people are what make Mobus the company it is.’ Going forward, he hopes to add more people to the team, which still features eight of the original ten members that joined in 2009. “The culture of Mobus is fun, but hard working, with a strong emphasis on the team and we collectively look out for each other and our partners,” Lee added. “We have a high staff retention rate in all areas of the business, from directors to warehouse, and I would really like to thank our team for their hard work, as well as our partners both up and
down the supply chain and the support services. Mobus is on an incredible journey and its success is down to the people we work with.”
Mobus Fabrics Products: One of Europe’s leading upholstery fabric manufacturers www.mobus.co.uk
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Operating as a technical distribution specialist importing raw materials from exclusive suppliers around the world, Lake Chemicals & Minerals prides itself on offering best-in-class value in the supply of chemicals and ingredients 88 l www.manufacturing-today.com
oday, Lake Chemicals & Minerals (Lake) is operated by a team of 50 professionals who are dedicated to discovering speciality products and processes that create technical and commercial value for customers and suppliers.
â€œWe understand the needs of our customers and strive to uncover the solutions that provide ultimate customer value. Forging long lasting relationships with customers and suppliers is a top priority,â€? confirmed Company Founder and Managing Director Dr Steven Cartlidge.
Lake Chemicals & Minerals
This philosophy was one of the cornerstones of the foundation of Lake; and as Steven puts it, from the very beginning the company’s purpose has been to ‘incite technical creativity’. He continued with some more details about its origins. “Lake was created out of the needs of
two parties – first of all, my own need to find a home for myself, where after 15 years at a blue-chip chemicals specialties company I was looking for an opportunity to use my expertise in my own business. At the same time, the LEL Distributor Alliance of well-established Technical
Distributors in continental Europe was looking for a partner to create a firm in the UK. In 2003 those two circumstances combined and Lake was born.” Remaining privately owned, Lake has now achieved £20m in sales and built an
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Lake Chemicals & Minerals
infrastructure that includes a warehouse, manufacturing facilities, laboratories and its ‘base camp’ or hub. Over the past 17 years Lake has achieved some impressive milestones, gathering an incredible depth of knowledge in areas including antioxidants and plasticisers in polymer and coating chemistry, fire retardant chemistry, and anti-corrosion – overall, the company now operates across the life sciences, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, engineering and industrial markets. “We have also attained some significant achievements with our suppliers, attracting and bringing on board some of the best technical companies in the world, ranging from ICL Halox,
Symrise Symrise is a global supplier of fragrances, flavorings, aroma molecules, food ingredients, cosmetic active ingredients and raw materials, as well as functional ingredients. In addition, Symrise supplies the market with approved pharmaceutical ingredients such as Menthol, Thymol and the recently launched Cannabidiol out of a comprehensive range of Cannabinoids. Over 40 years of experience in the production of synthetic Menthol, constant upgrade of process and capacities, grant it leadership worldwide. Symrise sells active ingredients into more than 30 countries. The company is GMP and GDP certified and is regularly inspected by authorities such as the FDA and respective European authorities.
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Vanderbilt, Cortec and Hallstar to companies in life sciences such as Rousselot, DSM, Symrise and Lipoid. For us to be able to demonstrate to these global companies that we can bring value to them is a major accomplishment.”
Steven emphasised the paramount importance of supplier relationships to Lake and the high priority it places on representing its suppliers fairly in the marketplace. “It is absolutely critical for the credibility of our business that we treat our suppliers with the utmost respect and remain aligned to their needs,” he stated. “We will always provide them with the resources needed to promote their brand and their capability in the marketplace, as without our suppliers we would not exist. “But of course, a supplier is of no use without a customer, and the strategic triangle of the supplier, the customer and Lake, is the business model for success,” he continued. “When you look at the ultimate customer value, it is made from the sum of the value that the supplier brings and the value that Lake brings. Very often our suppliers are excellent in four out of five areas that are incredibly important for the customer to be successful, and Lake will always look for those gaps in ultimate customer value that we can fulfil together with our supplier. It is that combination and our continual quest to meet customer needs that is very special in our company.”
Fundamentally, Lake gets paid for selling a product or raw material, but the company’s offering extends much wider than this, drawing on what Steven calls its ‘internal network of university of life experiences’. “Operating a distribution business, being able to fulfil delivery on time, in full, is critically important, but we do far more than that. We solve formulation problems for customers on a daily basis and provide a technical consultancy service as well as regulatory and manufacturing expertise,” he said. “We have equity investments in manufacturing facilities in both India and China for raw material manufacture, particularly in the area of CMO contract manufacturing in the advanced intermediates market. In 2013, we acquired the Ubichem Pharmaceutical business, and that brought about what I would call ‘confectioning of products’ for customers. Since that time, we have been building on that capability and we are actively investing in tailored manufacturing solutions for customers, particularly in the food and nutrition industry. “We have also recently invested in GMP manufacturing facilities to enable finishing of raw materials and products for the pharmaceutical industry. We don’t profess at this stage of our life to be experts in manufacturing, however we do recognise that the UK will enjoy a manufacturing boom post-Brexit, and we definitely want to be part of that scene. We have the technical knowhow and capability to create manufacturing value for our customers and that is of significant
importance for the company.” Clearly offering outstanding science and technology services to its customer base, and exemplary relationships with its suppliers, another major differentiator for Lake is its approach to people. “We wanted an expansive people culture from the very conception of Lake, and we would never have been able to achieve the growth that we have without
empowering every employee in the company, and I mean every employee, whatever their position,” asserts Steven. “People are our key asset, and our belief from the very beginning has been that we want a scalable culture, as we could not afford to completely reinvent the company every time we achieved a key financial milestone. People have to grow with us.” The working environment is based on four
pillars that have been developed over the years: Growth Mindset, Freedom within a Framework (Autonomy), Team Player and Driven to Succeed. “I just cannot emphasise enough how important this is, to have a very strong culture within the company where everybody is on that same train along the same track, working together in order to create a one plus one equals 11 synergy,” Steven added. “Every employee is encouraged to continue to train and learn, and obviously there have to be financial rewards that are aligned to the strategy and the financial goals of the company, but this is all part of making sure that every single person can contribute.” Describing the company as a ‘meritocracy’ with a very flat organisational structure, Steven was keen to share the fact that everybody, whatever their background, knowhow and capability, can rise to the top within the company. “On day one, no matter where they start in the organisation, every employee is instructed in the concept of autonomy, and taught that by applying a growth mindset and learning the tribal knowledge about our company, they can exceed their own expectations. We go through a very structured training programme and have a great ethos in mentoring and coaching,” said Steven. Lake even employs a business life coach specifically to work independently with employees in order to get the best out of the organisation. “If I can use a rugby analogy, we employ people that act as a scrum captain of their teams, making sure everyone has the knowledge, information, competence and resource that they need in order to fulfil the projects that they are working on.” Thanks to this extraordinary approach to encouraging employee development, Lake’s prospective staff must start with a love of the scientific and technical world, a growth mindset and a thirst for knowledge, and also understand that this organisation is unlike any other that they have worked for previously. “Some people don’t understand the unique nature of our company and are always looking for ‘the catch’ - why would we invest so much in them, when they have only just started here? Our investment in staff does begin on the first day they arrive, and that means we have to be confident that they will be able to perform within our culture before we will hire them, as otherwise it is a total waste of everybody’s time.” Lake’s methodology may sound unusual, but as Steven pointed out, the business has created an environment where employees with high levels of technical ability are allowed to express themselves and this is overlaid with an overall drive to be best-in-class. “This gives
Lake Chemicals & Minerals Lake an ecosystem that is unlike any other company, certainly very different from any other distribution company,” he said. “We combine entrepreneurial capabilities with the ability to deliver tailored solutions to customers, whether that is in terms of research and development and the intellectual property that comes from that, or the fulfilment of a product. We are very knowledgeable in the entire new product development process from the initial stage gate of the idea all the way through to the fulfilment of the product, even including the marketing needed to launch the product. Providing that range of abilities means we end up satisfying the differing needs of our customers, and that is fundamentally unlike any business model that we know in the market today.”
Unique business model
Having referenced its NPD capabilities, Steven continued with some details about a new product that is due to be launched in August, called EnviroRinse™. Developed with a customer, and used in industrial washers for precision machined parts, EnviroRinse™ offers instantaneous corrosion protection, a
massive improvement to operator experience, is environmentally friendly and is odour free. Aimed at the automotive industry and the OEM industries, with Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers, Steven noted that this product will address a fundamental issue within industry – corrosion. “We are very excited about this product, it has gone through extensive testing within UK manufacturing and we are ready to launch this at the Made in the Midlands Virtual Exhibition that is taking place over ten days in August,” he said. This new product illustrates Lake’s dedication to promoting innovative solutions, and this area is going to become even more important to Lake, as the company gears up to launch Lake Innovation Services, which will offer NPD services to customers and suppliers, utilising the thought leadership expertise that Lake has accrued. “We identify the future paths that technologies will take in the different industries that we are working in,” added Steven. “At the end of 2020 we will move into a new facility that will be our base camp - including a number of labs that will allow us to carry out that NPD.” Having worked hard over the past 18 years to create solid foundations and establish the
procedures, processes, quality management systems, and technologies required to be successful, Lake is now embarking on the next phase of its evolution. “We have achieved a £20m turnover, and we believe that in the next ten years we will be able to double that by employing our unique business model,” Steven asserted. “But what I never forget is that it is impossible to create a sustainable business without the help of many people along the way. I have mentioned our suppliers, employees, and customers and I genuinley want to thank these people for the endless, tireless effort that they put in to making Lake a success. When you are building a business from scratch you cannot do it on your own and recognising that is incredibly important for any organisation.”
Lake Chemicals & Minerals Services: A technical distribution specialist www.lakecm.co.uk
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Accelerated excellence The world’s fastest digital manufacturing source for rapid prototypes and on-demand production parts, Protolabs enables its customers to accelerate speed to market and strategically manage demand volatility across an entire product life cycle 94 l www.manufacturing-today.com
hen successful entrepreneur Larry Lukis established Protolabs in 1999, he did so with the aim of radically reducing the time challenges associated with obtaining injection moulded plastic prototype parts. “Larry’s solution, which has since become a world leading digital model, was to digitalize the traditional design and manufacturing process
starting with prototyping,” explains Protolabs Vice President and Europe’s Managing Director, Bjoern Klaas. “This involved programming over a million lines of code and developing complex software so the front end of the manufacturing process could be streamlined. When he launched, what was then, the Protomold Company out of a garage in the small town of Long Lake, Minnesota, it resulted in plastic parts that could
be produced in a fraction of the time it had ever taken before.” Since its inception, Protolabs has gone from strength-to-strength, becoming the world’s fastest digital manufacturing source for custom prototypes and low-volume production parts. Priding itself on continual research and development, on serving its markets through further digitalizing of its manufacturing processes,
and on ensuring its vision is adopted across the board, the company – which has facilities across the world – works with literally thousands of customers across a range of sectors including automotive, aerospace, medical, electronics and heavy industry. “We use advanced 3D printing, CNC machining and injection moulding technologies to produce parts within days,” Bjoern continues.
“The result is an unprecedented speedto-market value for product designers and engineers worldwide. As an e-commerce business, our simple-to-use automated quoting system receives 3D CAD uploads direct from the customer, before quickly reviewing and emailing an interactive quote with real time pricing and design analysis. Our proprietary software then translates the CAD models into instructions for our high-speed manufacturing equipment. The result is parts that are shipped in as little as one day. “Our service is anchored by three flagship services: 3D printing (additive manufacturing), CNC machining and Injection Moulding. Additive manufacturing employs advanced 3D printing technologies that can create extremely accurate prototypes with complex geometries. Additive
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parts are built by stereolithography, selective laser sintering, Multi Jet Fusion, PolyJet and direct metal laser sintering processes, and in a range a plastics and metals. For CNC, we use 3-axis milling, 5-axis indexed milling, and turning to machine engineering-grade plastic and metal prototypes and functional end-use parts in quantities of less than 200. Our injection moulding is used for quick-turn prototyping, bridge tooling and low-volume production of up to 10,000+ parts. More than 100 thermoplastics, and thermoset polymers (including liquid silicone rubber) are offered.” In Europe, the company currently has manufacturing facilities in Telford, in the UK, and in Eschenlohe and Feldkirchen in Germany, as well as sales and customer support offices in France, Italy and Sweden. “In the UK, we are building a
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bespoke £5 million, 50,000 square foot extension to our Telford facility, due for completion in late 2020,” Bjoern states. “It will house at least 50 additional CNC machines and a further 20 additional injection moulding presses. It will help us meet growing demand from clients for ‘speed to market’. We are ideally set-up to meet this requirement, with a combination of our design and analysis team, bespoke production software and – once the expansion is complete – around 300 CNC milling, CNC turning and plastic injection moulding sampling and production machines at our disposal.” In Germany, the company has also begun work on a 15-million-euro investment that will increase its 3D printing capability by 50 per cent to meet the growing demand for this technology. The building will be a new 54,000
square foot production facility in Putzbrunn, near Munich, that will give customers even greater access to Protolabs’ automated manufacturing processes and quality systems. Construction of the new building began in May, with the initial shell scheduled to be completed by the end of December this year and the fit-out and machinery due to be installed in several stages starting in May 2021. Up to 25 further machines and state-of-the-art equipment will be added to the existing technology, whilst a CNC machining center - with a 5-axis milling machine - will be installed to support the finishing of 3D printed parts for high-end applications. Automated finishing, colouring and painting systems will also be part of the expansion, along with additional 3D printing technologies in the future. “With this investment, we will be able to move all departments from the current building in Feldkirchen, near Munich, to Putzbrunn, and combine our 3DP metal and plastics business in one location,” Bjoern adds. “Just as importantly, with a larger production area and 50 per cent more capacity, we’ll be able to deliver even more projects in as little as one day. With optimized work processes and additional employees, the new location will support our activities across Europe, especially our ability to produce certified medical devices under ISO 13485.” In recent months, Protolabs has found itself heavily involved in the fight against Covid-19. “Our 3D Printing, CNC machining and Injection Moulding services are well-suited to the needs of the medical supply chain, and the novel coronavirus created an urgency around the supply of medical equipment needed in response to the pandemic,” Bjoern explains. “We are known within the industry for our speed, so the medical supply chain has turned to us for support during this crisis. In fact, we were able to offer priority quick-turn, free-of-charge, in support of projects in the fight against the virus.” Examples of the company’s efforts during the pandemic include the supply of 100 3D printed ‘Dave’ valves (which fit close to the oxygen supply) and 100 3D printed ‘Charlotte’ valves (a link-component that connects to a mask itself) for life-saving emergency ventilator masks to Italian engineers Isinnova. These valves effectively turn ‘Easybreath’ snorkeling equipment into ventilator masks for Covid-19 patients. Protolabs has also supported Michelin in the supply of 10,000 sterilizable and reusable face shields to two of France’s largest university hospitals. The shields, made entirely of polycarbonate, were initially manufactured in just a day using the Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing process. Manufacturing was then switched as quickly as possible to injection moulding in order to produce 20,000
Protolabs polycarbonate parts in just a few days. Thanks to the complementary nature of 3D printing and injection moulding, digital project monitoring tools and Protolabs’ production capacity, all 20,000 parts required to assemble the visors were manufactured and shipped in 11 days.
Another development saw the company create a dedicated 20-strong team to work with Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains in the production of a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) system that delivers oxygen into the lungs of Covid-19 patients without the need for an invasive ventilator. Two parts this team developed are for the bracket that holds the device next to the bed, and a third part is for the production of a cap that prevents any air escaping from the machine. Initial sample parts, made in nylon 30 per cent glass fiber and Acetal co-polymer respectively, were sent out for inspection, followed by run rates of 1100 parts per day until 10,000 of each component were manufactured. The final devices and equipment were sent to hospitals across the UK to help frontline staff provide the best possible care for Covid-19 patients. Outside of the remarkable above-mentioned efforts, new product launches and technological innovations have continued to be a by-product of Protolabs’ activities, as Bjoern goes on to state. “Recent advances include material launches for 3D printing.These include True Silicone, a remarkable material made from 100 per cent pure silicone that is used for multiple applications in both industry and healthcare; Cobalt Chrome, a biocompatible superalloy that is known for its strength to weight ratio, hardness and smooth surface;TPU01, a highly processable thermoplastic polyurethane that further accelerates the already fast processing times of our MJF machines; and Polypropylene, one of the most versatile materials around, now available for additive manufacturing. “With CNC machining, we recently launched our Big Block service, where we can mill from aluminum 6082 blocks of up to 559mm x 356mm x 95mm and still ship the parts in as little as one day. Meanwhile, with injection moulding, recent launches include: Family Tooling, where a family of parts – roughly the same size and made from the same material – can all be made from the same tool, and Supplied Inserts, which is a service that means customers do not have to commit their own resources to supply threaded brass inserts for each IM order because we stock them. We have also begun guaranteeing specific dimensional tolerances for each type of stocked plastic injection moulding resin – again, making life easier for our customers.”
Despite what Bjoern describes as an overall consolidation of industrial production across the globe, he is positive that optimism is beginning to shine through as European economies open up at different paces and the wheels of productivity start to turn. “We are well positioned to support our customers as they innovate and reactivate their own markets,” he proclaims. “We are also excited as we feel that the positives that we have experienced in recent years could potentially be eclipsed by those experienced in the years ahead. “The rapid advancement of information technology has disrupted the business landscape, but we will see even more possibilities opening up. The three central themes of connectivity, intelligence and flexible automation will change the way all of us work and live. I’m confident of this prediction, because that change is already being seen. “Here at Protolabs we have developed data-sharing processes and integrated additive and subtractive processes – traditionally at opposite ends of the manufacturing process – to transform the production model. Our use of advanced 3D printing, CNC machining and
Injection Moulding technologies to produce custom-designed parts and prototypes in days means we have been able to reduce costs and manufacturing lead times to levels which open up global markets to a huge range of new, pioneering innovators. “Demand for this will only grow and, in the years to come, I can imagine a scenario where parts are made even faster than they are today, in materials we haven’t even tested yet. The desire for more rapid product development, lighter parts and more complex designs will have stretched the imagination of even our most creative designers and engineers, and Protolabs will be right there at the forefront.”
Protolabs Products: Custom prototypes and ondemand production parts www.protolabs.co.uk
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The power of partnership A family-owned plastics supplier renowned for its flexible and dependable nature, Oadby Plastics is the valued partner to some of Europeâ€™s leading manufacturers
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ver the 51 years that Oadby has been supplying specialised plastic products, the business has built strong, long-standing relationships with major firms across a variety of sectors, including the construction, food processing, automotive, and leisure industries. Despite celebrating its half century last year, Oadby is showing no signs of slowing down with age. What then is the key to the company’s longevity and continued success? Managing Director Mark Rojahn argues that Oadby’s lasting appeal is deeply rooted in its reputation for quality and reliability. “The foremost factor is that we are a family-owned business and are always willing to go that extra mile, which sets us apart from the competition,” Mark says. “Our high-quality products are well established in the market and in many cases, are exclusively supplied by Oadby. Of course, customers require competitive prices, but it’s also evident they need to trust their supplier and feel assured the product they receive will be of the same quality time after time. “We pride ourselves on being able to adapt to the market’s requirements. Industry demands just-in-time deliveries, as it generally doesn’t want to hold materials for future contracts. Many years ago, we decided that we would become a genuine supplier of industrial plastics by investing in materials that people want and stocking them in vast quantities; currently over 3000 tonnes. Orders are supplied when customers need them; they usually prefer not to have to worry about long leadtimes. Something we’re often told by our clients is that we’re easy to deal with; we regard this comment as the ultimate compliment,” said Mark.
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Robert Catling – Operations Director (Top Left) Neil Driver – Chairman (Top Right) Mark Rojahn – Managing Director (Bottom Left) Jit Chouhan – Finance Director (Bottom Right)
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Oadby Plastics Oadby’s journey began in 1969 when Alan Driver, the company’s founder, started to supply wear-resistant plastic linings to the National Coal Board and, a few years later, diversifying into conveyor components and associated machine parts. By 1984, when the contracts from the coal industry began to dry up, the business needed to change direction.The focus was now firmly on distribution and the machining of plastics to the construction and food processing sectors. Oadby found success in supplying Polyethylene, Polypropylene and PVC products to companies looking at replacements for traditional materials such as metals and wood. Engineering and Display plastics were soon added to the Oadby range and before long, the company was vastly increasing its own machining capacity by the strategic acquisition of long-term customer ABG Rubber and Plastics. “In 2004, we realised that one single facility wasn’t going to allow us to expand our distribution business effectively,” Mark states, “so we opened a West Midlands branch.This was then followed by branches in the North-West, SouthWest and the South-East.The regionalisation of our operation has further developed our local knowledge, and acquiring customers like Anglia
Plastics in 2009 and Direct Plastics in 2017 has also been greatly beneficial by adding new services to our group. Anglia Plastics are renowned for the fabrication of plastics, whilst Direct Plastics are very strong in e-commerce which was not Oadby’s main focus. “In 2016 our most ambitious decision was to move our head office in Leicester to a new 160,000sq/ft., purpose-built facility.This has allowed us to dramatically increase our capacity. With so many different branches and acquisitions, the extra space was key to making sure our group got the daily supply of materials it needed,” said Mark.
Bolstered by a dedicated 45,000 square-foot machining facility, Oadby boasts some of the industry’s leading capabilities. A supplier of finished CNC machine parts since 1997, the company has continually invested in state-of-the-art equipment and technology for the last 23 years. “We’ve seen bespoke machining as a very sustainable area of our business,” Mark reports. “We have CNC routers, mills and lathes, with updated technologies being regularly introduced. We are constantly making sure we’ve got the
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CMS Oadby Plastics and SCM Group have had a long-standing relationship since the first CNC Machining Center was installed in 2001. Since then, we are proud to say Oadby Plastics have added a number of our plastic processing machines to their extensive portfolio. Founded in 1969 – CMS, a Company within SCM Group, have been manufacturing since the 1970’s. The Nottingham based subsidiary includes a large team of highly focused service engineers, supported by highly trained and experienced support staff and technical sales persons. A growing number of companies in the Plastics and Composite sectors are choosing CMS as their technology partner.
latest equipment to produce the parts our customers need. Not only do we focus on technology, but also on the size capabilities of our machines. We are able to machine finished parts up to six metres by three metres, offering a big advantage to us and a huge help to our customers,” he added. After the 50th anniversary celebrations of 2019, Oadby entered 2020 brimming with confidence. Like all businesses, the Covid-19 pandemic took the company by surprise, but as the industry became steeped in uncertainty,
Oadby’s close network of trusted manufacturing partners provided reassurance. “During March of this year, we were at a point of limbo where we didn’t know what was going to happen once the lockdown was announced,” Mark reveals. “Some of our European manufacturing partners explained their capacity was over-subscribed due to the need for clear material and recommended we act to make sure we were prepared for the certain demand.” Mark continued: “We decided to increase our stocks tenfold during March and it certainly paid off. Even though product became depleted extremely quickly as demand was so high, our favorable terms with our manufacturers gave us the ability to keep supplying our customers. Our deliveries have recently topped 100 tonnes each and every week.To date, we’ve sold over 1000 tons of clear material that has been used for visors (PPE), food retailers, doctors and more recently, non-food retailers, pubs, restaurants, and hairdressers, to name a few. In fact, all businesses require these materials as they plan to reopen, and we are proud that we can be at the forefront of this supply.” While the clear plastics sector remains busy for
Oadby Plastics Oadby, sales in the firm’s traditional markets are around 30 per cent lower than usual. However, as the UK eases its way out of lockdown, Mark confirms that business is already picking up. In June, the company assisted with the production of a moveable floor system for Tameside Wellness Centre’s new multi-activity swimming pool in Manchester. Clad using 20mm thick, chemicalresistant, non-slip polypropylene panels, the pool floor can be raised and lowered to different depths, this is hugely advantageous for children, disability swim sessions, aqua-fit aerobics, and adult lane swimming. “There is no doubt that during this crisis we have seen a large reduction in our traditional markets; the construction, automotive and leisure sectors are being heavily affected by Covid-19, but we are experiencing an increasing amount of activity from certain customers and the Tameside swimming pool is a great example of the sort of things we are producing,” Mark comments. “We have done over 30 of these facilities now. “More recently,” he adds, “we have been working on producing road management signs for the Government and many of these are focused on getting more cyclists on the road rather than cars, particularly in London. We are being asked to make many thousands to help manage these cycle lanes. Examples like this show how we continue to operate successfully as industry continues to re-start, albeit slowly.”
is that, no matter how bad the economy is, there will always be certain sectors that stay strong,” Mark asserts. “With that in mind, the next five years will see us continue to expand the business, increasing our product range and improving our branch network. We are turning over approximately £45 million a year, and by 2026, we predict that to be close to £70 million.”
Oadby Plastics Products and Services: Plastics supplier www.oadbyplastics.co.uk
Versatility and resilience
For Mark, the key to Oadby’s future lies in the company’s workforce. As a family business that prides itself on transparency and an ‘open-door policy’ that actively encourages employees to communicate with directors and owners, Oadby continues to empower its staff members to take ownership of the company’s culture. “It’s important to thank our teams for all their hard work, they are the lifeblood of our business,” Mark declares. “We always want Oadby to provide a progressive and secure career for all. Starting from day one we work really hard to help staff develop, our aim is always to retain and support our colleagues to allow for a successful and progressive career within the Oadby group.” As a business with ISO 14001 status, environmental sustainability will be a guiding factor in the coming years for Oadby. Alongside utilising solar panels at three of its sites, the company is increasing the amount of recycled plastics it uses, and by 2021, it is also working towards using only recyclable packaging materials. Explaining that the business is a survivor of many difficult recessions, Mark believes the firm’s versatility and resilience will be vital in continuing its growth. “The benefit of dealing with so many industries
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Superior interiors Harnessing the power of smart design and positive customer service, Rieke Office Interiors creates, manufactures, and installs turnkey commercial furniture solutions, from custom office cubicles to panel extenders that protect against Covid-19
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Rieke Office Interiors
n business now for 26 years, Rieke President and Owner Melissa Kehl describes her company as an organization of ‘culture experts for office furniture’. What started out as a retailer of used office furniture soon became a furniture refurbishment operation, before blossoming into the designer, manufacturer, and innovative ‘one-stop-shop’ that Rieke is known as today. “We’re constantly adding new services,” Melissa states. “Since we started we’ve added flooring and full design services, custom office furniture manufacturing, accessories, wall treatments, lighting, ceilings, walls, floors, and all the furniture in between. We offer everything a customer could need – even construction management, which means we can move walls or add bathrooms as well. We have our own trucks, we do our own installations, so once you work with us, you don’t need to talk to anybody else. We want to build lifetime customers, so we try our best to make the whole process seamless.”
From corporate offices to retail stores to manufacturing sites, Rieke serves customers across all industries. Benefitting from extensive millwork and laminate facilities onsite, the firm is capable of delivering highly bespoke reception stations, conference rooms, private offices, and a variety of alternative fittings. For Melissa, some of Rieke’s most successful and rewarding projects have been those that allow the company to showcase its flair for design. “Some of the newer developments we’ve worked on have included a number of design elements. Coloring, flooring, furniture – we love blending it all together,” Melissa declares. “We recently completed a beautiful project for Echo, one of our big customers. As well as the design, we did some construction management and saved them as much money as we could along the way. We built them a beautiful curved reception station and even helped a contractor select additional items. Echo is a manufacturer itself and it was a really fun project to work on. They were so excited with us in the end that they held a big open house and invited us and some of their other customers. They spent the evening ranting and raving about how great we were, so that was certainly enjoyable for us, and more importantly, goes to show how happy they were with the finished product.” Over the years, Rieke’s manufacturing strength has been built on a careful balance between automation and handcraftsmanship. As the business has grown, Melissa has added CNC machines and edgebanders to increase production speeds and improve efficiency, but
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the company has been careful not to abandon manual production completely. “We definitely still perform a lot of manual processes,” Melissa comments. “We don’t stock inventory products; we only build for the job at hand. We go to the machine show every other year to make sure we’re up to speed with the latest technology, but we’re definitely not into artificial intelligence or robots. What
we do is a little bit more of an art. We are a custom manufacturer - we’re not just running a line, where you create the same thing over and over again. Still, we are always asking our manufacturing team for suggestions on how to make their lives easier, and if technology can help then we will acquire those tools. We’ve purchased equipment like a contour edgebander, but sometimes it can be as simple
as something like a conveyor belt to help simplify a process.” As far as product innovation is concerned, Rieke has an experienced product development team tasked with solving its customers’ problems and challenging the business to explore new boundaries. However, this structured approach is not the only way the company devises the future. Sometimes, Melissa explains, inspiration can be more spontaneous. “Earlier this year we were doing great until, all of a sudden, Covid-19 hit and the faucets just shut off. It was crazy,” Melissa remarks. “We had no orders, none. People were cancelling and refusing to let you in their buildings, so we had to shut down manufacturing for three weeks because we didn’t have enough business coming in. It was then that our CFO came up with an idea for a new safety shield. We all met up immediately - our designers, our engineer, our production manager, myself - and in one week we launched the product. From concept to pricing to prototype - the naming, the marketing, and the website was all done in seven days. From concept to launch, it was an amazing experience. We had orders on our very first day and it allowed me to bring back all of our manufacturing employees. It has saved our company in this downturn.”
Named SafeSpace™ Rx, the new product line comprises of specially designed protective shields, panels, and panel risers that are helping to transform workplaces into safe environments for returning employees. “We started with shields for private offices, then workstations, then conference rooms, and soon enough, gyms and salons wanted to use them between treadmills and chairs,” Melissa reports. “Some customers without our product are only open at about 50 percent of
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Rieke Office Interiors capabilities in-house, as well as working in partnership with its customers to build environments that match a company’s culture. Optimistic about the firm’s future, Melissa argues that Rieke will remain on a positive trajectory as long as it continues to value the contributions of its workforce. “Concentrating on people is really important, and making sure you have the right people in the right positions is vital,” Melissa asserts. “Some companies just expect their employees to do their job, but we like to open up a meaningful dialogue. We’re constantly trying to cultivate an empowering culture. I think people on the front line have great ideas and if you listen, your company can go pretty far.” their capacity, but we allow businesses to have every chair or table in use because they can have a divider in-between them. Panel risers can be used to grow office workstations and the same concept can be employed at restaurant booths and between slot machines in casinos. Thanks to our custom capabilities, we’ve been able to produce shields for curved units and oddly shaped offices. A customer can present us with a blank piece of paper, draw a sketch of what they would like, and we will be able to put something together.” One added benefit of Rieke’s SafeSpace™ range is that the product line has introduced the company to new customers. Around 30 per cent of SafeSpace™ purchases have been made by brand-new clients and Melissa is pleased about the extra exposure it has afforded the firm. “Customers who had never even heard of us before have been buying SafeSpace™ products,” she reveals. “Overall, we’re down on sales across the year, but to be able to connect with so many brand-new customers is pretty amazing and puts us in a great position for the future. Now these companies know who we are, we will be right at the front of the line when they next require an office renovation.” A relationships-based firm at its core, Rieke values meaningful connections with its customers, vendors, and employees. Though the Coronavirus pandemic has made this difficult of late, Melissa is pleased to see customers returning to the company’s showroom where they can view products first-hand and experience the environment in which they are manufactured. As we move into the second half of 2020, Melissa expects to see a continuing demand for SafeSpace™ products as well as Rieke’s space planning and office rearrangement services. The company is also currently working on getting
children safely back to school. “Our shielding products are going to be around for a very long time because even after Covid we’ll be entering into the regular flu season. Office safety is going to be the new cultural norm,” she predicts.
Over the next three to five years, Rieke hopes to bring construction services and architectural
Rieke Office Interiors Products: Custom office furniture designer and manufacturer www.rieke.com
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Metal magicians Now able to offer expertise in detail part design, prototype, tool build and high volume mass production, PTM Corporation has been producing metal stampings since 1972
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ooking at PTM Corporation as it stands today, it is hard to envision its beginnings as a small shop in Mount Clemens, Michigan, and the singular efforts of its late founder Charles Russell. Now turning over $55m a year and employing around 300 associates, Charles’ daughters own the business, with Donna Kuhr taking the role of President and CEO. Under Donna’s direction and with the team she has built, PTM continues to invest and expand, always with the overall aim to create magic with metal. Donna credits her father’s work ethic and philosophy of ‘never saying no to a customer’ as a cornerstone of PTM’s success. “We have always concentrated on helping customers address their challenges, and as we continue to do this successfully over the years, it built our reputation and people learned to trust us. So, we became known as problem solvers for our customers, and that remains our philosophy today,” she said. PTM serves the big automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) including General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Honda and Toyota, and many Tier 1 suppliers as well as newer entrants to the market such as Tesla and Rivian. PTM also provides tooling for aerospace, and works with the agricultural, construction, medical and military sectors, too. “The mobility market is changing very rapidly, which has been quite exciting to be a part of,” added Donna. “It is a nice mixture, with no one customer covering more than 12 per cent of our business. Our
customer diversification is another key ingredient for our success.” The products that PTM creates for this blue-chip customer list can be described in the simplest terms as ‘metal stampings’ and the group has literally produced billions of these over the years. From small clips and fasteners to car roofs and mower decks. PTM’s products also include the most complex assemblies, and its services and facilities mean that it is able to design, prototype, build and then produce the parts in-house, providing a one-stop source for cost-saving solutions. “Customers can come to us even when they are not sure exactly what they want, and we assist with product design for them – all with the mind-set of ultimately production. That outlook means that we are always thinking about production, repeatability and longevity, all of these aspects are very important to our clients – they know when they are working with PTM, they get repeatability and quality baked in!” Donna Kuhr
From speaking to Donna, it is very apparent that always being able to meet and surpass the expectations of its customers is of paramount importance to PTM and this requires a willingness to invest in new technology. The most recent example of this is a large investment of nearly $2m into the Group’s Michigan manufacturing facility, which will enhance PTM’s ability to manufacture at lower production volumes. Donna gave some more details about this new avenue of operation and the reasoning behind it: “A lot of automotive OEMs are teaming up with new electric or hybrid vehicle companies, who are creating new models that should hit the market in the next few years. The volumes they are making are not going to be
For various reasons, a lot of prototypes were put on hold last year, so 2020 was supposed to be excellent for prototypes, advanced research and developing future vehicles. We thought that maybe those programs would be cancelled, but in fact we have won a lot more work, and with our prototypes we are on track to have a record breaking year
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do low volume vehicles. It means we can work on many types of vehicles, at lower volumes, still make a profit and still be competitive with customers and ultimately for consumers. “As a result of our analysis we have invested in a flexible assembly cell that carries out various activities, including spot welding, hemming and adhesives. We have the capability to build multiple platforms simultaneously in our assembly cell and still be profitable, supply good quality and quickly change over from one product line to another.” Further reinforcing the new direction towards low volume, PTM has also invested in five new presses, as well as new laser technology, which will assist the company in areas such as blanks and finished products.
Code of Honor
high, as they are putting their toes in the water to test the market and see what consumers are going to buy. With around 15,000 – 40,000 vehicles a year, this isn’t large scale production
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volume, so our prototype and production teams have been working together on cost models, particularly with one OEM, to find the sweet spot where it makes financial sense for us to
Furnished with the latest equipment, the manufacturing and production facilities at PTM are impressive, but even the most state-of-theart technology needs an excellent team of staff behind it in order to achieve success, and people and culture are a topic close to Donna’s heart. Certified by the WBENC Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, PTM prides itself not just on the diversity of its workforce, but also the family atmosphere that it works hard to create and maintain. “I started in the business out of high school and I wanted to learn from everybody – I didn’t care about race, religion or background – if you had something to do with metal manufacturing then I wanted to learn it!” said Donna. “I continue with that same philosophy with our people, and several years ago we said it doesn’t matter how large our organization gets, we want to have a culture that always feels like a family business – we don’t want people to feel like a number. We set up a task force and over six months we created our ‘Code of Honor’ – a vision and a mission that we wanted to live by, not just a nicely framed bit of paper. “Abiding by our Code of Honor helps to create our culture – and for example Code item number one is ‘deliver exceptional performance and peace of mind to our customers’. That is why we come to work and so that must be number one and our team understands and lives by that principle. That has been our associate’s principle in all we do, and all associates need to understand and live by that principle.” Furthermore, PTM’s reputation for excellence extends to its status as an employer of choice, which is a benefit in a tough employment market. “So many times, in interviews, I have people say that ‘it used to be a great company, but then it got sold out and it lost that special touch.’ We don’t want to lose that family feel and we need to be attractive to prospective employees as well.”
PTM Corporation Another essential part of this approach is having a diverse workforce, and Donna believes that having a wide range of great people on staff helps the company to learn and grow, all with one uniting factor: “We all love metal and we all love the challenge of solving customers’ problems,” she confirmed. “That is what makes it a great culture to work in as we all love what we do, and we are all very passionate when it comes to helping our customers and each other internally.” PTM was looking forward to the challenge of a record breaking 2020, and then the Covid-19 pandemic struck and the whole world was put into turmoil. “Our executive team, which comprises of my husband, our CFO and our Director of HR got together in March and discussed if we were going to need to shut down. April was a terrible month although we did make shipments and we were open on a limited basis, and what became our daily oxygen was checking if anyone had cancelled an order – and nobody did,” noted Donna. “Production did get pushed back, but nobody cancelled orders. Right now, production is about 70 per cent of where we were prior to Covid-19, and it has been ramping up ever since May and June. July was a great month and we will be back to our normal levels by the end of the third quarter.” Donna also highlighted that PTM had gained work through the pandemic, and she explained that this was due to the activities of the automotive industry in 2019. “For various reasons, a lot of prototypes were put on hold last year, so 2020 was supposed to be excellent for prototypes, advanced research and developing future vehicles. We thought that maybe those programs would be cancelled, but in fact we have won a lot more work, and with our prototypes we are on track to have a record breaking year – while we may not hit our original budget we are going to do very well.” One problem Donna is dealing with now are kinks in the supply chain and getting the supply base back up to speed. One way that PTM is addressing this challenge is through investment into a new E Coat painting line. “We want to own and manage the E Coat painting side, rather than being dependent on a supplier who can say yes, no or maybe!” said Donna. “Right now, in Detroit, E Coating is a commodity that is putting a strain on metal suppliers as there is so much demand for it and not enough supply. We definitely want to own and control that aspect of production.” In addition to the E Coat line, PTM is investing in more new equipment, updating and adding to its range of presses, as well as upgrading its
business plan in order to optimize most areas of the business including engineering, estimating, sales, quality, and the HR side with training and development. “We want to make our company even stronger and we believe 2021, 2022 and 2023 could be record breaking years based upon the economics and our customers’ needs for the next three years,” Donna concluded.
PTM Corporation Products: Metal stampings www.ptmcorporation.com
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Judged on its merits
With innovative thinking and industry-leading technology at the core of its strengths, Merit continues to defy the odds by growing not only in size, but also in the strength of its capabilities 112 l www.manufacturing-today.com
t its heart, Merit is and always has been seen as a dedicated engineering and construction company.Yet, as it is proud to confess, the skills of its people and its unrelenting drive to excel has allowed it to become a provider of an ever-increasing range of services to its clientele. These range from design and
build to prefabrication and modularization, and from installation and validation of process systems to mechanical and electrical services. An award-winning business with offices located throughout the UK, Meritâ€™s Managing Director Tony Wells has been in the role since 2002. â€œBack then, I was actively looking for an existing business that had the potential to be turned into a tier one, clean
room design and build entity, capable of taking on more complex, technical turnkey projects, and Merit more than fit the bill,”Tony begins. Together with an entirely new management team that he brought into the company, Tony and the team welcomed a dramatic growth period with turnover increasing ten-fold to approximately £20 million in the space of six
years, taking in work both at home and abroad in Europe, Asia and Australia. Following the financial crisis of 2008, Merit consolidated much of its activity back into the UK, focusing its clean room services on industries such as the healthcare sector, which proved profitable. “In 2015, we undertook what I would call a complete rethink of our existing business plan in
order to determine how we could best position Merit for significant future growth,” Tony explains. “It was at that time that we made a commitment to only be a tier one contractor, working exclusively with project owners. This would give us the added security of payment and the ability to really affect the design of said owner’s projects in a truly positive way.
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“We also elected to eliminate two suppliers from our business model, meaning that today we only work directly with imbedded tier three suppliers or handle the supply element ourselves. Our capabilities include self-delivery of complex packages of work such as clean and dry room installation as well as M&E services installation. This has resulted in a significant ramping up of our BIM and offsite manufacturing capabilities. More recently, Merit has begun moving into the realm of CFD analysis, which will mean that we can effectively design buildings digitally, thus making us a fully vertically integrated company, which is something very few other players in our space can claim to be.” Among its growing list of contracts, Merit can today be found providing new build and refit projects for high-end manufacturing and clean services in the health, pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical sectors. “Here, we are delivering design and layout solutions for clean room and dry room facilities, in a pre-designed and premanufactured format, three-quarters of which is created within a factory environment,” Tony details. “This process is somewhat revolutionary within this area of the construction industry, and has allowed us the opportunity to greatly increase Merit’s productivity.” To support this, the company has made sure to invest capital back into its own infrastructure. “One of the things we have done is increase the
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capacity of our factory by 40 per cent, and we would like to double our existing capacity again in the short-term,”Tony adds. “As we are now also doing things like fabricating and manufacturing proprietary dryer delivery systems for HVAC duct work, we have also purchased a number of new pieces of equipment, such as a brand-new CNC bender to improve the efficiency of our fabrications. Meanwhile, to support the increase in BIM activities we have purchased a new factory building opposite to our existing facilities, which our team moved into recently and will be used primarily for tending and design operations.” Merit’s efforts over the years have been recognized by a number of industry bodies in the form of several prestigious awards. Among these have been the North-East Business Awards’ Northumberland, Tyne & Wear Company of the Year, in both 2008 and 2018, and the 2014 CIBSE Building Performance Awards’ Refurbished
Project of the Year (value over £5 million) for its work on the HVAC roof infrastructure of Harrod’s flagship Knightsbridge store in London. “Obviously, receiving any award is a fantastic achievement, provides a wonderful morale boost for our people, and helps us to raise the profile of Merit to a broader audience of potential clients, and also allows us to attract new talent into the business,” Tony enthuses, before revealing that the business had also just been shortlisted for the Offsite Awards in the category ‘Best Use of MEP and POD Technology’ – up against some very large contractors.
New business venture
Tony then returned to the topic of his staff and finding the best people. “When it comes to recruiting new members to our team, we are completely open as to whether they are male or female, young or old. Our focus is not so much on what kind of experience they have – although this can of course be taken into consideration – but rather whether they have a can-do attitude, are pro-active when it comes to their work, possess strong intelligence, and show a real passion for innovation. It is those individuals who meet that criteria that have shown themselves to be so integral to our increased productivity and growth. In short, if someone considers themselves to be hardworking, pro-active and keen for a challenge, then Merit is definitely the place for them!”
Merit Turning our discussion to some of the more recent projects that Merit has been involved in, there are two that definitely stand out in Tony’s mind. “In a speech made by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson back at the start of 2020, when he was talking up the country’s drive to be at the forefront of new technology and innovation, he made specific mention of gene therapy and the electric vehicle battery market. As fate would dictate, Merit was already responsible for building the UK’s flagship facilities for both of these sectors. “In the case of the former, Merit was chosen to the deliver the second and third phase expansion of the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (CGTC) manufacturing centre in Stevenage, England. This has proven to be a tremendous opportunity for the company to demonstrate our offsite construction expertise in a bio-pharmaceutical environment, alongside a tremendous client to work for.” Merit also now finds itself in the midst of providing the fit out for the clean rooms and dry rooms within the UK Battery Industrialization Centre (UKBIC) near Coventry.This flagship facility for bringing battery manufacturing to the UK forms part of the UK Government’s Faraday
Battery Challenge, which is designed to ensure that the country leads the world in the global transition to a low carbon economy. “We have been tasked with building all of the technical spaces around the battery manufacturing process, and we currently find ourselves in the midst of the commissioning phase,”Tony says. “As with our work on the CGT Catapult, this is being executed via higher levels of offsite manufacturing and construction, utilizing pre-designed elements that allow us to deliver facilities that would traditionally take one or two years to go from inception to completion, in a matter of months.” As mentioned in passing above, the focus of the business in the coming three-to-five years is to significantly increase its manufacturing volumes and thus also the number of projects it takes on. One of the ways it hopes to achieve this is through the forthcoming launch of a new business venture, Merit Health. “This will be a business that will be solely focused on our clients within the healthcare space and on providing whole hospital delivery,” Tony proclaims. “We have high expectations for it, and hope that within five years’ time it is turning over around £250 million, which would be a very sustainable,
profitable level. Its success will also make a step change improvement in infection control in the hospital arena, delivered through 75 per cent offsite manufacturing. Together with our work in the gene therapy and battery manufacturing spaces, Merit Health will play a critical role in the expansion of the wider Merit operation, and we look forward to meeting our many aims.”
Merit Services: Offsite construction specialists www.merit.co.uk
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Brewing up the future Less than 12 months away from the completion of a major new factory in China, Strix is building on its position as the worldâ€™s number one manufacturer of kettle controls
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eadquartered on the Isle of Man, Strix is a global leader in the design, manufacture, and supply of kettle safety controls, as well as other components and devices involving water heating and temperature control, steam management, and water filtration. Established in the 1980s with the goal to dominate the kettle sector, today Strix is responsible for more than 50 per cent of the value share of the global market. Approximately 90 per cent of the company’s revenue is drawn from kettle control sales. The remaining ten per cent is formed through sales from the water category - which includes filtration brands like Aqua Optima and HaloSource - and the appliance category – which is split between hot water on-demand applications and baby care products. Alongside the company’s core services, a key part of Strix’s business model is its role as a ‘solution provider’ for 200 OEMs and 450 brands and retailers around the world. Often referred to as the ‘consultants of the kettle industry’, Strix is a true innovator within the ‘other services’ segment argues the company’s CEO Mark Bartlett. “I think Strix is quite different to a normal component supplier,” Mark declares. “Whilst we make most of our money from selling our components to China-based OEMs, there are quite a lot of value-added services that go on in the background. For our OEM customers for example, we produce industrial designs of kettles
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or heating elements, perform compatibility testing, and offer a comprehensive MOT for any new products utilizing a Strix control. We also work very closely with the OEMs to sell their products. A lot of the them don’t have a remote sales channel, whereas we have dedicated salespeople out in the field that will take their products to over 450 brands and retailers around the world. It enables us to sell more controls and offers valuable support for a lot of our China-based OEMs. “On the other side of the channel, we are constantly looking at the product ranges of brands and retailers and making recommendations about additional products we could provide. We will always try and pair them with OEMs so that they get the best service and we will also support the OEM in building the products. If there are ever any issues, we are usually one of the first people to get called
because our customers know that Strix solves problems. There aren’t many brands and retailers that have the resources to deep dive into a China-based OEM to solve a problem like we can. It’s not a model I’ve seen in other industries and it’s a huge selling point for us, along with our significant market share. If an OEM is making a product and wants to sell as many as possible, it makes sense to work with Strix because we have a much wider reach than anyone else - we are almost four times bigger than our nearest competitor.”
A renowned industry pioneer, Strix has worked on countless successful projects over the years including development of the Tommee Tippee baby prep appliance and the Turbo Toaster. Committed to making the lives of consumers easier, Strix places great emphasis on its relationships with brands and OEMs as part of its product development process. In some cases, the firm is able to take control of the process, fully developing a concept before selling the idea to a brand and then taking it to an OEM for manufacture. “It’s quite a unique process,” Mark says, “but we are very heavily involved in that project management role. We can provide the core technology and help both parties to get a product to market as quickly as possible. We have been investing heavily in product
Strix development since the company was listed in 2017 and we have R&D centers on the Isle of Man, China and in Seattle. Our strong partnerships with brands, retailers, and OEMs provide us with a wide variety of insights and the opportunity to leverage on their experience and data to ensure we are developing the right products with the right features and benefits for consumers.” Accelerating an expansion to its product offering, Strix plans to launch 14 new products this year, across the three categories – a record high for the business. This will include adding to the company’s range of kettle controls in an attempt to make it more competitive across some of its less regulated territories, new baby products that provide consumers with improved efficiency and performance, and new water appliances that afford significant energy saving opportunities. “One of these appliances - ‘Duality’ - helps to eliminate the overfilling of a kettle and with our HaloSource product, we have added sterilization to the water category, recently launching a new system to provide farms with safe drinking water for their animals using HaloPure technology,” Mark reveals. “Later this year, we will be releasing a product called Aurora, which is effectively a stand-alone water station that does everything from boiled water to chilled water. It’s a highly efficient way of boiling water and a system that provides significant energy saving.”
A proactive response to the Covid-19 pandemic means that Strix has been able to limit the impact of the virus on its full-year forecasts and its development plans remain on schedule. Innovations such as the erection of a disinfection tent that employed the company’s own HaloPure technology helped Strix’s China factory to reopen before many of its competitors. Strix also helped to produce PPE and components in breathing apparatus for the Isle of Man government. The company’s positive contribution during a global crisis has not gone unnoticed. “We received a lot of positive press over Covid and it’s had a very encouraging impact on our share price,” Mark comments. “I’m pleased to report that Strix has continued to make a solid start to 2020. Given the global macroeconomic disruption, we remain confident in the future prospects of the company and believe we will emerge as a stronger business, well-positioned for a market recovery. “I’ve been looking very carefully at efficiency measures to make sure we can manage our bottom line and we’ve definitely put a stronger focus on the engineering side of the business.
We’ve also put emphasis on enhancing some of the roles within the senior management team so we have the right skillsets to drive us forward and we’ve certainly ramped up the number of new products we are bringing to market.” To support the company’s program of new product development, Strix has embarked on the construction of a new factory in China. The facility will double the firm’s capacity and will have the same operating costs as Strix’s three existing Chinese sites. ‘On budget and on schedule’, Mark is confident that the new facility will be operational by August 2021. “We recently had what they call the ‘Ceiling Ceremony’ in China, effectively capping the roof, so all external construction of the five-floor factory and warehouse is now complete,” Mark reports. “The next step is to deal with the internal works like electricity, air conditioning, and design layouts. “As far as the manufacturing capabilities are concerned, automation is a key part of our strategy and we have made significant investments in automation over the past three to five years. On the Isle of Man, we produce more than 500 million components per year with just 38 people, and in China we are now manufacturing around 80 million controls a year with the automated lines producing a control every 1.8 seconds. It marks a significant improvement in efficiency over the last few years.”
As we enter the second half of 2020, Strix is already enjoying a positive recovery in China, as well as a rebound in other markets as lockdown restrictions are eased around the world. Currently, there is only 35 per cent global household penetration for kettles, a statistic that Mark argues should offer Strix continued opportunity for growth. “We are operating from a very solid base and we have ambitious expansion plans for the future,” he states. “We are constantly developing new ways to grow organically and, as a highly profitable market leader, we are always on the lookout for potential opportunities for acquisition in either the small domestic appliance or water filtration markets. We are about to complete the new factory, which will give us double our current production capacity, and we expect to fill this with the various opportunities we have identified over the coming years. It’s an exciting time for Strix as we change from what was perceived as just a yield company to a yield and growth business.”
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A winning mix F
Founded in 1939, specialist manufacturer of workwear Wearwell has traded through wars and now a pandemic – and one area that has helped support its success, is the company’s dedication to manufacturing in Great Britain 120 l www.manufacturing-today.com
ounded over eight decades ago, the Wearwell we see today has evolved through management buy-outs, new owners, updated factories, and changing market trends. The company as it stands in 2020, is now owned by Richard Wright and Rockpool Investments, and mainly manufactures heavy workwear for the ‘lease and laundry’ sector. Ross Gard, Marketing and Product Development Director, explained that a majority of Wearwell garments are sold to companies who rent or lease garments into a company, along with a wash contract. “Our garments are used in a
wide range of industries such as molten metal, engineering, the utilities sector, as well as food manufacturing,” he added. “Working with the majority of laundries, who supply workwear via the lease and lauder model, means we have supplied workwear to a number of high-profile blue-chip companies as well as direct to clients such as RWE, who own NPower.” Given the credentials of its customer order book, Wearwell’s service offering has to meet exacting standards of not just quality, but also flexibility and choice, and as Ross highlighted this is achieved through its somewhat unique approach. “We very
much still manufacture here in the UK from our site in Tamworth, this allows us to provide a very fast response time to clients who need orders quickly! We also manufacture in North Africa, which is our middle option – it’s cheaper than the UK, but it’s not as fast. Finally, we also offer a Far Eastern option where we offer clients who are price sensitive, but time rich, the same high-quality experience as if dealing with the UK.” Ross credits the company’s British manufacturing capability and resulting speed of delivery as a cornerstone of its success: “None of our competitors have UK manufacturing on
the scale that we do,” he asserted. “In the late 1980s/early 1990s a lot of companies took their business offshore to Eastern Europe and the Far East, at the time Wearwell was committed to UK manufacturing employing some 115 seamstresses. We felt there was an opportunity to continue to support the lease and laundry sector by supply good quality garments quickly, and that is how we have grown the business over the years.” He continued: “We are, to this day, still committed to UK manufacturing, we design, manufacture and distribute our garments from our Tamworth factory and it is a real selling point for us. Clients regularly visit the factory to see what we can do, to see our equipment and facilities, and to see the garments being made by our seamstresses. It fills them with a sense of confidence and trust when they can see what we do and how we do it.” With its UK manufacturing base and also a history of manufacturing medical garments prior to the trend of offshoring, Wearwell was ideally positioned when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK and the NHS needed thousands of additional scrubs. Ross noted that “traditionally there has been a lot of red tape involved with supplying the NHS. Wearwell used to be a direct supplier to the NHS but we found the price of our UK made garments couldn’t compete with cheaper offshore alternatives, however, during these difficult circumstances the UK government relaxed the rules to allow additional suppliers, such as Wearwell, to supply much need PPE.” As a result, the business was approached by several NHS trusts. “We ended up manufacturing around 30,000 scrub sets a week pretty quickly for different trusts. At the time we were lucky we had fabric in stock, and our close relationship with our UK supply network meant we were able to procure fabric quickly. But it wasn’t
just the NHS we needed to support, we also manufactured a lot of food trade workwear and those industries were designated critical workers early on in the pandemic, so we flew into action manufacturing workwear for those companies who continued to work throughout the lockdown,” he explained.
Amazing team spirit
The decision to stay open during the pandemic wasn’t taken lightly by Wearwell – the company knew that it would be called upon at some point during the pandemic, but orders were slow to materialize and the management team were keenly aware of the safety requirements of its own staff. “ After many round table discussions, the management team went to the shop floor and we asked the staff what they wanted to do,” said Ross. “We explained the situation to them and told them that we believed in the coming weeks we would be needed by the NHS. We asked them what they wanted to do, stay open and answer the call when it came, or shelter with families until it was safe to return. The response was overwhelmingly supportive – they wanted to stay open. “As a management team it was then down to us to best manage the safety aspects around the business. We made it clear that no one would be forced to come to work if they didn’t feel safe, and that we would do everything we could to ensure their safety. We met with the shop floor twice weekly to update them on any government guidance we had received and to listen to any concerns they had. It was a surreal and heart-warming experience to know that the factory floor wanted to stay open and help support the NHS, we just need the orders! “When the NHS orders did then start to come in, the next issue we faced was fabric supplies. While we had some fabric on the shop
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floor, we needed a lot more to fulfill all the orders! Working closely with our brilliant UK fabric suppliers up in Manchester we were able to secure enough fabric for the first wave of orders. Unfortunately, they had a terrible turn of fate as one of their fabric stores caught fire wiping out a large amount of stock. As a result, we set about supporting them in any way we could which included renegotiating with the NHS on specific garment colours and fabrics– given these were quite desperate times, we were able to work out a solution that meant they were happy with the newly proposed fabrics. “It certainly was a challenging time, not only did we have the safety of our staff in the forefront of our minds and the potential supply issues but we were working double shifts of over 12-hour days, 7 days a week to get these scrubs to the front line. I remember there was an overwhelming feeling that we didn’t want to let anyone down.” Working in an atmosphere that Ross describes as ‘as close to what I imagine a war time spirit to be’, the staff at Wearwell rose to the challenge that was presented to them, not only through amazing levels of production but also on a personal level. “There was an amazing amount of kinsmanship throughout the pandemic – whether on the shop floor or simply in providing extra mental support to one another. The company was able to help as well by placing orders on behalf of the staff for essentials like nappies, milk and loo roll, it became a real family spirit with an added can-do attitude. “Working in marketing often means I don’t get to spend much time the shop floor talking to the staff, but during the pandemic I really got to know them. What was nice to hear was that they felt they had gained an immense sense of purpose which I can honestly say energized the whole management team.” Thanks to Wearwell’s efforts in manufacturing the scrubs, further opportunities to supply the NHS began to materialize: “We were approached by University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) one of the largest teaching hospital trusts in England, to produce and supply surgical gowns,” said Ross. The gowns will be delivered to The Birmingham Hospitals Alliance (BHA), which looks after UHB, Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Hospital. The contract win came about after BHA’s central procurement team realized it was unable to continue relying on international suppliers and the central supply chain. It took matters into its own hands to form a working group and selected Wearwell, amongst other local
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Wearwell manufacturers, to produce and supply up to 20,000 high quality surgical gowns per week for NHS Trust use. The gowns will be used as both PPE and for use in operating theatres.
As a result of the contract, Wearwell invested circa £60,000 – £80,000 in state-of-the-art sonic welding machines, as the gowns are created from a fabric that the company wouldn’t conventionally use. While looking like a traditional sewing machine, they use certain frequencies to fuse non-woven fabrics together, rather than traditional stitches. “If we had used traditional sewing methods on these gowns it would mean punching holes in the fabric, and the gowns need to be waterproof to minimize exposure to liquid,” said Ross. “We could have sewn the gowns, then sealed them using a taped seam, similar to a waterproof jacket, but there aren’t many of those machines in the UK. We opted for sonic welding as this provided the best solution, especially since other manufacturers in the UK already use this technology, meaning the NHS was able to approach other manufacturers who wouldn’t necessarily make workwear, but who have the right machines that can be repurposed. Since the first order landed, we’ve ordered an additional three sonic welders and two additional stampers specifically to help the NHS on this. They are due to be installed in the coming weeks as we ramp up our production.” The contract requires two different types of gown – non-sterile and sterile, both using the same non-woven fabric. “Our focus is on getting the non-sterile 20,000 disposable patient gowns right, and then moving on to the sterile gowns in Phase 2. The sterile gown has a bonded fabric on the front of the garment, offering additional protection to the wearer. After we have made them, we send them for sterilization. Finally, they are sealed in a clean environment before they are sent into the NHS,” added Ross. Ross praised his suppliers for how supportive they have been throughout the pandemic period. “As a business, we have been working with a lot of our suppliers since our inception, so we know them on almost a personal level. Having a special relationship like this has meant we were able to secure supplies of fabric and other items quickly with an understating of urgency. “We had daily calls to suppliers where we would update them on what we were working on and they in turn let us know stock availability, work in progress and any foreseeable hurdles in supply. As you can probably imagine, there aren’t that many suppliers who can supply hundreds of thousands of meters of medical fabrics, especially when demand shoots through the roof as a
number of fashion textile manufacturers also turned to manufacturing scrubs. Lucky for us, our relationships put us in a great position as we were able to able to move quickly, out pacing other manufacturers.” As the lockdown rules are gradually relaxed, production at Wearwell carries on at pace, and Ross believes that the epidemic has highlighted some weaknesses in offshore supply chains that the business is ideally placed to support. “In my opinion, the UK manufacturing sector has shown that should another pandemic arise, then having a strong British manufacturing sector is essential to not only the supply of PPE but in the supply of essentials such as food. The Government’s recent announcement that around 20 per cent of all PPE will be manufactured in the UK by the end of the year is fantastic news for our industry and very encouraging. “I’d like to see British manufacturing not only survives this pandemic but thrives as a result of it and I hope more businesses come along and start manufacturing back in the UK as well. There is something intensely satisfying about taking a concept and making it into something real and tangible. I can’t quite put my finger on it,
but there is bit of magic about seeing creativity coming alive.” Going forward, Ross also sees a greater value being placed on products to be ‘Made in Britain’. “I am already seeing and hearing of people saying they want British made products, and whilst I’m not sure if this will last the distance, as price is usually one of the biggest factors in the decisionmaking process, it’s great that it’s becoming a consideration. Let’s say 20-30 per cent of people decide they want to buy British-made products, that’s still a big deal. That number alone can have a huge impact on job creation here the UK especially when it seems like jobs are vanishing on a daily basis. It also has the knock-on effect of lowering our carbon footprint – for me I see that as being part of a winning mix for the future.”
Wearwell Products: Specialist workwear www.wearwell.co.uk
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Positively different A trusted advisor and partner to its many customers, Smith & McLaurin is best known for the supply of digital-ready label stock, environmentally friendly materials, and its growing influence in the wine and spirits market for pressure-sensitive label (PSL) materials 124 l www.manufacturing-today.com
mith & McLaurin (SMCL) is not a new name to the world of manufacturing. Indeed, the company can trace its history back more than 170 years, to 1849.Today, it is a leading player in the self-adhesive labels, tickets and tags industry, with an enviable reputation for innovation and customer service. SMCL’s sector-leading expertise, knowledge and resources combine to ensure that its reputation is based on its core values of service, trust and innovation.
Operating from its offices and manufacturing facility at Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire – from which is serves customers across the UK, Europe and further afield – SMCL has enjoyed 16 years of continuous profitable growth under its current ownership. This has positioned it at the head of its field in terms of product innovation, design and development, especially in the thermal, digital, drinks and – latterly – the sustainability sectors. “SMCL design, develop and manufacture
Smith & McLaurin
company has been its supply of digital ready label stock, which utilizes environmentally friendly materials. “Initially we developed, in conjunction with HP, a range of materials for their Web stream digital presses,” John continues. “These presses use a toner based system with electrostatic inks which needed a primer to ensure their inks adhered to the face material. Through development with HP we were able to apply a coating to ensure any PSL construction would be able to run through these presses. Latterly we have developed a range of inkjet grades for use in any water based inkjet press by again working closely with the various hardware manufacturers and material suppliers. This latest development has given us the market leading position for this type of digital media. We also have the option to combine these constructions with both FSC certified materials.”
paper and filmic materials for a range of customers (convertors, printers and packers) that go on to comprise the packaging for some of the world’s best known brands across a multitude of sectors. We work with our suppliers, customers and our customers’ customer to deliver innovative solutions that ensure best-in-class performance and functionality,” explains Sales Director, John Radford. “Our coating capabilities, combined with the flexibility in our range of
face materials, adhesives and liners, allows us to source and develop new products that will help our customers to increase their sales revenue with value added solutions. Our wide range of water based acrylic and hotmelt adhesives allows us to specify the correct solution, whilst our thermal coating technology is unique in the industry and allows us to maintain our leading position in offering thermally coated solutions.” One particular area of success for the
Sustainability, therefore, is clearly an important issue that SMCL takes seriously. “At SMCL, we are driven by all aspects of product sustainability – reuse, recycle and reduction – aiming to offer innovative solutions in partnership with our customers,” John states. “An example of this is the development of our Purity Wash range, which offers a choice of cold and hot water wash off adhesives. With regards to hot water adhesive technology, we are proud to have the first adhesive approved for this process that allows the clean recycling of PET in the bottle return process. We also have approved two cold water adhesives for both paper and film that allow for the clean removal of label stock from any plastic container.This technology can be combined with both FSC certified recycled and Post-Consumer Waste face materials. “Alongside our Purity Wash adhesive collection we are also developing a range of paper based materials that will not only replace single use plastics, but will also take plastic coatings out of paper. Packaging is an area we are keenly exploring
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with our customers and with our developing Eco Pack range we are looking to provide paper based solutions with heatseal and moisture barrier coatings. We are also focused on sustainably sourced materials and recycled content. SMCL can now offer 100 per cent post-consumer waste face stock with wet strength properties for the drinks industry, in combination with any adhesive technology and paper or filmic liner.” As one would expect from a company
Environmental Waste Systems Ltd EWSL is proud to deliver an innovative and cost-effective total waste management service for Smith & McLaurin. By working together in partnership, we have: • Maximised recycling levels • Saved time spent on waste by providing a proactive, efficient, and reliable service • Managed and reduced waste costs EWSL values the strong partnership with Smith & McLaurin and looks forward to collaborating on many more innovative projects that make a positive impact on the environment.
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that can boast of such a long history, SMCL’s production process has been tried and tested over a number of years, with many completely new product development projects becoming the commercial norm. From its laboratory at Kilbarchan, the company’s in-house technical team have, over many years, developed products from new thermal technology and market leading products for toner and inkjet digital markets, to the current unique Purity Wash range of adhesives aimed at improving sustainability. SMCL’s technical team has over 80 years of combined experience within its field, which it is understandably always keen to offer its customers. Meanwhile, it has an extensive schedule of ‘Discovery’ meetings with suppliers to ensure that its product range remains at the leading edge of innovation, while all new products that it sources and develops are made available to key customers to give them a competitive advantage. “Our focus as a business is very much on finding solutions to our customer’s problems,” John opines. “We believe this can be achieved by developing strong partnerships throughout the innovation process working with suppliers,
machine manufacturers, brand owners and customers in collaboration. This enables us to fully understand the challenges faced, and develop long-term relationships across our customer base and – as importantly – within our supply chain.”
The core values of the business – these being service, trust and innovation – remain as true today as ever, enabling it to meet the ever-increasing challenges that today’s market presents. Ensuring that these values shine through in all the work that SMCL undertakes are its employees. “The biggest asset of any business are the people and we are no exception,” John confirms. “We are very fortunate to have a loyal, highly skilled team at Kilbarchan, who combined have a tremendous amount of knowledge of the industry and of our coating processes, which we delight in sharing with our customers. Our culture is one of involvement in all areas of the business, and for all of our teams to encourage engagement with customers and suppliers alike. The fact we have various members of staff who have been
Smith & McLaurin with the company in excess of 30-to-40 years is testament to this philosophy.” No greater challenge to face the company – arguably in its entire history – has been the onset and continuation of the global Covid-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, SMCL made sure from the get-go to introduce measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its team, while also being able to maintain the full manufacturing, technical and commercial support that its customers require. It was also fortunate in that it did not experience any significant delays within its supply chain, and remained able to offer continuity of supply, and therefore its ability to meet all order requirements in their entirety. Needless to say, the effects of Covid-19 continue to be felt across all industries, and SMCL’s is no different, with further challenges yet to be faced as consumer purchasing habits continue to evolve. However, as John says, these unprecedented times also present an opportunity to highlight key themes, such as the need to improve the sustainability of packaging as a whole. “The solutions needed within the packaging and label industry to remove single-use plastic, I am convinced, will lead to
new volumes for the industry, which I am confident SMCL will be well positioned to take advantage of. “Looking ahead, I see SMCL’s core business remaining within the PSL arena, while we also look at how we can further diversify our offering in the packaging sector. In line with current initiatives, we aim to be a key innovation partner in the development of sustainable label and packaging solutions, whilst reinforcing a strong reputation for specialty products, enabling the business to continue its record of continuous growth,” John concludes.
Sihl Simply the better solution Sihl is the leading expert for printing media solutions. With its futureproof product solutions, Sihl strengthens its customers’ market position and makes a significant contribution to improving its customers’ and partners’ added value with innovative services that support their processes. Smith & McLaurin have made their way to the forefront of the aqueous inkjet label market through a close working partnership with German FACESTOCK supplier Sihl. Pioneering inkjet coatings and Global inkjet expertise provided by Sihl have enabled Smith & McLaurin to further strengthen their marketleading position across a number of key market sectors, particularly in food and beverage.
Smith & McLaurin Products: Self-adhesive label, ticket and tag materials www.smcl.co.uk
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Sweeping the globe Scarab Sweepers is a leading manufacturer of truck-mounted road sweepers with a long history of environmentally-friendly product innovation
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Scarab Sweepers Ltd
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Scarab Sweepers Ltd
stablished in 1979, Scarab Sweepers began life as an innovative family business. In the 1980s Scarab pioneered the development of a single-engine Truck Mounted road sweeper with the release of the Major 3000 arriving in 1988. And this innovation set the foundations for a company that, today, is the leading proponent of
When Roger Hoadley founded Scarab in 1979, he envisioned a technology that would revolutionize the world of sweeping. Single engine sweepers were little known at that time yet he had a desire to change the status quo. And in so doing, Scarab’s environmental credentials were born and its journey towards enhancing society’s wellbeing had begun. It’s my privilege to take the helm of a company built from such a clear purpose
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single-engine, eco-conscious products. “Even back in the 1980s when it wasn’t topical or fashionable, Scarabs main ethos revolved around environmentally-friendly, single emission sweepers, and it remains as important to us now as it was back then,” Scarab’s Business Development Manager, Andy Farley says. In 2011 Scarab became a member of the Fayat Group, and together with French company Mathieu, and Dutch company RAVO form the Fayat Environmental Solutions division. With over 150 years of combined experience, the division is committed to a clean future through the deployment of its broad range of sustainable sweepers for the compact, mid-size, truck-mounted, and specialist truck-mounted sectors. “Emissions control is becoming more and more important for operators and contractors, especially for those operating in areas like London, Birmingham and Edinburgh where Low Emission Zones are being introduced,” notes Scarab’s Manager of Marketing and Product Development, Gary Kelleher. “We have remained strong with our message and as a result we are seeing an increase in enquiries for our single-engine solutions. We are also working in parallel with ongoing developments
in alternative fuels such as CNG, electrification, and hydrogen. We’ve always been at the forefront of technological advancements and we’ve had a lot of success with our CNG solutions across various areas of the UK and Europe where the infrastructure exists. Our
PPG PPG Refinish UK & Ireland are proud to be the coatings partner of choice for Scarab Sweepers. Our next generation commercial vehicle coatings line NEXA AUTOCOLOR® TURBO VISION® delivers innovation, process optimization and color excellence, resulting in Scarab Sweepers rating PPG as an ‘A grade’ Strategic Supplier, the highest rating achievable. At PPG, our 47,000 employees in 70 countries bring life to our purpose and promise: WE PROTECT AND BEAUTIFY THE WORLD™. We develop and deliver the paints, coatings and specialty materials that our customers have trusted for more than 135 years. Through dedication and industry-leading expertise, we solve our customers’ biggest challenges, collaborating closely to find the right path forward. PPG have a long heritage of, and commitment to, innovation, sustainable product development and community engagement.
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strategy is to support customers in transitioning from a twin engine, to a single engine platform, and then pave the way for the wide-scale introduction of alternative fuel solutions.” Following on from the revolutionary early product developments, Scarab has continued to break new ground. In 2003, the Company became the first road sweeper manufacturer to
Speltech Scarab and Speltech working together. Liaising closely with the Scarab Technical team, Speltech developed a range of bespoke rubber seals and suction hoses to suit the complete range of Scarab Sweepers. These were required to be hard wearing and able to cope with working conditions from the heat of the Middle East to depths of the Swedish winter. Spelflex hoses have proved to be particularly suited to the varied work of a road sweeper, a unique construction method and very high-quality materials are brought together to create a suction hose that works in every application and with every sweeper.
supply all its sweepers with a CANbus control and diagnostics system. Intuitive and easy to use, CANbus has changed the way Scarab’s machines are operated and maintained, providing users with comprehensive feedback including warnings and service reminders, as well as real-time monitoring and datalogging capabilities. Gary explains, the company is always on the lookout for similar product development opportunities that ‘innovate’ rather than ‘copy’.
New product development
“For us, a large portion of product development is always going to be driven by customer feedback. Being close to our customers is vital for us to understand how to improve quality, ease of maintenance, reduce cost of ownership, as well as constantly refining the industry leading operating experience for which we are renowned. We are also constantly looking beyond what is happening in the sweeper sector to see if we can find innovative environmental solutions elsewhere that we can adopt in our own industry. “We are preparing a number of interesting
new products for release in the next six to 12 months. They all revolve around introducing positive, value-added solutions for customers, whilst also keeping an eye on the long-term goal. We are on a mission to have the most environmentally friendly range of sweepers in the industry; that is something we strive to
Scarab Sweepers Ltd
achieve and is at the core of all new product development projects.” As a truly global business, Scarab exports a large portion of its products to continental Europe and far beyond. Though the company focuses on single-engine solutions, it still offers their twin-engine counterparts, which have
proven to be the product of choice from Chile to Bangladesh, and Saudi Arabia to North America. Despite this, Gary claims that Scarab’s Vision is still to introduce its single-engine solutions to more international customers in the future. “We understand that there is a place in the
market for twin-engine sweepers and for that reason we still have twin engine solutions in our range, with both Stage V and IIIA engines options available,” he states. “The M6 and M65T export sweeper kits we offer, for example, have been designed specifically for easy and economical shipping worldwide. Due to their
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flexible design, they are also easily mounted on a huge range of chassis from any region. This allows customers access to Scarab’s trusted quality anywhere in the world with minimal fuss.”
What unites all aspects of Scarab’s product offering is a central focus on high quality, high performance sweepers, recognized as some of the industry’s best options in terms of economy and system control. Manufacturing its products from sheet metal upwards, Scarab’s skilled local engineers have recently benefited from major investment in the firm’s production facilities. “We’ve been in Marden, Kent, for over 40 years,” Richard Cardwell, Head of Manufacturing explains. “Over the years the site has developed through a process of evolution as we’ve taken on new processes and added new functions. These adjustments were made to the existing layout without ever really stepping back and optimizing the whole site, that is until very recently. The parts warehouse, service workshops and the new product development bay, were all intermixed around production operations in the same buildings. Furthermore, the assembly functions were disconnected in different buildings across the site so there was a clear opportunity to dramatically improve the visual management and lean performance of the whole process.” After considering several options, Scarab opted to take over a new 34,000 square foot warehouse and workshop facility located on the same industrial estate. The acquisition allowed for a 30 per cent increase in the overall footprint of the operations. “It was a
Scarab Sweepers Ltd strategic decision for us,” Andy comments. “The building was completely refurbished with new facilities and a new office area to accommodate our aftersales team. The entire aftersales organization, including spare parts, service, and the demonstration fleet all moved into that building around October last year and having the whole team working together has brought considerable synergies.”
Richard comments: “In November last year we traded our main office block in for a two-storey office providing 5000 square feet of modern office accommodation - again on the existing site.” Now approaching the final stages of site development, Scarab expects the project to be completed by the end of September 2020 and Richard is confident that it will prove hugely beneficial in supporting Scarab’s plans to develop new products and markets and growing production volumes. “In terms of production, it’s given us space in the factories to reorganize things in a more logical way and improve the flow of our processes,” he reports. “We’ve rolled out
extensive 5S implementation across the whole site and transformed every square meter in terms of cleaning, painting and creating organized workspaces and visual management making it very lean. We’re very excited with the progress and keen, post-Covid, to start inviting customers and suppliers to come and take the Scarab Tour. “Combined with this we have made significant investments in plant and equipment including cranes, material handling and access platforms which all help transform our processes and improve productivity and safety. We’ve always been vertically integrated as a manufacturer. We are not just an assembly plant - we cut a huge amount of metal using laser cutting, CNC folding, and extensive fabricating and welding on site for all the major components. Our painting process has undergone some significant development of both the paint system and the processes, and we are setting new standards in the industry in terms of paint finish. From sheet metal coming in at one end to a whole vehicle going out the door at the other, by carefully controlling these processes in-house we can optimize flexibility,
maximize speed and dependability, keep our costs under control, and make sure that the quality we put out is of the highest possible order.” Though the new facility is set to play an instrumental role in Scarab’s future, the company, at its core, is a friendly and personable business that values, above all, the contribution of its workforce. Communicating a shared vision
Major Fabrications At Major Fabrications, we have over 35 years of metal fabrication expertise, offering 3D design and fabrication of products, ranging from small components to large fabrications. We have been proud to support Scarab Sweepers as a supplier for over 30 years, developing a strong relationship based on our quality, flexibility and customer service. Our relationship with Scarab has helped enable us to continually invest in new equipment to ensure we are always able to offer the best services possible. Please contact us for further information – your project is safe in the hands of our experts!
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across the business has been vital to Scarab’s growth, suggests Andy. During the Covid-19 pandemic Richard confirms this was especially true. “Success has been about keeping our staff on board. We took the difficult decision towards the end of
March to close the factory – a decision which we reviewed daily as a Senior Leadership Team over the course of five weeks. We maintained a skeleton team running the aftersales department for spare parts and service to ensure we continued to meet the expectations
of customers who were still operating our equipment. We were fortunate that we had a healthy order book when the crisis started and a factory, product, and premises that allowed us to reorganize ourselves to socially distance when we brought people back to work. As
Scarab Sweepers Ltd our staff and visitors returned, we wanted them to have a safe space to work so we’ve introduced new cleaning regimes, new sanitizing and PPE stations in every work area, erected polycarbonate screens, created signage and floor markings throughout including one way systems and thermal cameras for checking temperatures when people come into the buildings. The workforce has been very supportive of all the steps we have taken going above and beyond to keep everyone safe.”
Having weathered the Coronavirus storm, Scarab now has its sights set firmly on the company’s long-term future. In October 2019, the Company appointed a new Managing Director in the shape of Gary Watson, who has already set about shaping the company’s future. For Scarab, it is clear that the next five or ten years will be about growth. “When Roger Hoadley founded Scarab in 1979, he envisioned a technology that would revolutionize the world of sweeping,” Gary Watson says. “Single engine sweepers were little known at that time yet he had a desire
to change the status quo. And in so doing, Scarab’s environmental credentials were born and its journey towards enhancing society’s wellbeing had begun. It’s my privilege to take the helm of a company built from such a clear purpose. And today, backed by the Fayat Group, Scarab has a healthy balance sheet, a skilled and dedicated workforce, and a desire to provide the most environmentally friendly range of truck mounted sweepers in the market. These fundamentals will breathe life into our Business Vision, which includes substantial investment in NPD and marketing, expansion of our business globally, and further expansion of our facilities. My role is to help position this incredible company for the next part of its journey, and I’m truly thrilled by that prospect.”
Scarab Sweepers Ltd Products: Road sweeper manufacturer www.scarab-sweepers.com
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We have been designing and manufacturing gearboxes in Germany for over 70 years. We are the right partner when it comes to customized solutions not available in equivalent technical or economical and quantity terms from series manufacturers. Our workforce of more than 250 employees can draw on a wealth of ideas, knowledge and skills. Alongside bespoke, customised gearboxes, we produce several standard gearbox types. In keeping with our slogan ‘RÖGELBERG GETRIEBE... the constructive gearbox solution!’, our expert team of consulting engineers is waiting to assist you in the development of your drive solution.
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A vehicle for change Reimagining the future is all in a dayâ€™s work for Arcimoto, the electric vehicle company with a mission to catalyze the shift to more sustainable modes of transport
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We are dedicated to improving environmental efficiency, improving driving efficiency, improving cost, and improving customer experience. Our initial stated goal was to produce a vehicle that is 230 miles per gallon equivalent. We launched with a vehicle that was 173.7 miles per gallon equivalent for city driving, which I think is a remarkable accomplishment, but we still see room for improvement
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ark Frohnmayer might be Arcimoto’s Founder and CEO, but first and foremost, he sees himself as a customer. “I started the company because I wanted the product it would eventually come to build,” he declares. “Arcimoto was born of a felt need that I had for getting around my local area. I was the prototype customer.” The journey began in 2007 when Mark went in search of a vehicle for everyday driving. Concerned about the growing proliferation of expensive, polluting, oversized automobiles used
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to travel short distances, Mark was not looking for a car, but something more attuned to the trips people take on a regular basis.The criteria he set was simple – the vehicle needed to be lightweight, electric, and capable of transporting one or two people, and the things they needed to take with them, over a short distance to their destination. Mark’s quest ended in disappointment. “I couldn’t find the vehicle I was looking for,” he says. “It just simply did not exist.The closest I came was a three-wheeled kit vehicle I saw at a parade in my hometown. It had two wheels at the front, one wheel at the back, and it was
a lightbulb moment for me. I suddenly realized, for the first time in my life, that there is a giant gap between the motorcycle and the car. If you live in Europe or South East Asia, there is usually a lot more filling that gap, but in the US market, there is an ever-widening disparity between the two-wheeled motorized scooter and the large four-wheeled car.” Following this epiphany, Mark decided to act. He ordered a kit and convinced some friends to help him put it together, but the vehicle still wasn’t right.Though the basic concept of three wheels, motorcycle class efficiency, and a small
Arcimoto two-seater, sustainable transport solution. Built for fun, the vehicle offers a panoramic roof, removable West Coast doors, heated seats, and lockable storage. Highway legal in all 50 US states, a base model FUV will soon be available for just $11,900, meaning more consumers will be able to access revolutionary technology at an affordable price.
environmental footprint ticked a number of boxes, Mark wanted more. He needed a vehicle that was faster, that could carry an extra passenger, and that offered a superior ride feel. Unsatisfied with his existing options, Mark concluded that sometimes, if you want something done, it’s best to do it yourself. “Arcimoto became a company in late 2007 and we actually went through eight distinct design and engineering iterations before we arrived at the platform we ultimately developed,” Mark reveals. “Over the span of the first seven years, we built seven distinct prototypes, all in the three-wheeled
vehicle space, and where we really felt like we achieved victory was on number eight.That is the platform we first conceived in late 2014. We put it on the road in 2015 in the form of looks-like, works-like prototypes.The prototypes became what is now known as the Fun Utility Vehicle (FUV), our flagship consumer product. It is a unique way for an individual to have a much lighter footprint for getting around town. As the name suggests, it is incredibly fun to drive and very useful for day-to-day trips.” With a top speed of 75 miles per hour, and up to 102 miles per charge, the FUV is a fully electric,
Using the very same platform as the FUV, Arcimoto recently added two additional products to its portfolio.The first is the Rapid Responder, a lightweight, maneuverable transport solution designed to get first responders to the scene of incidents as quickly as possible.The vehicle is already being trialed in Oregon by the Eugene Springfield Fire Department. “We took the fundamentals of the FUV and applied those benefits to emergency response,” Mark explains. “The Eugene Springfield Fire Department is our first pilot for the Rapid Responder and one of the things they like is that they can take it on bike paths. We have hundreds of miles of bike paths in Eugene and Springfield, so that’s an advantage that can be very useful in an emergency. “The Rapid Responder’s vast capabilities extend its effectiveness beyond the realm of emergency medical services to law enforcement, campus security, stadiums, and dense metropolitan areas where full-size ambulances can get stuck in traffic. The vehicle is a viable transport alternative in all these situations.” The third new product Arcimoto has announced is the Deliverator, a next-generation, last-mile delivery vehicle that can improve delivery times, reduce maintenance, and ultimately, increase revenue. Suitable for transporting a variety of goods, from parcels to takeaway food, the Deliverator is a general-purpose fleet utility vehicle with over 23 cubic feet of storage.
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“The FUV, Rapid Responder, and Deliverator represent our core three-product offering, but we are not done yet with the full range of the Arcimoto platform,” Mark proclaims. “We have additional products on the drawing board, but right now, we are very focused on getting our first
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three vehicles out into the market and building the scale of production on what we have announced so far. “Now that we have around 100 vehicles out there in the field, we are looking to our early customers and asking them about what works, what doesn’t work, and what they would like us to add in order to make their vehicle as effective as possible. Getting feedback from real customers is a really critical part of the development process for us because we want to continuously improve our product for the broader marketplace. Our biggest challenge at the moment though is finding a way to increase our production scale, while reducing cost.”
Arcimoto’s manufacturing plant in Oregon is primarily focused around the automated manufacture of parts, followed by the lean assembly of the company’s final vehicles. When the site was first constructed, the firm decided to vertically integrate the majority of its metals production, meaning the facility is able to take raw tube and sheet steel through to finished parts for the chassis, suspension, and cage of
Arcimoto products. Of course, as the firm attempts to increase the scale of its production, it will likely be presented with a variety of manufacturing choices and challenges. “In the coming months, we will have to ask ourselves, how are we going to increase the number of vehicles we’re moving through the production process?” Mark suggests. “More than likely, we will have to replicate some of the automated manufacturing cells we have in place, as well as think about additional components we could vertically integrate within our own manufacturing footprint. This could include materials like plastics for the body panels, or coating processes for the metal parts in terms of electro dipping the frames. “Fundamentally, when it comes to automation, we ask, what is the low-hanging fruit? What should be done immediately by robots and then what can be done by hand? As we continue to scale up, we will no doubt see additional opportunities for automation all the way up the production stack.” One thing that will remain the same for Arcimoto is the company’s commitment to the green agenda. Environmental efficiency has
Arcimoto always been one of the company’s core values, and in the near future, Mark and his team plan to carry out a deeper inspection into Arcimoto’s supply chain, as well as a life cycle sustainability analysis of every part that goes into its vehicles. It is indicative of the drive for continuous improvement that is set to power the company to future success. “I think we have got to a point where we’ve got the initial stake in the ground and now it’s just about improving on every dimension of our operation,” Mark asserts. “We are dedicated to improving environmental efficiency, improving driving efficiency, improving cost, and improving customer experience. Our initial stated goal was to produce a vehicle that is 230 miles per gallon equivalent. We launched with a vehicle that was 173.7 miles per gallon equivalent for city driving, which I think is a remarkable accomplishment, but we still see room for improvement. “After that, the next step is to look at new business models that can drive growth. We want to understand what a franchise model might look like for tourist destinations, for the gig economy, and eventually, for an autonomous fleet. We believe the autonomous vehicle world should
operate on a much more human scale. The real win for autonomy would be personalized mass transit - the ability to get in a small-form vehicle and have it take you where you want to go, sharing the road with other modes of active transport, like bicycles and scooters. These are all things that we’re going to be developing in the coming months and years.”
Arcimoto Products: Electric vehicle company www.arcimoto.com
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Blockbuster films Already reaping the benefits of a brand new $40 million production facility, Madico is an innovative films and coatings manufacturer that continues to solve modern problems through invention and imagination
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The key advantage of our new site is the abundance of additional capabilities it offers. We can do things we simply could not do before. The long ovens, additional coating technology, and facility configuration allow us to run faster linespeeds and operate more efficiently. Everything is now at one site, including our research center, and the resulting improvement in communication means we can move rapidly from R&D through the pilot scale and up to full production scale. One of the best parts about the new site though is that we still have room to grow. We are not occupying all 13 acres of land and there is potential for expansion both inside and outside the building
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or many businesses that have thrived for over 100 years, one key to longevity is an ability to adapt. This is particularly true of Madico. Now one of the world’s leading manufacturers of materials-based solutions, Madico was formed in 1903 as a producer and supplier of leather postcards. “I doubt most people these days have ever seen one of those,” CEO Shawn Kitchell laughs. “It just goes to show how far we’ve progressed. After leather postcards, the company moved into wrapping paper, a complimentary product, and then commercialized wideweb metallization for shiny wrapping paper and tinsel, before arriving at the wide range of coated and laminated products we offer today. Products that are used in places as varied as homes and automobiles to buildings around the world and even the International Space Station. Time and time again, Madico has proven its credentials as an innovative organization with the ability to change and adapt.” The truth of this statement was in evidence once again this year as Madico switched its focus to the production of face shields during the Covid-19 pandemic. As the virus began to threaten the company’s regular operations, Shawn and his team acted quickly, pivoting the firm’s business model and transforming Madico into a manufacturer of vital Safe-Gard® face
shield protection equipment at a rate of 12,000 face shields per day. “There was a real need in local healthcare and emergency response departments for that kind of product,” Shawn recalls. “Face shields were not something we had made before, but I’m very proud to say that we were able to respond to the requests of the local community. Within two weeks we created a design, made a prototype, got it field tested by emergency responders and medical professionals, had it ANSI certified, created a production process, and started making products. Thanks to the continued hard work of our employees, we’ve made hundreds of thousands of face shields that have gone out to help local healthcare professionals. Not only has the work given us the opportunity to play a role in the fight against the Coronavirus but it has also allowed us to keep our workforce employed and fully engaged during this time of global slowdown. Our flexibility has facilitated another huge success for the business.”
In terms of products, Madico divides its core offering into four sectors: window films, specialty solutions, diversified business, and a sister company, VDI, specializing in metallization. Serving a wide range of applications and markets, Madico is responsible for the manufacture of natural disaster protection films,
materials that protect against electromagnetic radiation in aircraft, customizable screen protector films and cutting equipment, antigraffiti products, roofing material, and hundreds of other filmic solutions in use around the world today. “Our safety and security films are widely regarded as the best in the industry,” Shawn declares. “Our industry-leading quality and clarity is well-respected among our clients and we strive to excel in establishing relationships, delivering outstanding service, and providing value. We work hard to partner with our customers in a collaborative way so that we can create win-win solutions for everyone.” Later this year, Madico plans to add two new products to its existing range. Scheduled for release in July 2020, the company’s latest solutions look to answer the growing demand for films that improve cleanliness and hygiene control by limiting the spread of bacteria. “The persistence of Covid-19 means we are seeing a need for these types of products in the marketplace,” Shawn reveals. “We’ve actually had our Neutralux® antimicrobial coating for some time, but we’re relaunching an enhanced version of that product. It’s an incredibly versatile material and, once approved, it will be usable on practically any surface - counter tops, tables, desks, or wherever suits the customer. “We are also launching a second antimicrobial product that we call MicrobeX®, which is a completely different technology that
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Toray Plastics (America), Inc. Toray Plastics (America), Inc., applauds Madico, Inc., an industry pioneer that has achieved worldwide success. Congratulations on the new headquarters in Tampa Bay! Toray values its long-standing partnership with Madico and looks forward to collaborating on many more innovative product developments that help make the world a better place.
we developed specifically for device protection. Screen protectors on phones require different characteristics to the surface protection of a desk or table because they also require a tactile element that allows you to manipulate the screen. It’s a different kind of technology.”
Madico’s ability to continue developing and manufacturing pioneering products for its deep and varied customer base received a major boost at the beginning of 2020 when the firm opened a new $40 million headquarters and production site. Located in Pinellas Park, Florida, the 247,000 square-foot site replaced the firm’s two aging former facilities and when fully operational this Fall, will offer a capacity much larger than was previously possible. “The key advantage of our new site is the abundance of additional capabilities it offers,” Shawn states. “We can do things we simply could not do before. The long ovens, additional coating technology, and facility configuration allow us to run faster linespeeds and operate more efficiently. Everything is now at one site, including our research center, and the resulting improvement in communication means we can move rapidly from R&D through the pilot scale and up to full production scale. One of the best parts about the new site though is that we still have room to grow. We are not occupying all 13 acres of land and there is potential for expansion both inside and outside the building.
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“In terms of equipment, we upgraded and relocated our existing coating lines and finishing center to the new site, adding new capabilities so that they could run faster and process different material sets. Teknikor, a specialist in plant installation and long-time partner of ours, played an integral role in this process and in getting the lines up and running. They disassembled the existing coating lines, moved them to the new site and then, using the designs we provided, and the additional components we bought, reassembled the coating lines and made them operational.”
Though machinery and technology are vital tools in Madico’s quest to find and produce better solutions, Shawn explains that the company’s in-house Research and Development team is the group most responsible for upholding the company’s reputation for innovation. Though the R&D team commonly collaborate with customers to develop new products, as well as sourcing ideas from academia and Madico’s parent company Lintec Corporation, the group is not afraid to utilize more unorthodox methods in its pursuit of that ‘lightbulb’ moment. “Although we generally have a stage-gate process, sometimes necessity requires us to think differently as we try to come up with new ideas and new approaches,” Shawn remarks. “Recently, we were challenged with creating a new way to apply our phone screen protectors without a mounting gel, which always took an hour or so to dissipate after application and didn’t look great for new customers. Our team responsible for that product used what we call the Apollo 13 approach. They focused entirely on the problem for 72 hours. They locked themselves away and said okay, our customers have all these machines, this software, these tools, these materials, how can
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Madico we make this work? For 72 hours they brainstormed, they ran trials, they did a lot of different things until they came up with a very unique dry solution to the problem without the customer having to invest any more money, and without us having to provide any more tools or supplies. It was an example of our mission in action and it was very successful.” One of the very first entrants into the window film industry, Madico has been a leader in innovation for over 50 years. Along the way, the firm has introduced transformative technology to the mass market including anti-scratch coatings, bomb blast mitigation systems, and most recently, antimicrobial material that could help turn the tide in a global crisis. Where then does the company go next? “We’ve invested in our new building, we’ve invested in a host of new capabilities, so our intention now is to grow the business,” Shawn affirms. “We want to expand our operation across all sectors - window film, on-demand screen protectors, metallization - but most of all, we see big opportunities in our specialty solutions area. For example, we’re already working with a company called Walter P Moore, one of the top engineering companies in the US, who do a lot of work on stadiums and large structures. We’ve partnered with them to co-invent and develop a new material to replace ETFE roofing on buildings. It’s much stronger, so it requires less support, and it’s clearer, which means it can be customized to meet the needs of the architect or structure. We hope to release this product by the end of the year and we are very optimistic that it will be a big hit in the future. The only way we were able to do this was through a strong collaborative effort with a partner like Walter P Moore. That’s where we see our future, partnering with companies to create new market niches in the specialty solutions sector.”
Madico Products: Films and coatings manufacturer www.madico.com
Teknikor Teknikor understands that moving a single production line let alone an entire facility requires a multitude of trades working in unison. No other company can offer you what Teknikor can. Our suite of services was carefully crafted to provide our industrial customers with everything they need for the proper, safe, professional, installation/relocation of their machinery. Teknikor is your turnkey installation and plant relocation expert! This process starts with a consultation and carries through to commissioning. Our team will work with you to understand your goal, timeline, and budget and develop a complete project plan. We then provide you with a detailed quote and set clear expectations. Once the work begins Teknikor’s experienced tradesmen will take care of it all. Our team will have you back in production quickly, running better than ever. Contact Teknikor to ensure that your next project is a success.
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Customizable chemistry One of the USAâ€™s foremost manufacturers of versatile polymers, Mallard Creek Polymers (MCP) is a name synonymous with quality, technology, and customization
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Mallard Creek Polymers
ike the water-based polymers it produces, one of MCP’s greatest assets is its adaptability. From its origins in former petrochemical corporation Unocal, MCP has grown and adjusted over the years to become a highly effective, environmentally conscious, privately held small business.Though the company has always been focused on the same core science and technology that allows it to build a wide range of highly advanced water-based polymers, MCP prides itself on maintaining an unrivalled flexibility in its approach to business. “I find it interesting that, throughout my time here, we’ve made substantial changes every five to ten years,” says Robert Beyersdorf, the company’s General Manager and Vice President. “As you can see from our history, major changes are happening more rapidly now than ever before. I think it’s mainly because the world is changing so fast and our competitive environment is changing with it.The fun part for us is that our products are so valuable that there are constantly new ways to use them. A water-based polymer can be continuously adapted and I think we will see this adaptation occurring at an even quicker pace moving forward.”
The way MCP has negotiated the challenges presented by 2020’s Covid-19 pandemic is an example of the firm’s flexibility in action. “As a company, we’ve been able to adapt very quickly and solve problems,” Robert states. “We asked ourselves questions, such as how does a customer-centric business deal with working from home when it can’t meet its clients face-to-face? How do we drive forward new projects when many R&D people cannot access a laboratory? We feel there is nothing good about the current environment, but we are lucky in the way that adaptability is an integral part of this business. We are always proving that we can adapt to situations and still be highly effective.”
With in-house departments dedicated to innovation, development, manufacture, and sales, MCP produces water-based emulsion polymers that are safe and environmentally friendly alternatives to those that are solvent-borne.This means that many of the company’s products are used in applications like packaging substitutes to traditional plastics.The innately positive environmental credentials of MCP’s polymers are a key part of the company’s wider green agenda.
“At our core, we are offering environmentally sustainable products because they are waterbased,” Robert explains. “We start with hazardous raw materials, such as flammables and explosives, and we convert these to non-hazardous polymers that our customers can use. We have an environmentally sustainable footprint because of the types of products we offer. “Our sustainability efforts go further than that though. For around 15 years, we have been a member of the Carolina Star programme, which recognizes a company’s ability to control hazards. We have also received an Environmental Excellence Award from Charlotte Water every year since 2008.The make-up of our product means that half of what we sell is actually water, so we are constantly driving to reduce our water consumption and make sure that the water we send off-site is actually cleaner than the water we bring onto it. We are always looking for ways to reduce our footprint on the environment, and the next step for us is to bring more renewable carbons into the manufacture of our polymers, which will help to reduce the amount of volatile organics we put into the air.” As Robert suggests, innovative chemistry and intelligent processes play an important role in
The EU region has been crying out for a firm like us that can offer customization, so our business model has been greatly accepted by the European customer base. The focus in Europe has mostly been on Ecronova products and technology, but we’re now starting to bring out MCP services that we offer in the Americas as well. We are very excited about the progress we’ve made so far and are looking forward to continued growth
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are chemistry agnostic; we don’t offer the market the chemistry we have, we create and find the chemistry the market needs. We are focused on all the major markets for emulsion polymers and water based polymers, and our approach is to actually offer the chemistry that is best for the user, so we are regularly on the lookout for new technologies to employ and new products to market.”
setting MCP apart from its competition. Founded on the core technology of Unocal, MCP has grown significantly since 2002, making a number of vital technology acquisitions along the way. In 2008, a major deal provided the firm with new chemistries, including nitrile elastomers and thickeners, as well as adding to its portfolio of acrylics and styrene-butadiene products. Alongside its active pursuit of more renewable processes, in
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2018 MCP purchased German emulsion polymer company Ecronova®, a move that added ambient cure crosslinking and environmentally friendly APEO-free technology to the firm’s growing list of capabilities. “While we don’t necessarily see ourselves out-innovating some of our very large and strong science-based competitors, we do things differently,” Robert claims. “We like to say that we
MCP’s commitment to supporting the individual needs of each one of its customers is a central part of the company’s continued success.The high flexibility of the firm’s manufacturing facility means that every batch produced can be a different product, enabling MCP to serve the unique requirements of specific customers. “For us, collaboration is key,” Roberts asserts. “Our business model is driven by customization and creating close relationships with our clients. We provide services like private labelling and drop shipping, but we also custom formulate for clients at times. For example, a customer may ask us to make a mixture for them and they will then sell that as their own. If one of our key product lines can’t meet their needs, we are happy to work hand-in-hand with the customer on modification of the polymer, application testing, and doing everything we can to make sure the new product meets all their requirements. “There was one instance recently where a company we work with determined that our product was not quite meeting their requirements with regards to formulation stability. Our R&D team worked very closely with the client and we made new batches every day while the customer tested them. In less than 45 days, we had a new product that not only addressed customer’s issues but was also APEO-free. In two and a half
Mallard Creek Polymers months we had created a brand-new product that combined the issue of customization with contemporary regulatory trends in the industry.” In the company’s early days, after building a strong team with vast experience, MCP set out to ensure that its entire workforce understood the importance of being customer focused. Robert suggests the most crucial part of this process remains the creation of a working culture that revolves around ‘saying yes’. “Many companies out there say they are customer focused, but then when you start to interact with them, there are many things they won’t do for their clients,” Robert remarks. “Now, there are certainly things we tell our customers that we would prefer not to do, but we always explain why, and look for alternative options. Generally, though, MCP is focused on saying yes to its customers. Our approach across the organization is to find a way to meet the requirements of the customer while still doing everything right at the company. “Of course, there aren’t any specific training modules we can use to instill this kind of culture, but when new employees see this behavior demonstrated around our business, and see the changes we are willing to make in terms of product specifications or formulation, they start to understand how we work. In terms of our supply chain and manufacturing team especially, we work very hard to make sure they understand why we are doing what we are doing, and why we are so focused on creating customized solutions for our clients. A lot of our training comes through interaction and talking about the ‘why’, rather than the ‘what’ or ‘how’.”
preparing to release a custom Tylac® polymer for a client that has been working in close partnership with the firm to create a polymer that meets a specific density requirement for concrete. At the other end of the spectrum MCP recently released Rovene® 6120, an all-acrylic polymer that offers a balance of properties within elastomeric roof coatings. Developed using science from the firm’s Ecronova purchase, Rovene 6120 employs wet adhesion monomer technology to produce a highly functionalized, pure acrylic latex that can last on roofs for up to 25 years. “We have taken this product through all the third-party testing and are ready to launch it across the market,” Robert declares. “I think it demonstrates MCP’s new emphasis on creating innovative, cutting-edge products.Thanks to our growing R&D department and newly acquired technology, we can add this type of work to our portfolio, while still focusing enough R&D energy on customization to ensure that our customers still come first.” In terms of MCP’s global aspirations, after focusing on the Americas for most of its history, the company is now turning its attention to
Europe.The purchase of German technology Ecronova in 2018 led to the formation of MCP Europe. With a team built from Ecronova’s former employees, and highly innovative science quite different to that which MCP currently possesses, MCP Europe is already beginning to thrive. “The EU region has been crying out for a firm like us that can offer customization, so our business model has been greatly accepted by the European customer base,” Robert reveals. “The focus in Europe has mostly been on Ecronova products and technology, but we’re now starting to bring out MCP services that we offer in the Americas as well. We are very excited about the progress we’ve made so far and are looking forward to continued growth.”
Mallard Creek Polymers Products: Water-based emulsion polymers www.mcpolymers.com
Looking to the future, MCP has a number of new products on the horizon. Currently, the company is
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Although the most visible thing we produce is equipment or machinery, JBT really is in the solutions business. Our products and systems give food processors the tools they need to help reduce food waste, extend shelf-life, and produce healthy and tasty foods and beverages. At JBT we see ourselves as a vital cog in helping to make better use of the world’s precious resources by providing solutions that sustainably enhance our customers’ success
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Processing progress T
hough only an independent company since 2008, JBT has roots dating back to the late 1880’s when John Bean invented a continuous spray pump to battle scale in his almond orchards. Bean’s invention led to the founding of the Bean Spray Pump Company, which eventually merged with Anderson-Barngrover in the 1920’s to become the Food Machinery Corporation (FMC), one of the largest food manufacturing firms in the world at the time. When JBT (John Bean Technologies) was founded and introduced on the New York Stock Exchange in 2008, branches of the previous business - FMC FoodTech and FMC AeroTech - were rebranded under the JBT banner. Now a global technology solutions provider to the food processing and air transportation industries, JBT designs, manufactures, tests, and services some of the sectors’ most technically sophisticated systems and products.
A world-leading developer of food and beverage processing technology, JBT Corporation aims to build enduring solutions for the food safety, shelf life, yield, quality, and throughput problems that customers routinely face
“For the first half of JBT’s life as an independent company, the FoodTech segment could be categorized as being heavily focused on in-container filling, closing and sterilisation, fruit and juice packing and processing, and protein freezing and cooking technologies,” the Liquid Foods’ Global Marketing Director Carlos Saavedra explains. “However, over the past five or more years, JBT has undergone a transformation as the company has gone on an acquisition spree that has brought us new capabilities in the fresh-cut salad and vegetable, high value powder filling (i.e. infant formula), dairy and juice sterilisation and filling, tray sealing, high pressure processing and secondary processing segments - and that’s just the Liquid Foods side of our business.”
Reputation for innovation
As of 2020, JBT employs approximately 6500 people across the company and operates sales, service, manufacturing, and sourcing operations
in more than 25 countries around the globe. The majority of the firm’s production facilities are located in North America and Western Europe, where their typical capabilities include fabrication and welding, machining, laser cutting, and assembly. JBT’s focus on quality manufacturing means that some products the company produced in the 1950s are still in use today. “Some pieces of equipment we’ve made really have been around for 50 years or more, and some technologies, like the rotary pressure steriliser, have been a part of our catalogue for over 100 years,” Carlos declares. “It speaks to the robustness of our manufacturing technique, the supply chain, the materials we use, and our commitment to improving a customer’s total cost of ownership. A lot of the bells and whistles have been updated with processes like automation, but the end result, the heavy-duty frame of the machine, is still structurally sound. “Some companies build things with a
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JBT Corporation planned obsolescence. The capital cost is relatively low, but the ongoing maintenance costs are high, and the replacement cycle is much more frequent. We’ve taken a different approach where our capital costs are on the high end, but the ongoing maintenance costs are lower, and the replacement cycle is much longer. Overall, the total cost over the lifetime of the process, say over a 20- or 30-year cycle, will be much lower with our equipment.” Research and Development is one department that remains key to JBT’s operation. Unsatisfied with the status quo, the company has established a reputation for innovation, with many of its creations going on to become industry standards in multiple food and beverage segments. “R&D, or New Product Development (NPD) as we call it at JBT, is the lifeblood that sustains us,” Carlos says. “More so than the products themselves, what separates us from our competitors are the capabilities found in the multiple research and technology centres (RTCs) we operate in every major region. These facilities allow us to engage with our customers in a very personal way by helping them develop formulations, packaging formats, and processes. Our specialists in these centres have conducted tens of thousands of application tests on a wide variety of food products. We really get inspired when our customers bring one of their food processing challenges to our RTCs.” Despite JBT’s core customer base including a host of global blue-chip brands, the company
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also markets to long-tail food processors at the regional level. With customer engagement and input an essential part of the firm’s NPD process, everything JBT produces is geared towards ensuring that customers are successful with their production and new product launches. Although the company prefers to serve wide segments of its customer base, it is not uncommon for the business to undertake bespoke NPD projects from time-to-time.
Committed to sustainability
One of the company’s latest major releases, developed with the help of customer feedback, is JBT’s new Gentle Can Handling (GCH) system. A breakthrough for continuous rotary sterilisers, GCH reduces damage to cans as they run through the sterilisation process, providing greater protection for lightweight food containers. The system has the potential to enable customers to achieve higher operational speeds and more throughput or run lighter weight cans, which could provide significant savings on costs. “Rotary pressure sterilisers have been a staple technology in the food canning and sterilisation business for almost 100 years, however, JBT is constantly innovating to help solve customer problems and deliver additional value,” Carlos remarks. “As food processing companies have worked to reduce cost and increase efficiency, they have requested higher speeds from JBT and lighter weight cans from their suppliers. The early days of 25 cans per minute have now evolved into speeds of more
than 1000 cans per minute for the modern rotary pressure steriliser (RPS). Higher speeds, lighter weight cans, and new can geometries have, at times, resulted in unacceptable damage to cans involved in processing. Our GCH technology creates a tangential path for containers to transfer from shell-to-shell in the RPS. The system maintains control as the ejector lifts the container out of the reel and over the leading edge of the valve bridge. This motion reduces sharp impacts experienced by lighter weight containers in high speed lines. This technology can be applied to new RPS equipment, as well as retrofitted to existing RPS machines.” Given the breadth of JBT’s portfolio, sales of some of the company’s products can be cyclical
Alfa Laval Alfa Laval is a leading global provider of fluid handling, heat transfer and separation technologies. Our comprehensive range of innovative hygienic components are key building blocks for food industry processes. Optimizing your operations is our sole focus. We make sure your process conditions are hygienic, your product yield goes up, and your water and energy costs go down. And that you can do all this, more reliably and with greater flexibility than before. Partnering with Alfa Laval goes way beyond equipment supply. We work closely with you to streamline processes, enhance productivity and get the most out of your food process lines. Every step of the way, we share deep process knowledge from our global experts, provide access to our world-class testing facilities and let you take advantage of our comprehensive service offerings and easy-to-use eBusiness platform, Alfa Laval Anytime. Innovation is in our DNA. Globally. Locally. Wherever you are.
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or commodity driven, but the firm continues to enjoy steady activity in its juice processing business, as well as an increase in visibility for its high pressure processing systems as consumers look for minimally processed, clean label end products. “Even the Covid-19 situation has already impacted our business as consumers prepare more meals at home and have returned to buying canned and ready meals as well as fresh fruits and vegetables,” Carlos reports. “As far as our corporate customers are concerned,
we understand all too well the hardships they are facing in terms of allowing outside parties to access their facilities for sales and servicerelated visits. That’s why we’re engaging more with our customers virtually through tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and our new PRoSIGHT™ augmented remote assistance platform, which customers can access using their own personal smart devices.” Technologies such as PRoSIGHT have not only benefited customers during the Covid-19 pandemic, but also serve as further evidence
of JBT’s commitment to its sustainability goals. Alongside PRoSIGHT, which helps to reduce CO2 emissions and the company’s carbon footprint by minimising unnecessary travel, JBT has a number of initiatives in place to help the firm build upon its strong record for sustainable, environmentally friendly practices. “For us, sustainability takes multiple forms,” Carlos claims. “Over the years, we’ve been replacing and updating a lot of infrastructure at our facilities and earlier this year, our Sint Niklaas site in Belgium completed one our most ambitious projects to date, installing 1048 solar panels capable of producing over 25 per cent of the 260,000 square foot facility’s energy usage.”
As conscious consumers become increasingly keen to see a reduction in the use of plastics in production, environmentally friendly technology that minimises plastic usage, such as JBT’s Proseal tray sealing range, has become more attractive to a wide variety of food and nonfood customers. By sealing goods with a film over a preformed tray, Proseal technology also helps to reduce food waste by extending a product’s shelf life. It is a topic that Carlos and his team are passionate about. “We are always trying to reduce the energy consumption of our machines and recycle water in our cleaning systems, but sustainability
Gasket Specialties, Inc. We have been manufacturing and distributing gaskets since 1925 and we are proud to have been working with JBT Corporation for over 30 years now. Our quality and service has bonded us with JBT to form a long standing and strong working relationship, and we very much look forward to continuing that in the future. We wish JBT all the best.
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Festo Festo is a leading global manufacturer of automation components within the Food and Beverage industry. Its best-in-class solutions in pneumatic, electromechanical and process automation make Festo a true partner to Food and Beverage equipment manufacturers. As topics such as food safety and Industry 4.0 become more important, Festo is dedicated to leading the market in developing new products and solutions to support various Food and Beverage applications. Being the preferred Global motion control provider to JBT, Festo is continuing to provide innovative solutions and support to complement JBT’s industry leading equipment designs.
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does not end there,” he asserts. “For a long time, our operation has aimed to take advantage of all the inputs so that there is very little spoilage or wastage for consumers. “For example, there is no waste in our citrus processing technology. Anything that comes from an orange or grapefruit that isn’t juice gets converted into another useful product like cattle feed or pulp. Water is recycled to be used somewhere else in the process and oils and aromas can be used in baked goods or other culinary products.”
Carlos suggests that JBT is experiencing positive feedback from its customers regarding the company’s dedication to sustainable practices, and conscious consumerism is also sparking growth in a number of products lines. Perhaps the largest surge in interest has been in high pressure processing (HPP) technology, a system that uses ultra-high pressure purified
JBT Corporation water to keep packaged food pathogen free, allowing it to stay fresh longer. “More and more people are valuing products that have a perception of less industrialisation or less processing,” Carlos argues. “HPP is cold pasteurisation in pure water. It deactivates microbes in foods or juices without having to use heat, which helps also in flavour retention. Most importantly, from a consumer standpoint, it seems like a more natural process because no preservatives or additives are needed. We’re definitely seeing a significant increase in the number and volume of products using HPP, which, of course, will benefit us.” Later this year, JBT will be working on its 2025 strategic plan, introducing a variety of new products, and developing enhanced methodologies to help connect virtually with its customers. Building on the firm’s long history and established position as a global market leader, in the years ahead, JBT aims to continue its relentless pursuit of developing new and innovative breakthrough technologies for the food processing industry. “Although the most visible thing we produce is equipment or machinery, JBT really is in the
solutions business,” Carlos proclaims. “Our products and systems give food processors the tools they need to help reduce food waste, extend shelf-life, and produce healthy and tasty foods and beverages. At JBT we see ourselves as a vital cog in helping to make better use of the world’s precious resources by providing solutions that sustainably enhance our customers’ success.”
OMNITECH ENGINEERING We wish to express our deepest gratitude and thankfulness to JBT Corp for considering us as a valued business partner for Critical Machining & Assembly supply since 2009. We are serving in 14 different plants of JBT across the globe, for machining made of casting, forging, bar stock & assembly. We have implemented a warehouse program to support the Lean program at JBT by which we are offering a lead time of five days. With that, we serve JBT to increase inventory turns and reduce inventory across JBT Plants.
JBT Corporation Products: Food and beverage processing technology www.jbtc.com
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Launching a revolution A customer-focused print solutions firm with a â€˜never say noâ€™ attitude to service, Catapult Print is harnessing the power of technology to redefine the US market
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s Catapult Print prepares to celebrate two years in business, there is a lot for CEO Mark Cook to be excited about. An ambitious start-up founded less than 24 months ago, Catapult is already turning over $15 million a year and recently acquired its fourth new printing press. Such rapid success is rarely achieved by maintaining the status quo, and Mark is very open about the firm’s mission to defy convention. “From the moment the company opened its doors, we wanted to be a disruptor,” Mark declares. “If you are going to be a disruptor in this marketplace, you can’t be the same as everyone else, you have to be different. As a result, everything we do at Catapult revolves around five key pillars. We promise to deliver higher quality, lower prices, shorter lead times, unbelievable service, and innovation that makes a difference. This is the foundation upon which we have built our success.” Mark’s formula for business was devised after years spent working his way up through the print industry. A former professional footballer, Mark retired early due to injury and took a job packing boxes at British printing firm, Paragon Print and Packaging. As he climbed the company ladder, Mark operated printing presses and worked in the sales department before becoming a shareholder. In the year Mark left Paragon, the once small business recorded a turnover of £180 million, an achievement Mark believes was down to the way
the company treated its customers. “My early years in the print industry were so important because they helped me understand the importance of focusing on customers,” Mark reveals. “Everyone at that company knew about, and appreciated, its ‘never say no’ attitude to business. As a workforce, we were all pointing in the same direction and aware of what we needed to do.The momentum it generated was phenomenal. “Later on, when different people came into the business, I got disillusioned and frustrated because the company I knew, and the values I’d learnt and believed in, were beginning to disappear. I had seen how successful a customer focused business could be and so when things moved in a more EBITDA, profit-driven direction, and you were forced to chase customers for money, it just didn’t work. It was a key part of my journey and I feel my time at the business gave me true grounding in terms of what works in this industry and what doesn’t.” After successfully applying his philosophy during a four-year spell with Equator Design, Mark decided to act on a burning desire to use his considerable expertise to revolutionize and rejuvenate what he saw as an ailing US print sector. “I’d worked with a lot of printers in the US during my time at Equator and it was clear to me that so many of the beautiful designs we did were completely falling apart at the print stage of the process,” Mark recalls. “We were getting some horrendous print samples back from the US and it didn’t take us long to realize that there was not only a lot of poor quality out there but very long lead times too.
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It was so alien to the UK market and that’s what encouraged me to start Catapult. “In many ways, the plan was simple,” he adds. “All I wanted to do was take the values and
MacDermid Graphics Solutions MacDermid Graphics Solutions is a global leader in the manufacturing and marketing of photopolymer plates and platemaking systems used in the package printing industry. Offering world-class products and state-of-the-art manufacturing capabilities, MacDermid employs global application specialists and field service technicians to learn your needs, analyze your pain points, and create tailored solutions for any platemaking for Flexographic printing business. This was exemplified in our partnership with Catapult and was key to their success. If it’s printed on paper, film, corrugated or newsprint, chances are a MacDermid Graphics Solutions product was used to create the image.
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principles I’d learnt in my early days - do more, do more for nothing, just do it better than everybody else - and apply them in a new market. Companies like Virgin often go into a crowded marketplace and just do things better; that’s what my philosophy has always been - it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, just do it better.” Following a careful assessment of the market, Mark concluded that investment in
the latest technology would give Catapult a significant advantage over competition that was predominantly using outdated equipment. As a result, cutting-edge technology has, and always will be, a cornerstone of the business. “If you are competing with a company that’s got 20 or 30-year-old printing presses and you have the latest equipment, it’s not hard to see the huge advantages that lends you,” Mark says. “With the way technology has moved on in terms of the benefits it can offer, I was shocked when I found out that many companies weren’t reinvesting in their equipment. We all know the technology is out there, but how many people are using it? We wanted to come into the marketplace and truly disrupt it by saying, if you’re not doing quality like us, and if you’re not doing lead times or price like us, then you’re going to fizzle away.” Catapult’s technological revolution began when the company entered into partnerships with some of the industry’s leading technology firms. MacDermid Graphics Solutions supplies the company’s photopolymer printing plates, and with the help of Nilpeter’s advanced clean down systems, Catapult has only had to make ten new plates since production began. Nilpeter has also provided Catapult with four of what Mark describes as ‘the Rolls Royce of printing presses’, and INX ink technology means that the company is proud to have logged zero downtime for color matching. UPM Raflatac supply Catapult with innovative materials for its self-adhesive and linerless label products, and finally, Hamilroad’s Bellissima screening technology is considered a jewel in the crown of the company’s state-of-the-art studio. “We’ve always believed in technology,” Mark proclaims. “Automation processes play a massive role in what we do, especially in terms of speed. If we get a file in today, it will go out today.Thanks to automation, we can turn things around on a knife edge. “We’re lucky,” Mark adds, “because our partners have supported us from day one.Technology like
Catapult Print Bellissima has been a game changer for us. We are the only print business in the USA that has Bellissima screening technology. It’s out there, but no one else is using it.The reality is that the US marketplace would want to sell it at a higher price because of the superior quality it offers, but we’re not doing that. Actually, if you order from us, it costs less. It’s like having a choice between buying an HD TV and a non-HD TV, but the HD TV is cheaper.That’s what we’re offering the print world. A lot of the business we’ve won is the result of unbelievably good quality and low prices.” Always innovating, in the coming months Mark will be working with AVT on further developing Catapult’s internal system. An intelligent task management tool, the system will provide the company with real-time data and enable Mark and his team to track every order as it makes its way through each facet of the organization. It is all part of Catapult’s aim to become a total solutions provider, from design through to completion. “Our system will provide us with live information that gives us the ability to keep improving,” Mark claims. “We will constantly receive data in terms of make ready times, material waste, and run speed. We can pinpoint the areas we need to focus on to get better, while still investing in technology. “Similarly, it will offer an unprecedented level of transparency and visibility to our customers. In the world we live in today, if you pay for a service, you want to know how much progress has been made, or when it’s going to be delivered. With the same simplicity as websites belonging to companies like Amazon, the system will help us inform our customers about whether their order is on the panel, in print, or on its way to their doorstep.” Though pressure-sensitive labels remain Catapult’s core business, the company also produces narrow web film and linerless labels, and by the end of the year, the firm aims to expand its design capabilities and add shrink sleeve technology to its portfolio. No matter what the future holds for Catapult, Mark and his team will continue to say yes, when other businesses say no. “The culture of this business has been deliberate since day one,” Mark asserts. “From the janitor through to myself, it’s all about how we can get things done for the customer.The customer is king. “As a company, we’ve come into the labelling market, which is a crowded sector to say the least, and we’ve disrupted it through high quality, low prices, short lead times, and great service.The goal for us now is to continue to disrupt. We have the ability to be a $60 million firm, if not bigger. In the near future, we may even be able to start looking at starting up new locations with the same sort of model.
“We’ve been one of this industry’s best kept secrets over the last two years and we’re just starting to breakthrough and breakout. We’re nowhere near the business we want to be yet, we’re still working hard every day to get better at what we do, but it just shows that with technology and a culture that is so customer focused, you can win new business and be highly successful.”
Catapult Print Services: Print solutions company specializing in labels www.wearecatapultprint.com
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Keep moving Dedication to innovation is embedded in the DNA of Titan International, and its UK division Titan Steel Wheels can draw on this vital resource to meet the needs of its customers
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Titan Steel Wheels
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During the crisis, the plant shut down for a few weeks, as we followed our customers. We are now back up and running and just this week introduced a third shift in one area of the business. My fantastic team here did a great job preparing the facility and then adjusting to working in a new socially distanced environment. When the plant re-opened after the short closure period we didn’t miss a beat and hit the production numbers from day one
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global brand that is well known for its durable products and high quality service, Titan International, Inc. is today the global market leader in the manufacture and production of off-the-road tires and wheel technology. Via its manufacturing operations and dealers located all over the world, the company produces and supplies a broad range of products to meet the specifications of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and aftermarket customers, in the agriculture, construction, forestry and mining equipment sectors. Still headquartered in Quincy, Illinois in the US (and where it can trace its roots back over 100 years) Titan International has several other American sites, as well as those based in South America, Australia and the EMEA region. In this latter territory, Titan operates wholly-owned manufacturing and distribution facilities in the UK, France, Italy and Turkey, as well as being a shareholder in Wheels India (the largest wheel manufacturer in India) and has a joint venture in China.
In the UK, Titan International’s own historical legacy is matched by its subsidiary – Titan Steel Wheels, based in Kidderminster - which operates a factory dating back to 1650, and in the words of Managing Director Chris Akers is ‘probably one of the oldest manufacturing sites in the UK.’ “Of course, the product we manufacture today is very different from those first wheels, although we have kept to the basic principle of making them round!” he added with a smile. “The site we occupy today has moved through many product lines over the generations, but it has always been a heavy manufacturing site involved in forming metals. In its earliest days, it was puddling and slitting iron, moving through commercializing tin plate and latterly into press works and fabrication. Today, it is a very modern manufacturing facility.”
In fact, the Kidderminster site is equipped with some of the most state-of-the art technology and philosophies available, in order to create wheels that are not of the same breed that are found on a typical family car. “The processes we have onsite are rolling, welding, presswork, machining and painting, and approach wise, lean manufacturing is an important bedrock of our facility,” Chris stated. “My background is automotive and so I have introduced many ideas from that sector. We have moved from a batch building culture to more of a production and flow line system, and we have devised a layout that gives us great product flexibility while at the same time allowing us to line balance the work across the various production cells. “We produce a specialist and niche range of wheels designed for machines in the Earthmoving, Construction and Lifting industries,” continues Chris. “Typically, these are called the ‘yellow goods industries’, presumably because most of the products created for them are painted in various shades of yellow.” What makes the yellow goods industries stand out is that each manufacturer has individual requirements and applications for wheels, and therefore they are all unique and they can’t be built to stock. “The product is individually designed for the customer application and built to order,” Chris confirmed, before going on to identify what really sets these products apart from more run of the mill automotive wheels. “Our wheels are designed to operate in the toughest and harshest conditions. They travel to places you can’t even walk, and likely wouldn’t want to. They have to endure huge forces, be that from the tire
Titan Steel Wheels United Steels Ltd “United Steels Ltd would like to congratulate Chris Akers and Titan Steel Wheels on their innovative evolution, success and achievements over the years in their industry sector and we are proud to have been a longstanding partner of their processing supply chain for over 15 years. “We are an independent, familyowned business located in the West Midlands and have been servicing the steel industry for over 40 years. Throughout this time, the business has invested heavily in high specification steel processing machinery, evolving in line with the UK/European markets and pushing the boundaries of the country’s processing capabilities. “We look forward to supporting Titan Steel Wheels in the future and being part of their continued success.” Mark Unitt, Managing Director, United Steels Ltd
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inflation pressures or simply the payload and torque of the machine. Although our wheels are significantly larger and heavier than those found in the automotive market they are often built to tighter tolerances, and we hold a number of unique designs and patents for our wheels, too. In effect, we are the silent partner of our customer, although we fill a critical role. Without the wheel the machine wouldn’t exist, and a tire without a wheel is not that useful. We are all familiar with the name brands on the vehicles and the tires, but we should spare a thought for the vital importance of the wheels too.” It has not gone unnoticed by the yellow goods manufacturers that the wheels from Titan are something special - to the extent that Chris was able to claim that ‘probably everyone in the industry is wearing a set of Titan shoes on one of their products.’ “We have worked diligently in partnership with a number of major OEMs over the years evolving the product to meet changing needs,” he elaborated. “So, one example might be a brief to reduce weight and improve safety, and
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we designed and created a completely new wheel design that shaved some 25kg weight off per fitment. On some larger machines with numerous wheel fitments, this was a saving of over half a ton to the vehicle weight, just from the wheels. That’s a large and valuable weight saving to a customer, and at the same time performance was not reduced and safety was enhanced. In another area, we have been ‘fine tuning’ the product design again to remove weight of material, but also cost was important for this customer. We created a solution with less process steps and less material, and delivered a more cost favorable product without reducing performance.”
Heart of innovation
It is clear from Chris’ examples that each application and machine has its own design problems that need to be overcome in order to meet customer expectations, and it is here that the heritage of Titan really comes into its own. “Our long history in designing and developing this product is very helpful, and when a customer comes to us with a problem
(which is how many of these projects begin) the first thing we will do is use that long history to see if we have made something similar in the past. That is always a good and safe starting point, but if we haven’t then we do a ground up redesign. “But the design freedom for the wheel is quite limited. The wheel forms the interface between the tire and the machine, and standards dictate the rim profile, in order to ensure it will fit a tire. The machine hub and braking system then sit inside the rim, so
Titan Steel Wheels our free space is fairly restricted. Having said that, our engineers do a brilliant job. We have regular design review sessions involving not just engineering, but a cross section of the Titan team. At these reviews, we will pull out existing drawings and products and analyze them for opportunities for innovative change. It’s actually quite staggering how much you can find from this process. When you think you have exhausted all the opportunities someone says ‘what about if ’ and off you go again.” This heart of innovation is combined with
the biggest testing capability in the world, and that is another string to Titan’s bow. “It’s actually very hard to test this product to destruction and simulate actual working conditions, so the best test subjects we have are the millions of wheels we have out in the field successfully meeting the customers’ expectations,” Chris pointed out. “Over the years, we have developed many small design details that finesse the product performance, so it’s really a bit like a heavy-duty Formula 1 car, each season builds on the last and every season a newer, better design arrives.”
Having already become the maestro of heavy duty steel wheels, Titan is now embarking on another exciting journey - to bring back one of the most famous agricultural tire brands to Europe. “This is something the company is really excited about – for many years Titan International has been the holder of the Goodyear Farm Tires brand in North and South America and now it is going to launch the brand into Europe. Titan not only holds
MDTimms & Co Ltd MDTimms & Co Ltd was formed in 2010, following many years working within the Electrical Engineering Industry. Our highly-trained team carry out all aspects of High Voltage & Low Voltage Electrical Installation and Maintenance. We provide bespoke maintenance packages to ensure continuity of supply and we proactively work to ensure your equipment remains fully operational. MDTimms & Co Ltd has been successfully working alongside Titan Steel Wheels providing support and advice on various projects over the years, from 11kV Transformer & Switchgear Changes to Oil Analysis... long may it continue.
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the brand, but also makes the tires at two very large ex-Goodyear facilities in North America, an ex-Goodyear facility in Brazil and we also own the largest tire plant in Russia,” Chris explained. “The Goodyear Farm Tires brand was stopped in 2012 by Goodyear with the closure of its agricultural tire plants across Europe. Shortly after, Titan was granted the licensing rights for the brand and also acquired all the tire molds and technology. It has relocated those molds into its facilities, refreshed the designs and now embarked on that journey. “Titan is still a small player in this market, but in the last 12 months, sales have increased by over 50 per cent and as more new products are added to the portfolio, the future is looking very bright.” Chris is clearly enthusiastic about the potential growth of Goodyear Farm Tires, and looking further ahead he believes that the business will maintain its position as a world leader, and also predicted quite a significant change: “At the moment we are a wheel maker that sells some tires. Based on the adventure that we have started with Goodyear, I think that narrative will change to us being a tire maker that sells some wheels.” After highlighting the growth in demand for Goodyear Farm Tires products, and the exciting potential that it could bring to the business, Chris balanced the news with feedback on the impact that Covid-19 has had on Titan Steel
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Titan Steel Wheels Short-Term Growth in Overseas Sales, and I see that win as a demonstration to the employees that they are part of a successful team,” he continued. “We really do have an amazing group of employees here at Titan Steel Wheels. I can’t pinpoint one secret behind the creation of a great working atmosphere, but I do always try to treat everyone how I would like to be treated. That’s something I use daily in any decision I make, and I think another essential element is that all staff feel like that they all play an important part in the overall company. I can truly say this is the nicest place I have ever worked and I would really like to thank the entire Titan team for making this plant the great place to work that it is.”
Titan Steel Wheels Products: Manufacturer of wheels and tires www.titan-intl.com Wheels, causing the order book to take a fall. “It is now stable and we are really looking at what will happen going into 2021,” he added, reassuringly. “The negative news has stopped and we are starting to see some small positive shoots popping their heads out. Let’s just hope that continues and the variety of stimulus packages offered by various Governments turn into a rapid recovery to growth. “During the crisis, the plant shut down for a few weeks, as we followed our customers. We are now back up and running and just this week introduced a third shift in one area of the business. My fantastic team here did a great job preparing the facility and then adjusting to working in a new socially distanced environment. When the plant re-opened after the short closure period we didn’t miss a beat and hit the production numbers from day one.” Having mentioned his team and their attitude in response to the pandemic, Chris also credited them as being a pivotal contributor to Titan Steel Wheels being awarded a Queen’s Award for International Trade in April 2020. “We export nearly everything we make, mostly into Europe, but also further afield. There won’t be a country in the world that doesn’t have some wheels from Titan rolling around it somewhere!” said Chris. “It makes you very proud to think that a product from the small village of Cookley in the Worcestershire countryside is supplying the world. “The Queen’s Award was for Outstanding
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A blueprint for success When demand for Bluetree’s core services dropped as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK’s largest online printing specialist transformed itself into a key manufacturer of surgical masks, and in doing so, added a lucrative new string to its bow
hen James Kinsella and his childhood friend Adam Carnell launched Instantprint from a small and ‘freezing’ office in Newcastle, the pair aimed to make the world of print as easy as possible for small companies. After making a name for itself with initiatives such as advice for start-ups, artwork checks, and free design templates, Instantprint joined forces with Bluetree Design and Print, a
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traditional screen printer focused on selling large format print to major corporate clients. “Back in 2012, Bluetree dealt with large customers offline and Instantprint worked with small customers online,” James says. “We saw an opportunity to put the two businesses together so that we could sell large format products online and small format products offline. That was how Bluetree Group was born.” Now Bluetree Group’s Co-founder and
reselling print. They might be graphic designers, small printers, and sign makers who have print as an additional service, so the type of experience they need is very different to that of the small business. That is why we run the two different brands.”
Owner, James has seen the business evolve significantly over the last decade. In particular, the firm has experienced rapid growth in its online sales, and as a result, has actively taken steps to improve the offline side of the operation. “As we stand today, we’ve got two brands,” James explains, “Instantprint and Route1. These brands are directly targeted at two different types of customers. Print buyers want to buy in different ways, so in order to give the best
possible experience, we want to give them more targeted platforms. “On the Instantprint side, the customers are all small firms and microbusinesses and the real challenge there is trying to make it as easy as possible for them to buy print in a sector that can often seem saturated with jargon and complexity. Route1, on the other hand, is aimed at print resellers. These customers are very experienced print buyers and their business is
Over the past decade, Bluetree has established itself as the largest online print company in the UK, and alongside winning Company of the Year at the Sheffield Business Awards, the firm has twice been named in The Sunday Times Fast Track 100. Bluetree’s success has been built on its ability to deliver a comprehensive range of marketing materials, of which the company offers its customers a variety of production options including flexible run lengths. “When it comes to marketing materials, our specialism is standardized products like flyers, leaflets, business cards, brochures, posters and roller banners,” James remarks. “We call our production process ‘industrial manufacturing’ rather than approaching it as a craft industry and our clients can choose from a handful of options to suit their needs. If you take our flyers for example, we offer three different stocks and 12 different run lengths, so obviously it makes the purchasing decision much easier for the customer. Run lengths tend to be on the shorter side - up to about 50,000 - because that’s the area of the market upon which we focus. From a manufacturing perspective, standardizing production and grouping products together is highly beneficial for us and our clients because it means we can produce a larger volume of product more effectively.” Having solidified itself as a leading force in the market, Bluetree was expecting the firm’s growth trajectory to continue in 2020, but, like the majority of businesses around the globe,
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the company was halted in its tracks by the widespread impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. As the virus took hold in the early part of the year, Bluetree saw its print sales plummet dramatically. With revenues hovering at around 20 per cent of the company’s regular takings, James and his team took decisive action. “The first move we made was to adapt our print ranges in order to serve companies fighting the pandemic,” James states. “We introduced new products to do with social distancing like floor stickers and signage. We then turned our hand to visors and it was at that point we began to consider manufacturing facemasks. At first, we wondered whether facemasks were actually something we could produce, but we soon discovered that we were really well positioned in that area. We’d recently purchased a new 45,000 square foot unit adjacent to our 100,000 square foot main site. With print sales dropping, we made the decision to convert this space for the mass production of Type IIR surgical masks, becoming the first company in the country to make these. “I think we are incredibly fortunate because we’ve got an amazing team and they’ve been able to adapt really well to all the challenges that have come our way. We built the clean room environments, retrained team members, and moved people across from the print side of the business to the surgical mask side. The initial plan was to support local businesses and help them reopen, but we realized there was a much greater need in healthcare, so we focused on that as well. We’ve currently got six machines installed and are producing 1.4 million surgical masks per week, but we plan to add around 30 new machines by September, taking our weekly capacity up to around 20 million units.” Perhaps the biggest challenge Bluetree has
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encountered throughout this period is a difficulty in acquiring the raw materials necessary for mask production, which, understandably, have been some of the planet’s hottest commodities. One key solution the firm has devised is to produce its own meltblown material, a vital and highly sought-after fabric used as a filter layer in all grades of surgical mask. James is confident that Bluetree will have its new meltblown facility up and running by August. It is the latest noteworthy event in what has been a transformative year for the firm. “Both sides of the business are growing,” James asserts. “As we continue to expand the surgical mask side of our offering, the economy is beginning to open up again. For most of this year, our product mix on the print side shifted dramatically and we were almost exclusively producing social distancing signage and materials related to Covid-19, however, we are now starting to receive requests for our more standard, pre-pandemic range of products. “We are confident that the work we’ve done
this year will put us in good stead for future business. Certainly, in terms of surgical mask production, we’re seeing a long-term future ahead of us. I think Coronavirus has encouraged a lot of companies to look at the stability of their supply chains and we’re already seeing quite an appetite for domestic products. We’re hoping that will continue into the future.” Tremendously impressed with the way Bluetree’s workforce has performed throughout the pandemic, James believes that the company’s values-driven focus is continuing to play a key role in the firm’s success. By focusing on values, rather than skills, in its recruitment, induction, and appraisal processes, Bluetree aims to ensure that the right people are in the right positions at the company, and in turn, futureproof the firm’s prospects for decades to come. “At Bluetree, we are really focused on what we call organizational health, which is all about everyone in the team knowing how we behave as a unit and where we’re trying to get to as a business,” James reports. “Our management team endeavors to ensure that everyone truly understands our mission and goals. By doing this, we can delegate a lot more decision making to other members of the team and I think that has really helped us continue to grow and accelerate our expansion. “We think the future is bright on both the print and surgical mask sides of the business.Throughout the pandemic, we’ve demonstrated how well we can adapt and I believe we’re well positioned to continue growing in both of these segments.”
Bluetree Group Products: Printed goods and surgical masks www.bluetreegroup.co.uk
Heidelberg Heidelberg’s relationship with Instantprint first began in 2011, when their digital business expanded. The first Heidelberg investment, a Speedmaster SM52 Anicolor, became the stepping-stone into Lithographic printing. Heidelberg played an important role in training and supporting the staff at Instantprint, guiding the team throughout the entire production process. As the company merged into The Bluetree Group, Heidelberg continued to be Instantprint’s and Bluetrees’s preferred supplier for equipment and pressroom consumables. Over the years, Heidelberg has delivered market-leading technologies, training, staff development and provided in-depth knowledge of colour management. Today - nine years since the relationship began - when Bluetree customers say with confidence that they can expect to get high-quality print jobs delivered on time, Heidelberg is proud to be an enabler to this success. Indeed, it is honoured to have been, and continue to be, an integral part of the company’s growth and evolution and that this journey together will continue in the years to come!
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Engineered success Proudly based in West Yorkshire, the historical industrial heartland of the UK, CarnaudMetalBox Engineering is world-renowned for its innovative can making machinery
ounded in the 1930s, CarnaudMetalBox Engineering (CMB Engineering) today focuses on the design, development and manufacture of high-performance metal forming and finishing machinery for the production of beverage, food and aerosol cans. Having evolved over the years thanks to a merger with Carnaud, a French manufacturer; and a further acquisition by Crown Holdings Incorporated, one of the worldâ€™s leading
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producers of metal packaging, CMB Engineering stands in 2020 as an innovative and customerdriven company supplying precision engineered can making machinery including canmakers, trimmers, beaders, die neckers, bodymakers and decorators. As Marc Hoche, Head of Sales at CMB Engineering began by detailing, the business still draws a lot of inspiration from its proud history, and he explained how important that
heritage was in the design and creation of CMB Engineering’s first can making machine. “The company focused its attention on harnessing a century’s worth of engineering excellence, in order to develop a solution that would meet the needs of can makers,” he said. “This resulted in the invention of the Canmaker; a unique solution that combined both can making and trimming, in order to bring manufacturers a convenient and efficient machine with a reduced footprint.
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Don Controls Ltd Don Controls Ltd have been supplying CarnaudMetalbox with competitively priced high-quality control panels for over 20 years. During this time, there has been a steady growth of business between our companies and more recently due to CMB’s success within the industry, demand and turnover have increased dramatically. CMB made the decision to outsource some of their inhouse electrical work, enabling them to focus on their core business of precision engineered can-making machinery. We were keen to support them in this decision and have since worked closely with CMB’s electrical engineering team to provide further scope within our supply. We are extremely proud to be considered one of CMB’s key suppliers and believe good business is centered around good relationships. We encompass this in all our partnerships and strive to exceed our customers’ expectations while providing the highest quality control panels in the most cost-efficient manner.
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Launched over 20 years ago, you can still find our original Canmaker machines running like clockwork across can production plants around the world.”
Illustrating the standing of CMB’s technology in the market, its 5500 Canmaker is now the industry standard - based on the proven CMB Engineering 5000 Bodymaker integrated with the CMB Engineering 550 Trimmer in one convenient and reliable package. Manufactured in-house in its own facilities, CMB is able to focus on the production of the critical components, where it feels it can outcompete the supply chain. “To achieve this, we continually invest in the latest machinery and deploy some innovative techniques through our highly skilled manufacturing engineering team. All ‘in-house’ assembly is then carried out across our sites,” added Marc. Built to operate at high efficiency, produce cans of superior quality and increase output, while minimising downtime due to changeovers or maintenance, the machines created by CMB Engineering are tailored to the requirements
of the customer. As Marc elaborated, the technology from the company ranges from metal forming and trimming through to complex decoration: “These include Cupping Press Diesets (which form the cup from aluminum coil), Bodymakers (these take the cup and draw and wall iron to form a can), Trimmers (to ensure the top of the can is straight), Spray Machines (to coat the inside of the can with a lacquer) and Neckers (which reduce the end diameter and prepare the top to receive the lid). “We also design and manufacture Seamer
tooling, which forms the airtight seal once the can is filled and the end is in place, as well as aftermarket services for spare parts and service support.” Having established its position as a global trailblazer in can making, CMB Engineering now works with can makers from all over the world, including large multinationals with high-speed production lines who make cans for sale to their customers, such as Coca-Cola, or Heineken; as well as smaller independent brewers and fillers that want to manufacture cans for themselves.
“The world of the can maker is measured in minutes - we have machines that will run at 3400 cans per minute, and so everything is time critical, including the supply of machines to site, be it additional machines to speed up a line or a new installation, as well as the supply of spares,” Marc added. “Our reputation depends on delivering what we say and not letting our customers down. As the industry strives to reduce the amount of metal in a can or needs increased capacity as a response to a call from consumers for a more recyclable package, we need to constantly be able to engineer solutions for our customers.” In fact, Marc believes that some of the best projects CMB Engineering has completed have been where the company has been able to demonstrate its manufacturing prowess. “There is a certain satisfaction of listening to a customer who has a problem and then letting the engineering team come up with a solution that can then be turned into metal, machined and assembled,” he said. Having described the foundation of innovation upon which CMB Engineering has built its success, Marc then highlighted the importance
Polgain Ltd Polgain Cams are the UK’s only independent manufacturer of Custom Cams and Camshafts. Certified to ISO 9001:2015, we are an approved supplier to OEM customers within the Canning, Bottling, Packaging, Printing, Pharmaceutical and PowerGen industries. Typical Custom Cams produced are plate, face, swing arm, barrel and conjugate cams. Our modern factory in Lowestoft is well equipped to support the engineering skills of our long serving employees. We have an apprentice training scheme with a local college. We offer a friendly, honest, efficient service from quotation to delivery and are happy to collaborate with customers in developing new products.
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of new product development and product innovation, which recently has been an area of focus for the company. “We have been working hard to increase our product portfolio for the past few years, with an emphasis on research and development, which has been actively supported by ‘Innovate UK’ grants from the UK Government. The new products focus on innovations with the main themes of ‘efficiency’, ‘ease of use’ and the inclusion of ‘smart technology’. This will ensure that CMB’s products remain the preferred choice by a global customer base, as the important work of replacing plastic packaging with more environmentally friendly and recyclable aluminum and steel cans continues into the future.” A perfect example of a new product that is being created by CMB’s R&D team is the Reformat™ Decorator, which Marc believes is a significant development for the organization. “This is a high-speed machine operating at up to 2000 cans per minute, which accurately prints an eight-color label onto beverage cans. It’s a complicated process requiring accuracy and control from the machine, and experienced plant operatives to run and maintain it,” he explained. “In line with our R&D strategy, we have included a number of innovations on the Decorator to ensure the machine is easier and safer to use (for example, with the addition of servo controlled print registration), more efficient (by the use of independent servo drives for all rotating parts)
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and also more productive (with print label changes taking just 15 minutes or less). After extensive testing in production, the Reformat™ Decorator is almost ready for sale as a crucial part of CMB’s product portfolio.” The Reformat branding of the new Decorator is also an illustration of the pedigree of this piece of equipment – in 2020, CMB Engineering was awarded the Queen’s Award for Innovation, for its Reformat™ Spray machine – another new machine with a particular emphasis on efficiency, requiring just 25 per cent of the energy used to operate the previous model.
The business is no stranger to the Queen’s Award, as this is the fourth of its history, with the company having been recognized twice for its export success and once for technological achievement in the past. “Our sales have always been predominantly export, reflective of the global nature of the two-piece can making market. CMB machines are found in every industrialized nation, and the company serves its customers with an international team of sales and service engineers,” Marc elaborated. “This successful export business is reflected in the two Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in 2010 and 2014. Winning the Queen’s Award has always been something in which CMB’s workforce takes great pride, and the ceremonies associated with the events have gone down in the company’s history.”
CMB Engineering was also included in the Queen’s 90th birthday book, published for her 90th Birthday Celebrations, which were held at Windsor Castle in May 2016. Within its entry, Andrew Truelove, CMB Engineering’s General Manager attributed the business’ success to its ‘happy and engaged workforce and a management team that values inventiveness.’ “Our people are without a doubt our biggest asset,” Marc agreed. “Communication is definitely the key and keeping it open and honest. Share the good news but also, we have learnt not to shy away from things when they are not so good. We work hard to foster an environment that promotes innovation; this comes from ensuring there is no fear of failure as that is textbook stuff for stifling innovation. “Empowering our people to make and lead change is also important. We invest significantly in training our people and have many studying degrees, as well as trade courses. We also put a lot of effort into our apprenticeship program and compete in the WorldSkills competition, where we have regularly achieved success representing the UK. We have many examples of apprentices going on to reach senior management positions; in fact, our MD is a former apprentice!” The staff at CMB Engineering recently played an essential role during the Covid-19 lockdown period, which was a challenging time but as Marc put it: “the willingness of our people made all the difference in ensuring we could still meet
Industrial Plastic Supplies IPS specialize in the supply and manufacture of thermoplastic parts, vacuum formed and injection molded components to food manufacturers, canning and food processers, rail, defense, subsea, bioscience and life sciences, machinery guarding industries. IPS have supplied CMB since their establishment in November 1985. Working with the design team at CMB, IPS machine plastic components to CMBâ€™s requirements. IPS is built on solid foundations of experience and commitment to customer service, our dedicated team of experienced engineers are here to advise and work with you to ensure the optimum material and manufacturing solutions are applied to your applications.
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CarnaudMetalBox Engineering Schaeffler (UK) Limited A ‘Can-Do’ Relationship Schaeffler (UK) Limited has a long-standing relationship with CarnaudMetalbox Engineering that dates back to the 1960’s when the Shipley West Yorkshire factory was first opened. In this time, Schaeffler UK has supplied a variety of high precision bearings to the customer’s site. The bearings are used on a variety of can making machines, including forming and trimming machines for food and beverage manufacturers. All bearings are manufactured to the highest standards, many to Schaeffler’s premium X-life quality. The bearings provided are robust with corrosion protection and effective seals that are often lubricated for life to ensure reliable operation around the clock. Modern materials and surface coatings give Schaeffler bearings the necessary edge in terms of operating life. The relationship between the two companies is based on four shared principles: quality, precision, reliability and X-life. Schaeffler UK congratulates CMB on their continued success and looks forward to many more years of innovative supply.
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customer demands. As we supply machines and parts into the food and beverage industry, we were able to continue to stay operational, of course having implemented measures according to government guidelines to ensure the safety of our people,” he continued. CMB also assisted with the construction of ventilators required in the fight against Covid-19 after responding to a call from a fellow manufacturer, Altec Engineering Ltd. In a short time, the Engineering team was able to manufacture test component parts in the machine shop. These parts were delivered for validation to Altec and the production of the portable ventilator with CMB manufactured parts commenced in an amazing example of how companies can pull together during
very difficult times. With innovation as part of its DNA and almost a century of expertise in the design and construction of can making machinery under its belt, it is fair to say that CMB Engineering is looking towards the next stage of its evolution with confidence. “Having played a key part in developing advanced can making, and as the drive away from plastic begins to gather momentum, I am envisaging a bright future for the business, and one that will allow us to continually invest in manufacturing in the UK,” Marc stated. “Our decades of industrial knowledge and technical prowess is channeled through our designs and harnessed on behalf of our customers, and it is this which can help can makers meet any of the challenges that the future holds.”
CarnaudMetalBox Engineering Products:
Metal forming and finishing machinery for the production of cans www.carnaudmetalboxengineering.co.uk
Quality, Technology, Innovation Providing revolutionary solutions today. Products which are ever-more efficient, safer and quieter; keeping pace with the demands of heavy industry, renewable energy, automotive and rail transport applications, and Condition Monitoring which remotely evaluates real-load data to extend maintenance intervals safely, leading to greater cost savings. Whether you are looking to purchase a standard bearing product or require a customised bearing solution for your application, the combined product range from INA and FAG offers top quality, innovative rolling bearing and linear motion technology. The range of maintenance products covers the following areas: Mounting and dismounting, lubrication, alignment, condition monitoring. www.schaeffler.co.uk
A man on
emission From making a loss, to winning a Queen’s Award for Enterprise, it’s been an incredible four years of transition for Eminox, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of exhaust emissions control systems
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hen Eminox’s Managing Director, Mark Runciman, joined the company in 2015 tasked with turning the
business around, he knew he had a tough job on his hands. Coming off the back of the first annual loss in the company’s history, Mark discovered that Eminox was not only suffering financially, but was
also in the midst of an identity crisis. “When I arrived, just over four years ago, the business was in a state of flux,” Mark states. “It was a retrofit business that did a little bit of original
equipment manufacturing (OEM).The processes really leant themselves to retrofitting, which was more ad hoc, more workshop-based, and we were just receiving our very last Government
funding to retrofit buses across the UK, as bus operators are generally supported by the government to upgrade their fleets. “It all meant we were in a situation where the
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business was looking to develop. We needed change because there wasn’t enough retrofit work to support the business going forward. A £2 million loss on a £29 million turnover in the previous year had been devastating for Eminox. Something had to give.” With a background in aerospace and experience working on technologies for major corporations, such as Rolls Royce and United Technologies, Mark’s vision for Eminox was to build a company focused on high-quality, deeply systematic, lean processes. “Coming into the business, I wanted to develop a four to five-year strategy that would give us something to aim for,” he says. “I wanted
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everyone in our workforce to be able to see where we were heading and understand the milestones and payback along the way. It was a strategy built on lean culture, transformation, and process capability. What we ended up doing was flipping the business model and going from a retrofit business that did some OEM, to an OEM business than did some retrofit work.”
As part of the new strategy, Mark earmarked three areas of the business that would play a key role in ensuring a smooth and effective transition: processes, people, and capital expenditure (capex). “From a processes perspective, we needed
to take the skills the company had developed in the retrofit business and adapt them in a repeatable way to support our OEM work,” explains Mark. “From a people perspective, it was about looking at the workforce and investing in their skillsets, manoeuvring their capabilities to fit where we wanted to go.The best way to turn our fortunes around was always going to be with skilled people with good, credible backgrounds in automotive work, from product development to manufacturing, from operational leadership to the management of supply channels. We wanted to take our existing employees with us and integrate their wide array of skillsets into the business. “Finally, as far as capital expenditure is concerned, it was all about updating our capabilities and making sure we had equipment that was fit for purpose. We invested £4 million a year for three years on the bounce. With support from the Hexadex Group, we pulled all three of these ideas together and took the business from a loss-making £29 million turnover operation to a company turning over £70 million with a £6 million profit.” A family business at its core, Eminox was founded in 1978 by David Milles and Norman Emerson. With an original workforce of just three employees, the company designed and manufactured its first exhaust system in its inaugural year of business and soon received its first large order of 30 units. Word quickly spread about the high-quality production on offer from Eminox and after relocating and investing in state-of-the-art laser cutting technology, the company began to expand into new markets and supply OEM’s.
Eminox In the 1990s, as pressure grew to clean up the environmentally damaging properties of diesel exhausts, Eminox began a long-term partnership with Johnson Matthey, which resulted in the creation of the Continuously Regenerating Trap (CRT®), a system that would go on to be fitted in more applications around the world than any other system of its kind. It was followed in 2001 by the SCRT® system, a product installed worldwide with OEM’s, as well as retrofitted to a variety of on-road and off-road applications. “Today, we can retrofit a range of heavy-duty commercial vehicles and equipment to Euro 6 equivalent emissions standards,” Mark asserts. “In recent years, we have been working on a project for Transport for London (TfL), and have successfully designed, manufactured and fitted over 65 per cent of London bus upgrades. On the OEM side of the business, we are currently supplying the likes of Liebherr to meet the latest Stage 5 emissions legislation and Iveco to provide the exhaust aftertreatment system for the market leading Stralis gas truck. “It’s been quite a turnaround,” he adds. “Just four years ago we were under half the size and a loss-
making business. Now, before Covid-19 hit at least, we have over 400 employees and a £70 million turnover. For me, it’s all been about developing a can-do culture that, over the years, had been eroded when profits dropped.That’s all gone now. We work smarter, rather than harder.” In April 2020, the efforts of Mark and his team were formally recognised when Eminox was presented with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise. Eminox’s achievement came in the International Trade category after the firm saw its overseas sales grow by 146 per cent over the three-year application period. “Winning the award was a fantastic achievement,” Mark declares. “It gives a real level of kudos to everyone on the team and a sense of recognition for the journey we’ve gone through together. We’re a very flat organisation and, since I’ve been here, we’ve adopted an ‘if one fails, we all fail’ mentality.The award proves that we’ve been doing the right things over the last four years, from the shop floor all the way through to leadership.” No stranger to awards ceremonies – Eminox recently reached the national final of the Make UK Awards – the company is always pleased when its
CWM Automation CWM Automation have been exceeding customer expectations for over 14 years, through their continuous improvement and dedication to provide automation solutions for manufacturers. Meticulously designed and built at their Gainsborough site, CWM’s machinery can be individually tailored to meet exact customer requirements. CWM caters for a wide range of sectors, including dairy, bakery, convenience foods, pharmaceuticals and many more. Due to progressive growth, CWM relocated to larger premises in 2019, offering enhanced facilities and the opportunity to take on more projects. Do not hesitate to get in touch for further details about what CWM can offer your business.
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hard work is recognised by external bodies. In the case of the Queen’s Award however, Mark claims timing made the victory feel bittersweet. “Around the same time as we received the notification explaining we had won the
award, we were also starting to understand the true scale of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ramifications it could have for our business,” he reveals. “Since the outbreak, most of our staff have been furloughed or are working from
home, but I have been here every day and a small team has continued to supply TfL and other transport companies to ensure that essential workers can get where they need to go. “We were quick to react to Coronavirus and the safety of our employees has been paramount from the start. Something we have done well is managing the message across our workforce. A regular newsletter goes out to those that have been furloughed because the beating heart of this business is its people and we want to keep them engaged and informed.”
Unafraid to diversify and adapt, Eminox recently partnered with Johnson Matthey, BP, and Fulcrum BioEnergy to develop new technology that will convert landfill waste into aerospace kerosene. Following notable success working with Porterbrook, the business has also won two new contracts in the rail sector. “Alongside the marine and genset industries, rail is another area that we are looking to develop,” acknowledges Mark. “We are already seeing noticeable success in the rail market, and we feel comfortable taking the skillsets we have developed in the commercial vehicle segment and developing our emissions reduction technology to support the rail network. “The project we completed for Porterbrook involved looking at their rolling stock and creating a retrofit solution.That work, combined with what we have done in the past for a number of OEM’s, is evidence that Eminox has the capabilities to meet the stringent safetystandards needed for rail. We are the only UK exhaust company to hold the BS EN 15085-2:2007 CL1 world rail welding standard accreditation.” In the years ahead, Mark expects to see the
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Eminox Products: Exhaust and emission control systems www.eminox.com company pursue further projects outside the internal combustion engine, as well as increasing activity in the APAC and ASEAN regions.The role Mark has played in reversing the company’s fortunes over the last four years has created a solid base for Eminox to expand and diversify.The firm is now keen to grow its portfolio of products and tackle new challenges. Though someone as busy as Mark rarely has time to reflect, Eminox’s Managing Director does, at times, look back with a degree of pride at how far the company has come in less than half a decade. “When you inherit a workforce that is stuck in a cycle of doom, that can see the business is going in the wrong direction, you start to lose people. Good people lose faith,” he remarks. “To be able to turn that around and kickstart it into a really buzzing, vibrant business where people are contacting you because they want a job, that is the greatest success for me. “Nowadays, we’re always launching new initiatives, like our mental health policy, and from a wellness perspective, we’re almost operating in a way that a multinational would. It seems like a long time ago that our employees felt downbeat and downtrodden and wanted to leave the business, because now we are really retaining people and those that have left are actively looking to return. It’s nice to have awards, but the real recognition is that people come in to the business and they see what we are doing, or they see it in the posts on social media, and they want to be a part of it.”
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A touch of glass
Operating from a facility capable of producing a finished window or door every two and a half minutes, Euramax is developing innovative fenestration solutions for today and tomorrow 194 l www.manufacturing-today.com
hen Euramax celebrates its 70th anniversary later this year, the UK’s leading manufacturer of PVCu windows and doors will look back on seven decades of irrepressible growth. What began life as a company producing aluminum for narrow boats and barges is now a thriving market leader with a national reputation for creating innovative
products to meet the needs of an industry that is constantly changing. “Our main focus is on innovation,” Managing Director Nick Cowley says. “The thing that sets us apart is more to do with the services and solutions we provide, rather than just actual products. For example, we can supply products for fast, quick assembly on a manufacturing line, or we can supply products that are already pre-
glazed. We are trying to solve problems for our customers. “Since January 2019 when I came on board, I’ve been trying to capture what’s new or on trend in our adjacent markets and introduce those ideas to our own customers. A good example of this is smart locking technology, which is absolutely perfect for our current situation as Covid-19 means people want more
touchless entry in the holiday home and rental sector. We’ve also got Endurawood,” Nick adds, “which is a really unique architectural system. It’s extremely simple to install and it’s absolutely perfect for offsite construction.” Endurawood, Euramax’s latest product, is evidence of the company’s commitment to developing modern solutions to fit the requirements of a contemporary market. Primarily designed for customers who enjoy the appearance of wood but wish to eliminate the common problems associated with it, Endurawood is a range of wood-effect coated aluminum architectural systems that can be used for commercial, construction, residential and offsite building projects. Suitable for a wide array of outdoor products and systems, including cladding, decking, and pergolas, the pioneering
material is already becoming popular as a simple installation, low maintenance way to transform projects with the natural finesse of wood. “Endurawood is our product and we have it extruded for us,” Nick explains. “It has been designed for easy installation, and the fact that it is lightweight, non-combustible, and upscalable means it is a perfect fit for the offsite construction industry. Not only is it useful for cladding and decking, but we are also seeing it utilized by franchises that regularly rebrand because it is really easy to take Endurawood off, respray it, and update it with new brands, logos, or images. The benefits of Endurawood come from its aluminum properties, which mean it is structurally strong, repeatable for manufacturers, and low maintenance. As a consumer, once you install Endurawood, you can be safe in the
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knowledge that you’ve got 15 years of core stability and up to 25 years of life on the material itself.” As well as offsite construction, Euramax supplies the DIY, new build, modular construction, holiday home, and leisure markets with a wide variety of window and door products, including French doors, bifolds, slides, conservatories, and showers. By utilizing several product profile systems, Euramax is able to offer qualitydifferentiated product lines that allow the company to serve more customers at different price points. The firm’s significant production output is made possible by a 205,000 square foot manufacturing facility that Euramax has called home since 2013. “In terms of modern processes,” Nick begins, “we benefit from the use of an Epicor ERP system and that is integrated with another piece of software called Business Micros, which is made specifically for the window manufacturing and fenestration industry. We also take a technological approach to our solutions,” he adds. “So, for example, we’re currently preparing to introduce automated order entry. It will mean that when a customer sends in an order, a scanning system can be used to recognize all the different features of the order and input it into the system, allowing our customer service team to start talking and supporting our accounts almost instantly. “In the factory, we have adopted a completely unique approach to our manufacturing
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Euramax compared to others in the fenestration industry. Typically, companies have assembly stations where people are manufacturing windows and doors as one complete unit, with one skilled person controlling the whole process. At Euramax, we have completed windows coming off our assembly line every couple of minutes, because we employ a one-piece flow system, which means one person performs a specific task they are absolutely efficient at and then moves the product on to the next stage.”
As more and more businesses adopt automated manufacturing processes, the final stages still require assembly by hand. Nick argues that, among other benefits, one-piece flow offers the company more flexibility in its production than full automation ever could. “As well as allowing us to switch quickly and seamlessly between different profile systems, one-piece flow can be used to speed up labor intensive elements of our manufacturing process by breaking the task down into individual sections. We are flexible,” he asserts. “I don’t have to do larger runs with CNC machines. We can have a few people that are skilled in two or three different areas and they can move around where necessary, but it doesn’t mean we have to have a deep skill base to be able to manufacture everything. It is quite easy for me to uplift capacity when needed by just bringing in additional resources on that assembly stage.” Despite the challenging circumstances, 2020 has been a positive year for Euramax. In April, the company announced a deal with ilke Homes - the UK’s most prominent modular homes specialist - for the supply of doors and windows for 2000 modular homes. For many years, Euramax has supplied full window kits to the holiday home sector and by combining this experience with its expertise in the residential market, the firm was able to provide ilke Homes with a bespoke solution and service. “Typically, offsite construction gets its deliveries from companies that are used to supplying construction sites,” Nick reveals. “Supplying to a modular builder is slightly different because it’s like delivering to an assembly line. Previously, ilke Homes had been receiving separate deliveries for glass and window frames, which would then be sorted into specific module requirements, increasing the risk of damage. Instead, we have provided ilke with the glass and window frames in one stillage, fully referenced and labelled, ensuring they have everything they need for each module, streamlining their process and saving them time and money.” On the back of its project with ilke, Euramax
recently reached an agreement with another modular housebuilder. Working closely with the client, Euramax suggested providing customized pre-glazed solutions to help speed up its construction processes. As well as continuing its work in the offsite construction sector, Euramax is encouraging builders’ merchants to use the idea of aspirational living to help create a vision for in-store customers considering the benefits of a product. “We’re seeing more merchants now that are interested in moving to more dynamic visualizations and displays. They want to show off concepts and ideas of what your house could look like and then give you an indication of the products that could make it a reality,” Nick reports. “Traditionally, a lot of stores like Wickes have had static window displays, but by building showrooms that present aspirational living, you are selling the customer a lifestyle. For example, a kitchen showroom could include bifold French doors, new windows, and all the fencing and patio accessories that go with that outdoor scene. It means a merchant can upsell the whole project.”
Spurred on by the company’s recent success, and brimming with ideas for the future, Nick is upbeat about what the next few years will hold for Euramax. Eager to double the size of the business, Nick is confident that the firm’s manufacturing facility can support such considerable growth and that current market trends will continue to work in the company’s favor. “We will benefit from growth in the holiday home sector next year due to a surge in staycations and I think the merchant markets will grow too,” Nick declares. “The big areas of focus for us will be in offsite construction. This is where Endurawood and our PVCu windows combine to give clients a really efficient solution.”
Euramax Products: Manufacturer of PVCu windows and doors www.euramaxuk.com
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Klöckner Pentaplast (kp) Globally recognised as a leading manufacturer of sustainable packaging solutions, Klöckner Pentaplast (kp) continues to develop packaging innovations with a future for circularity
ith 32 sites across 18 countries - four in Europe, nine in the Americas, and four more spread across Australia and Asia - Klöckner Pentaplast (kp) is a plastics manufacturer with a truly global presence. Founded in 1965, the firm has become renowned for delivering innovative films and trays for the food industry and medical sector, success that is manifested in an annual turnover of around two billion euros. Benefiting from a highly skilled workforce of close to 5900 employees, the sheer volume of the company’s output is staggering. “If you take the three main product groups that we operate in - trays, flexible film, and rigid film - we produce about 11.9 billion trays, 62,000 tonnes of flexible film, and 595,000 tonnes of rigid film a year,” kp’s Strategic Business Director Matt Richards reveals. “It goes to show that we are not only a global leader in innovation but also in serving our customers with high quality packaging.” After more than 50 years in business, kp has become a specialist in the design and manufacture of sustainable film and trays that provide product and food safety and protection, help to avoid food waste, safeguard medication and medical devices, and protect the integrity of countless products. As of 2020, the company operates through two defined business channels – a pharmaceuticals, health, and specialities division and a food packaging division. “The range of products we supply in terms of health, pharmaceuticals, and specialities is wide, varied and covers lots of different applications and marketplaces,” Matt explains. “We supply materials for making credit cards, labels that shrink wrap round bottles, home and building products, laminated work surfaces, and the clear materials used for blister packs of razors and toothbrushes. Our activity in the pharmaceutical segment is even stronger, where we supply the materials that hold tablets, syringes, and a number of similar medical applications.”
kp’s food packaging division makes up around half of the company’s total business. Trays produced by the company are used for fresh protein packaging in the retail sector, salad and fruit packs, packaging for bakery, and for dairy, and food-togo containers for kebabs, burgers, chips, and other takeaway foods. kp also supplies high barrier and stretch flexible film for the wrapping of cheese, meat, and fish at retail counters, and plastic sheets for form-fill-seal machines. “Our trays are predominantly polyester,” Matt states, “but we also produce some PVC, expanded polystyrene, and expanded polypropylene products too. The materials we use have helped us to become market-leading in terms of performance, as well as sustainability. Historically we’ve been heavily involved in expanded polystyrene, but one of our key innovations in recent times has been the award-winning kp InfinityTM, which is about moving from expanded polystyrene into expanded polypropylene, enabling us to manufacture a fully recyclable takeaway box.” Launched in November 2019, kp’s expanded polypropylene-based kp InfinityTM range is not only fully recyclable but microwaveable, lightweight, durable, water and
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Klöckner Pentaplast (kp)
3T Logistics 3T Logistics is an award-winning, technology-enabled transport management services business, head-quartered in the UK. 3T delivers significant cost reductions and service improvement through automation, optimisation and data insight to manufacturing businesses across the world. 3T supplies world-class Transportation Management Systems (TMS) to the manufacturing sector, and is one of the largest, independent 4th Party Logistics (4PL) service providers in Europe. Clients include Klockner Pentaplast, JCB and Honda. 3T TMS delivers B2C levels of visibility for customers and brings market leading process and control throughout the order-to-pay transport process, all in a single, integrated system. The resulting increased service levels and cost control grow revenues whilst improving bottom line performance. The 3T TMS has been recognised in the 2018, 2019 and 2020 Gartner Magic Quadrants for Transportation Management Systems. 3T has also been awarded the prestigious CILT Excellence Award in Freight Transport, for its 4PL solution.
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oil resistant, and proven to keep food hotter for longer. Widely recognised as a next generation packaging solution, kp InfinityTM has been proven via an independently run Life Cycle Assessment, to be the most sustainable packaging solution on the market, outperforming other material solutions with its significantly reduced energy requirements, lower water consumption and carbon footprint. “When we developed kp InfinityTM, we spent time with independent experts who led consumer research surrounding the needs of a takeaway product to ensure that the packaging design and its technical functionality was going to be sufficient to meet the needs of the environment it had to operate in,” Matt remarks. “It was clear to us that we needed to develop a sustainable solution for the takeaway marketplace, something that could be considered fully recyclable while maintaining all the technical attributes that the product line needed. “When you’re talking about takeaway packaging, and particularly a foam-based product like kp InfinityTM, keeping food hotter for longer is absolutely key. The change in the way we purchase takeaways is making that requirement even greater because the increase in companies like Deliveroo and Just Eat mean lots of takeaways are now delivered. As the need to keep a food product warm over a delivery journey has significantly increased, so have customer expectations increased regarding the performance of packaging.” As Matt alludes to, Research and Development plays a key role in the design of kp’s new products. This task falls to
the company’s Marketing and Innovation Department, whose responsibility it is to manage the company’s existing product portfolio while ensuring that a pipeline of innovation remains in place, guaranteeing the firm is always ready to meet the needs of its customers.
Dedicated to research
“Our dedicated Product Managers look after key product groups, so, for example, we have one manager dedicated to trays, one dedicated to films, another looking after form-fill-seal materials,” Matt reports. “Our experts are required to look two to five years into the future and predict what the innovation needs of that product are likely to be. What will our range of trays look like in three years’ time? What innovations are going to be required to keep us ahead of the competition? How will we address changing costs or developments in sustainability? We invest in market research and insight to guide us on megatrends and macro trends, in all the markets we serve. “We believe that having a resource specifically allocated to looking at the future of our product portfolio gives us a distinct advantage over and above our competitors. I think it’s something that sets us apart and enables solutions like kp InfinityTM to develop.Yes, we talk to our customers, and working collaboratively with our customers is hugely important to us, but we also look at what their customers want as well further down the value chain. We want to make sure that our products on the marketplace are fit for the total supply chain, now and in the future.” Of course, as consumers grow increasingly
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critical of single-use plastics, and demand the industry to be more eco-conscious, all kp’s research is suggesting that the sector must offer more in terms of sustainability. Matt argues that this is nothing new for a firm eager to lead the way in the provision of sustainable rigid and flexible plastic solutions that improve lives, communities, and health, whilst protecting the planet. “Consumer awareness around the environmental impact of packaging is far greater than it’s ever been,” Matt asserts. “Customers have always been aware, but I think a number of programmes and documentaries took sustainability from the pages of the corporate document and transferred it directly into people’s homes, leading to a sudden surge in the levels of insight and demand for change. “As a company, we like to think we’ve always been slightly ahead of the game on this. The requirement for sustainable packaging solutions was identified a number of years back and kp has invested vast amounts of time, money, and resources to help deliver solutions that meet those key sustainability needs. Our PET trays in the UK, of which we supply a lot, are all made from 100 per cent recycled polyester. We do not use virgin polyester in our food trays. The recent introduction of a tax on packaging made from less than 30 per cent recycled materials has seen companies scrambling to reach that 30 per cent target, but we’ve been 100 per cent recyclable for many years now.” kp’s commitment to creating a circular plastics economy is reflected in the company’s manufacturing practices. The firm invested heavily in technology and capabilities across its multiple sites around the globe that enable it to take recycled polyester flake from bottle and trays direct from recyclers, and then process it through onsite decontamination technology to ensure it meets food grade standards. kp then extrudes the recycled material into rigid film and thermoform to make a new food grade trays. The process goes hand-in-hand with an agreement kp struck in November 2019 with Viridor, the largest UK-owned recycling, renewable energy, and waste management company. Strengthening a long-standing partnership between the two businesses, the five-year deal will see Viridor supply kp with 8,000 tonnes of post-consumer PET annually in the UK. “We set ambitious targets related to our sustainability profile. As a large packaging business, we have a responsibility to lead the way and provide solutions,” Matt says. “Plastics have an important role to play in the food supply chain, but one thing is for sure, we want
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Klöckner Pentaplast (kp) this valuable material back. We use 100 per cent recycled polyester so we would love to get more of our own product back and close the loop in terms of recyclability.” For kp, the innovation continues. A revolution in the packaging of meat and proteins, the company’s Elite® range benefits from a patented coating and sealing system that prevents leakage, whilst maintaining full recyclability. Now in use across three continents, the Elite® range can be viewed as a result of kp’s relentless pursuit of progress. Matt suggests that the firm’s belief in advanced manufacturing processes is also to be thanked. “It is new technology and new production lines that enable us to create products like Elite® and Infinity,” he claims. “What sets us apart from our competitors is probably our investment in new product development and innovative sustainability.” Arguably, another distinguishing characteristic of kp’s success is the firm’s refusal to take its eyes off the future. Matt and his team are acutely aware that the conversation surrounding plastics will not disappear over the coming years, and as one of the industry’s leading forces for positive change, kp is already working to ensure it remains a key voice in the debate. “A lot of our focus moving forward will be around education,” Matt declares. “Educating people about the real role of plastic, its benefits, and how we can work with plastics in a better way is absolutely key. We have seen some of the advantages of plastics in the current pandemic and that may have softened the stance in some areas. Used correctly, and with a focus on sustainability, plastics can play an instrumental role in maintaining the quality of food supplies and extending shelf life. They can serve an equally important purpose on the pharmaceutical and specialist side of our business too. The features and benefits of plastics today are unmatched. “kp focus is to accelerate innovation and develop better solutions. Our commitment is outlined in our Positive Plastics Pledge – our strategy for the sustainable management of plastics framed within four pillars: Innovate using up to 100 per cent recycled content; Accelerate the design and manufacture of products and packaging for recyclability; Educate and engaging stakeholders, including consumers on the
value of plastics and need for recycling; and Activate to drive change at scale to improve the infrastructure of the collection, sorting and recycling system, closing the loop on plastics. In the meantime, as a nation, as a European community, and as a global society, we must ensure that we do not make the wrong decisions about plastic, purely because no other option is available.”
Klöckner Pentaplast (kp) Products: kp is a global leader
in rigid and flexible packaging, specialty film solutions, serving the pharmaceutical, medical device, food, beverage and card markets, amongst others www.kpfilms.com
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Firing on all cylinders From spare parts to multi-million dollar installation projects, Firing Industries is a leading distributor of complex industrial equipment, with the ability to deliver innovative turnkey solutions 204 l www.manufacturing-today.com
pread across the vast expanse of Canada, the ‘small and mighty’ team at Firing Industries is pleased to have defied the odds in a challenging year for businesses across the globe. With most of the company’s employees already accustomed to working remotely, the Covid-19 pandemic has
not greatly hindered Firing’s operation and, in fact, the company has thrived. “We’ve done fantastically,” says Vice President of Business Development, Danielle Dubuc. “We take time each week to do team meetings online and we touch base with each other every morning to see what’s on the agenda for the
We endeavor to keep in touch with our clients and they regularly contact us for spare parts or new projects. We represent more than ten major suppliers and we have a dedicated department for the spares, just to make sure that our existing customers are well serviced and receive all the technical support they need. By staying in touch with our client base, we know all about their next developments and are usually one of the bidders on these large projects
day ahead. We’ve come through this pandemic stronger than we went into it. We never lost a beat.” Firing has been serving prominent companies in the chemical, pharmaceutical, food, mining and other processing sectors for close to 50 years. Many products supplied by Firing are closely related and often occur sequentially in a manufacturing process. This means that, through use of a consultative, problem-solving approach, the company can assist in the overall planning and installation of its clients’ projects. “We strive to combine various elements from our different product lines to help form larger solutions,” Michel Dubuc, Company President explains. “For example, a bulk bag unloader can
be combined with a vacuum transfer system, or a bucket elevator, or a screw conveyor; that is what we do. We’re not just a distributor, we do systems as much as possible. Our suppliers don’t do it, so that is why our clients rely on companies like us. We have our own engineering department that takes charge of drawing up plans and proposals – most of which are for projects over half a million dollars.”
Benefitting from a comprehensive network of suppliers, Firing works in partnership with a significant number of specialist equipment firms, for particulate monitoring, for classifiers and granulators, and for bulk processing equipment.
Always looking to expand its offering, in 2019, Firing added a bulk bag unloader manufacturer to its established base of world-leading suppliers. After less than a year of collaboration, Firing has already installed over a dozen pioneering bulk bag emptying systems. Michel suggests that a recent development in Montreal is a good illustration of how the company can incorporate products from multiple suppliers into the same project. “We recently worked on a $2 million development for a plastic compounding facility,” he reveals. “We did all the engineering, purchased all the key equipment, and did all the installation. We were able to combine feeders, vacuum transfer systems, dust collection, bulk bag unloaders, and a large network of tubes and
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pipes. It’s like puzzle pieces. We know that next time we are approached for work, we can show the potential customer what we have done and they can pick and choose the elements they like and those they don’t. They can customize their experience.”
Building on a positive first half of the year, Firing’s plans for the remainder of 2020 include expanding the company’s workforce and solidifying the firm’s position as a major provider of turnkey solutions. This does not mean the business will be abandoning its core function as a distributor of industrial equipment, but in the next few years, Michel and his team are determined to prove to a wider audience that Firing is much more than just a provider of machinery. “We’re going to concentrate more and more on turnkey systems in the near future and continue integrating our various product
lines to create more complete solutions,” Michel states. “The core of our team is great right now and we’re going to be adding to it in the next few months, either by hiring new employees or enhancing our collaboration with our talented subcontractors.”
Firing Industries Products: Industrial equipment solutions provider www.firing.com
Focus on turnkey systems
The success of Firing over the years has been driven by repeat business. Clients continue to return to the company time and again, and these long-lasting relationships are testament to the value that Firing places on high-quality work and dedicated customer service. “Some of our customers have been with us for decades,” Michel declares. “We endeavor to keep in touch with our clients and they regularly contact us for spare parts or new projects. We represent more than ten major suppliers and we have a dedicated department for the spares, just to make sure that our existing customers are well serviced and receive all the technical support they need. By staying in touch with our client base, we know all about their next developments and are usually one of the bidders on these large projects.”
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The complete package
One of the UK’s largest independent food packaging manufacturers, PFF Packaging Group has always valued innovation, sustainability, and creativity in its mission to provide intelligent packaging solutions from conception to delivery
company undaunted by change, PFF has experienced significant growth and development across the business over the past two and a half years. Kenton Robbins, the firm’s Group Managing Director, suggests the period is best summarised by the mantra ‘review, improve, move on.’ “We’ve really moved the business forward in almost all aspects of the operation, from quality
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to technical processes to people, everything really,” Kenton states. “We’ve gone through just about every single system we have in the business and improved it in one way or another. Not only have we seen huge growth in the capability of our teams, but, as is our goal, we have continued to deliver innovation.” As recently as April 2020, PFF made a fivefigure investment into the company’s 100,000 square foot production site in Washington, Tyne
PFF Packaging have at our Keighley site in West Yorkshire already have the measuring equipment and it gives us the ability to produce a very accurate, polypropylene sheet that is uniformly flat all the way across. The SBI systems monitor the sheet constantly and give us the ability to adjust the machines to maximise the specification parameters and improve manufacturing efficiency. “It’s a good investment. It’s fantastic in terms of what it will mean for the business because that efficiency flows all the way through the metric. If you make a product ten per cent lighter, in theory you make everything ten per cent lighter. It’s less waste, a more focused product environmentally with less plastic being used, and it gives us the opportunity to be very accurate with customer specifications, rather than operating above and below target weight.”
The investment is positive news for PFF in a year that, for most businesses, has been dominated by Covid-19. Designated as key workers in the UK food chain, the company’s
For us, Operation Clean Sweep recognition was not a difficult standard to attain because our capturing of dust and microparticles was already second to none. It’s also good business sense because the less material you lose, the more effective your manufacturing processes are. It’s an essential part of ensuring you’ve got an efficient facility
production staff have kept the business operating at its normal capacity since the outbreak, despite difficulties imposed by social distancing measures and other initiatives put
and Wear. The installation of new extrusion measuring systems, supplied by SBI International, will enable precision gauge control over the width of film used for the manufacture of thermoformed products, including over 20 million units of polypropylene trays produced at the site each month. “In essence, it’s an environmental investment as much as a business efficiency investment,” Kenton reports. “Two of the machines we
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in place to keep staff safe. Though PFF has certainly felt the impact of the pandemic, Kenton is proud of how the firm’s workforce has reacted.
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“After informing our sites about the changes early on, it was quite staggering how quickly our employees adapted and maneuvered themselves into a position of
comfort,” he declares. “We had various key meetings, designed policies, implemented those policies, and they were in place more or less overnight. The social distancing measures were announced, and teams onsite adapted in a blink of an eye. It was seamless. “We have a strong belief in being open and honest with our workforce about challenges we face and that can sometimes be difficult, but everyone bought into it. They understood the work we were doing was as important to them as it was to us. From the start, we encouraged people to keep within their own social bubble to ensure that our facilities could stay operating without any cross contamination. It was a strategy that worked very, very well and ensured that we could maintain production all the way through this crisis, which has been really encouraging.” For many years, PFF has been at the forefront of the latest technologies and cutting-edge processes. In 2016, the company opened an Innovation Centre near its Washington production facility in Tyne and Wear, where it is proud to work in partnership with its customers to produce bespoke and innovative solutions. As pioneers in the plastic packaging sector, it is unsurprising that PFF has been a key voice in the recent debate surrounding the use of plastics in the industry. Renowned for its strong record on sustainability - many of PFF’s products are made from food-grade recycled rPET containing over 90 per cent recycled material, over half of which is post-consumer waste - the company was ideally placed to approach the argument in a positive manner. “We have really engaged with the plastics debate over the last two years,” Kenton says.
PFF Packaging “I think it’s fair to say that we’ve done a great job of working with the industry and our supply base to drive it forward. Despite having spent the last ten years trying to lightweight our products and drive recycling usage within manufacturing, we have still, at times, found ourselves pariahised for being a part of the industry. However, we continue to do our best to understand everybody’s point of view and we think sensible conversations with regard to the usage of plastic and where you apply it and where you can lightweight it, are fundamental to the industry’s future.” In April 2020, the UK Government announced the introduction of a tax on packaging that does not contain a minimum of 30 per cent recycled content. Set to be enforced from April 2022, the law states that any plastic packaging that does not meet the threshold will be liable for a charge of £200 per tonne. “Everything we’re working on at the moment is geared towards limiting our customers’ exposure to attract the new 30 per cent tax,” Kenton explains. “We’re now looking at products where the overall percentage of the packaging has been reduced, or we are engineering into the product aspects of design to ensure they use less plastic altogether. For example, a standard dairy tub can be replaced with something that’s half, or even a third, of the thickness and then wrapped in cardboard. “Our customers are very acutely aware of the consumer insight into plastic and they’re obviously keen to drive the agenda as well. It’s a real shame when we find products on the market that are more akin to what customers think is the right way to go about environmentally friendly packaging, when in fact that’s not the case. Sustainable production is about energy usage in total, not whether something is simply plastic or card. The consumption of energy on any manufacturing process is always key to us. We look to minimise the impact of our required energy input and make sure our products follow the right ethos, not just a deceptive, consumer friendly aesthetic.”
to eco-conscious practices and active awareness of its corporate responsibilities. “When you work in manufacturing, it’s not always about just trying to ensure that a
product is using less plastic, but also that there is no leakage of dust, particles, or beads into the environment,” Kenton argues. “One of the biggest pollutants in the sea is microparticles
Dedicated to the environment
In early May, PFF’s production site at Keighley received a certificate of recognition from Operation Clean Sweep, an international initiative, led by the British Plastics Federation (BPF) in the UK, that aims to ensure that plastic pellets, flakes, and powders passing through manufacturing facilities do not end up in seas or rivers. PFF’s participation in the programme is yet more evidence of the company’s dedication
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PFF Packaging generated from car tyres. They are a bigger pollutant of our seas than plastic packaging from food and nobody notices it because they are almost invisible. “For us, Operation Clean Sweep recognition was not a difficult standard to attain because our capturing of dust and microparticles was already second to none. It’s also good business sense because the less material you lose, the more effective your manufacturing processes are. It’s an essential part of ensuring you’ve got an efficient facility.”
As we approach the halfway point of 2020, PFF remains one of the industry’s most active proponents of sustainable packaging solutions and the company continues to engage with consumers, industry professionals, and government organisations in its search for ways to tackle our world’s growing environmental challenges. Education, communication, and teamwork will all seemingly play a vital role in helping our society find realistic ways forward. “At the moment, we are seeing solutions for replacing plastic packaging that are actually more damaging to our planet,” Kenton claims. “For example, replacing plastic straws with bamboo from the other side of the world is
much worse with regards to carbon emissions than using plastic that is correctly recycled. It’s about a sensible, balanced approach and educating people on how to recycle. “We’ve done our very best over the last 18 months to engage with local councils to understand what is the capacity for us to get involved with our own local recycling companies, but unfortunately, the council has no real desire to crystallise these opportunities. Unless we are prepared to establish our own recycling company, which is something we have discussed at length, it’s almost impossible to get things up and running because local government varies so widely from region to region. “Standardisation of these processes is absolutely key, and it’s got to be down to industry campaigns and government supported campaigns to make sure that recycled material goes through the right streams.” While PFF persists in its quest for a better future, in the more immediate term, the company is preparing to release new products as part of a programme of reinvention. In a move that Kenton hopes will reinvigorate the marketplace, the firm has taken a string of common, ‘mundane’ products and developed them in way that is more practical, more functional, and more engaging. Working as part
of a coalition with its customers and suppliers, PFF aims to deliver solutions that other manufacturers are yet to even think of. “Rather than chasing the big volume lines over the next few years, we will look towards real innovation, real smart approaches to our commercial packaging and the way we approach our customers in alliance with our machine manufacturers,” Kenton asserts. “One of our key company mannerisms, and something that has served us really well when managed and led correctly, is scepticism. We are sceptical of just about everything we do. We refuse to accept the norm and we are constantly challenging ourselves to make things more efficient.” Almost 27 years ago, PFF Packaging began operating from the garage of the company’s CEO, Andy Bairstow. Led by Andy, the business has come a long way since then, and Kenton suggests the company’s workforce deserves the lion’s share of the credit. “We are hugely grateful for the people that work in our business,” he proclaims. “As a leadership team, we guide, we lead, and we strategise, but actually, on a day-to-day basis, it is the people who populate our 12-hour shifts that make the business work and we are extremely thankful for it.”
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