InFORMed - July 2021
Of course, it goes without saying that 2020 was a challenge that none of us were very prepared for. Like any organisation the impact of the pandemic is still difficult to fully rationalise. Not just on KPL as a business and the way we’ve had to adapt and change, but also on the health and wellbeing of our employees and their families, as they also adapt to working and living alongside a pandemic.
Happily, I’m pleased to report that KPL and our great team is emerging from this ‘ongoing’ crisis in good shape, feeling optimistic and fully motivated to continue to drive our business forward. I remain in awe of all my colleagues, each of whom has gone way beyond the extra mile in delivering both their time and expertise into ensuring that KPL remains fully functional throughout the pandemic and totally committed to the company’s future success.
I would also like to thank our customers and suppliers for your continued support through this challenging time. We very much enjoy working with you all and look forward to continuing to provide you with quality products and an exceptional service now and in the future.
Here is a round-up of our news. Enjoy the read.
James Hill - Managing Director
Like all markets emerging from the pandemic, plastics has seen substantial price increases and availability issues. Our main post consumer recycled content (bottles) is in short supply due do seasonal low consumption, which is driven by the current Covid -19 restrictions on travel and hospitality. Also due to the plastic tax next year, producers like Coca Cola are starting to ring fence much more rPET (bottles) for their own products as they aim to produce bottles from 100% rPET. While this is great for them, it doesn’t do our market any favors and in the long run will only drive food packaging prices up further as availability of good rPET flake becomes harder to get. Coupled with this virgin polymer manufactures are now beginning to include 30% rPET in their formulations, which again is taken from the rPET waste stream that we rely on.
Being at the frontline of the plastics industry for sometime now, it can often be frustrating what you read in the press and how perception of a product can become reality very quickly, especially in more recent years as social media becomes the more normal way to drive influence and forge opinion. There is no denying that the use of plastic needs to be looked at, but there is also a massive need for the use of plastics to be more accepted and understood, if we are to continue as consumers to demand all year-round availability and variety of fresh food 24hrs a day 7 days per week at good prices, while making sure food waste if also controlled as best we can.
We believe that sensible conversations need to take place between the government, large producers, retailers and recyclers to make sure that the right balance is struck over what percentage of rPET in single use plastic products is a reality moving forward. So that realistic targets can be set in line with the growth and investment into future plastic recycling, as there is still a huge percentage that’s not being recycled
The good news is that KPL has great suppliers who we are working with to make sure that all of our products that we make from RPET, PP and HIPS all continue to have the correct recycled content and avoid any taxation being applied.
It is also our commitment to make our plastics as environmentally friendly as possible and over the last four years we have managed to reduce our energy consumption by 33%. This has mainly been driven by investments into energy saving equipment. We are also totally committed through our website and social media to make sure consumers are armed with facts about how we make our products and where and how they can be recycled.
Investing in our infrastructure
You may recall that early in 2020, pre-pandemic, we made a number of investments and workflow improvements at our manufacturing site. The main purpose being to increase efficiencies in our single source operation, particularly our design, pattern and tooling departments. Coupled with that, we also purchased a new Ridat 4030SA semi-automatic vacuum former to support the requirement for higher volumes of pre–production and trial samples. Next on the shopping list was a free air chiller - by using the ambient outside air temperature, together with a smart graduation system on the company’s existing chillers, the air chiller cools the tools used in production. As the system saves energy in the process, we were able to invest in the system with grant funding support from the Carbon Trust.
Adapting in a crisis
During the early days and weeks of the pandemic, we turned our hands to producing personal protective equipment (PPE) for front line NHS staff. The impetus being more to do with wanting to help, because we could, than seeing the initiative as a lucrative business opportunity - although if it replaced some our lost food service revenue, then happy days!
So, by making full use of our design, technical and engineering expertise, we developed a single piece thermoformed face visor made from clear APET. Being low gauge, weighing only 35 grams and incorporating an anti-fog coating to avoid steaming up, the visor could be easily mass produced and straightforward to ship and store in large quantities.
Following a lengthy testing process and passing BSI certification, we initially supplied nearly 100,000 units to various frontline staff, which include Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust. Thereafter we were able to increase capacity to over 600,000 visors per week.
Although the success of our venture is still hard to quantify (red tape having a part to play!), the initiative was taken and we showed what could be achieved when we combined our expertise and production capabilities, in what was a fast-moving situation. We also had some great publicity along the way and made a number of very useful contacts in the process that we are still working with on new opportunities for KPL right now, so it’s been an enterprising and exciting journey so far. You can find out more about this project here.
Introducing KPL CIRRUS™
The investments made in 2020 and the improvements to our workflow were designed to help provide increased capacity, as well as making reductions to our waste and energy consumption. In addition, we also looked at lightweighting our products, principally as a means of adding further impetus and clout to our sustainability vision. Clearly, we are fully aware that lightweighting might not be the ultimate answer to producing sustainable packaging, but it should be an important shorter-term step towards achieving a solution to a hugely complex problem.
KPL Cirrus™ is the name we gave to our lightweighting initiative. Here’s how we’ve achieved it -pioneered by our R&D team, KPL Cirrus™ works by creating a unique pattern in the sidewalls of a thermoformed container. As the container is formed, a series of small pockets are created where material continually gets slightly ‘affixed’ during the thermoforming process - this in turn creates stronger sidewalls with less material, thereby creating a much lighter yet stronger pack.
As expected, there has been considerable positive interest in KPL Cirrus™. Amongst the positives in this scenario - the use of less energy, less material and the increase in transport efficiency - and of course, reducing the quantity of plastics that end up in the environment.
You can find out more about KPL Cirrus™ here.
Passing a BRC inspection during the pandemic (at AA grade!)
During the pandemic, we successfully retained our BRC Global Standard (BRCGS) at AA grade, which was a feat in itself. With this being the most up-to-date and demanding certification we have ever had to pass, the BRCGS for Packaging Materials update to issue 6 has seen refinement on several clauses making the standard stricter as the certification process continues to expect a higher standard of compliance from organisations. A significant emphasis was placed on better risk management in the shape of Hazard Analysis Risk Assessment (HARA) and preventing, eliminating or reducing product quality hazards.
Again, our infrastructure and equipment investments last year, coupled with improvements to workflow efficiencies paid dividends, and we were able to impress the BRCGS certification audit team with our robust hygiene controls and product safety.
A massive thank you again to our amazing team for making this possible.
KPL teams up with Strode College
To stay on track and firmly committed to our award-winning apprenticeship scheme, KPL has teamed up with Strode College and will be welcoming a new group of young recruits this September, to come and join us and support KPL’s future development and infrastructure. It’s always exciting bringing new energy and thinking into the business and watching them develop, as we will only ever be as good as the people we employ.
Grace finally ties the knot!
I’m sure that all our customers will be pleased to hear that Grace Bailey finally managed to get married to Simon Sharp this month, after their wedding had to be put on hold last year due to Covid – 19.
It’s also with great pleasure that I announce that Grace has been promoted to our Customer Service Coordinator.
Grace plays a pivotal part in the day to day running of KPL and is the main link between sales and production, making sure that all our customers are kept happy and informed about their orders and deliveries.
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