Polythene film manufacturer adapts facilities to provide localised production and supply of PPE

The Heanor factory of Berry bpi, the manufacturer of polythene film, is adapting its existing manufacturing facilities and investing in new equipment in order to provide localised production and supply of much needed PPE (personal protective equipment) for NHS workers.

In just three weeks, the facility on the Heanor Gate Trading Estate, along with three other Berry bpi factories in Stroud, Gloucestershire, and Greenock and Dumfries in Scotland, have been equipped and by early May will be manufacturing around 200,000 special fluid-resistant, long-sleeve apron-style gowns and over six million standard disposable aprons every week.

Berry bpi is a long-standing supplier to the NHS, currently producing the majority of clinical waste sacks used in UK hospitals.

Although it has not made an apron-style gown before, Berry bpi was able to create a design, produce the film, and cut out and fabricate one within two weeks, for an initial sample run of 2,000. These first apron-style gowns were manufactured at the Heanor factory and all were then donated to local hospitals and hospices, where there was an urgent need for immediate supplies.

For the standard aprons, Berry bpi has sourced and shipped to the UK specialist machines for their manufacture. These have now been installed at the Greenock factory, where production is due to begin within the next two weeks.

Berry bpi has made a substantial investment in the new equipment and technology in order to set up an efficient operation that can produce both style of aprons, which are manufactured in low-density polyethylene (LDPE), cost competitively. The ultimate aim is to establish a sustainable domestic supply route for these types of healthcare products.

“We have deliberately taken a long-term approach,” explained Berry bpi Chief Executive Andrew Green. “We were able to call on our extensive resources and experience, as well as the flexibility and commitment of our workforce, to produce the aprons within an extremely fast turnaround to help make up shortfalls in the current supply chain.”

“At the same time,” he continued, “we intend to scale up production so that after the immediate needs of the Coronavirus crisis, we can continue to offer a cost-effective local supply solution that will be able to meet as much as possible of UK demand.”

Berry bpi’s fast response to the project was supported by several of its key suppliers – XPO, its logistic provider; Promopack Digital Solutions, who assisted in the apron-style gown design; and Auria Solutions, a tier 1 automotive car parts supplier, who cut out the gown templates.

“I am extremely grateful to colleagues both inside and outside our organisation who embraced this complicated project with such urgency and a can-do attitude,” said Andrew Green.

“In particular, I am hugely impressed by the skills and agility of the Berry bpi teams in establishing an entirely new product and manufacturing process from scratch to the point of supply within two weeks. It is inspirational to see these products now out there and in use by the front-line medical staff who were so much in need of them,” he concluded.