Washington-based PFF Group has created 100 jobs and invested more than £2m in custom-built machines to manufacture Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline NHS staff and social care workers.
The investment follows PFF’s appointment by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) to manufacture 360 million disposable polythene aprons to meet increased demand for PPE. The contract was awarded after a robust due diligence process.
PFF began manufacturing aprons using existing machinery purchased from international suppliers but has now invested in faster machines manufactured in the UK. Keighley headquartered PFF collaborated with British machine manufacturer Hanbury-Autogil to design and commission two bespoke specialist equipment.
The ground-breaking, smart engineering machines are being installed at PFF’s manufacturing facility at Washington, Tyne and Wear, where the firm has employed 100 new staff, for the duration of the contract, as it ramps up 24-hour production at the site. The firm is also investing in four folding machines from Europe to fold the polythene before it is fed into the apron manufacturing machine.
Kenton Robbins, group managing director of PFF Group said: “We worked closely with DHSC on due diligence ahead of our appointment as part of the Government’s ‘UK-Make’ initiative to source PPE from Britain. Demand for PPE has soared globally, with 210 million plastic aprons needed every week in the NHS alone.
“In just six months, in the midst of a pandemic and while continuing to support the UK’s food retail sector through the production and supply of food packaging, we worked in collaboration with the Hanbury-Autogil experts, to set up a new capability and capacity to manufacture disposable aprons. We have been able to design and build, two innovative, all-British machines that are the fastest and most reliable in the world, enabling us to significantly increase production.
“We are delighted to be able use our specialist sector knowledge and in-house expertise to ensure the UK’s need for PPE can be met during and beyond the pandemic, as well as creating job opportunities across our two sites in the current challenging climate.”
Robert Hanbury, managing drector at UK machine builder Hanbury-Autogil is very proud to be part of this project. He said “PFF approached Hanbury-Autogil with a challenge, we established that the business was seeking apron manufacturing machines that had a quicker output than the industry standard versions that they were using. The team at Hanbury-Autogil showed an incredible work ethic that led to design a machine that is clearly the fastest PPE apron machine in the world. We look forward to collaborating with PFF on future projects.”
PFF is one of the UK’s largest independent food packaging manufacturers, providing packaging solutions to supermarkets, multi-national food manufacturers, food service and fresh produce companies across the UK. The firm employs 108 permanent people at its Washington site and 113 at Keighley.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the Government expanded the UK’s PPE supply chain from 226 NHS Trusts in England to over 58,000 different settings, including care homes, hospices and community care organisations. The DHSC has distributed over 3.5 billion PPE items for use by health and social care services in England.