Profiles

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

When 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, BTG 178 aInstantprint joined forces with Bluetree Design and Print, a 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 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 Grouppossible 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 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.”

Comprehensive range
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 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 BTG 178 baction.

“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 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

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

A 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 TSW 178 aoriginal 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.”

Customer partnerships
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 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.”TSW 178 b

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 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 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.”

European launch
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 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 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 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
titan-intl.com

Launching a revolution

A customer-focused print solutions firm with a ‘never say no’ attitude to service, Catapult Print is harnessing the power of technology to redefine the US market

As 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 Catapult 178 ainjury 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 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 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 Catapult 178 blinerless 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 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

Processing progress

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 Though 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 JBT 178 bFMC 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.

“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 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 JBT 178 bchallenges to our RTCs.”

Despite JBT’s core customer base including a host of global blue-chip brands, the company 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 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 service-related 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.”

Reducing waste
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 non-food 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 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.”

Solutions provider
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 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.”

JBT Corporation
Products: Food and beverage processing technology
www.jbtc.com

Customizable chemistry

One of the USA’s foremost manufacturers of versatile polymers, Mallard Creek Polymers (MCP) is a name synonymous with quality, technology, and customization

Like 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 MCP 178 aManager 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.”

Sustainability efforts
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 water-based,” 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 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 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 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.”

Customized solutions
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 MCP 178 bwill 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 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’.”

European expansion
Looking to the future, MCP has a number of new products on the horizon. Currently, the company is 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

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

For 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 wide-web metallization for shiny wrapping paper and tinsel, before Madico 178 aarriving 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.”

Industry-leading quality
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, anti-graffiti 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 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.”

New facility
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.Madico 178 b

“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.

“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.”

Close collaborations
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 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

A vehicle for change

Reimagining the future is all in a day’s work for Arcimoto, the electric vehicle company with a mission to catalyze the shift to more sustainable modes of transport

Mark 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 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 Arcimoto 178 awas 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 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 Arcimotovehicle 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 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.Arcimoto 178 b

Product portfolio
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.

“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 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.”

Green credentials
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 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

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

Founded 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 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 ‘West Business System’, where cross-functional teams work towards having its activities aligned and focused 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 WPS 178 bdrugs 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 market, and West is able to work with clients at any stage of their drug development life cycle across all injectable formats.

Vital role
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.WPS 178 a

“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 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 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

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