Breaking the mould
George Utz Ltd, part of the Utz Group, is expanding its Alfreton factory to meet rising demand
With a history dating back nearly 70 years, the Utz Group has developed a market-leading reputation in the design, development and manufacture of both custom and standardised material handling products in plastic. These are boxes, containers, pallets and returnable transport packaging (RTP) for the global market.
The company was founded as Georg Utz, Toolmakers in Zürich, Switzerland by Mr Georg Utz during 1947 and today remains a successful family owned company with production facilities in Switzerland, Germany, the UK, France, Poland, the US and China. George Utz Ltd was established as the UK branch with a sales office of the group during 1990 in Alfreton, UK and continues in the tradition of delivering off-the-shelf and bespoke material handling solutions across the automotive, chemistry and pharmaceutical, food, textiles, postal, warehouse and logistic, electronics and retail and distribution industries.
Along with the other associated members of the wider Utz Group, George Utz Ltd is able to act independently to respond to the needs of the local market, while enjoying the financial support and stability of its healthy parent company. “The Group has a turn over of around 200 million euros and approximately up to ten per cent of this is reinvested directly into the business for new facilities, equipment and technologies,” explains George Utz Ltd general manager, Carsten Diekmann. “The main market focus for the group is Europe, the US and China and all of these areas are currently developing well. The need for logistics is growing and we follow our customers and grow with them so we offer the same good service throughout the entire business. Presently the group works with nearly 130 injection and vacuum moulding machines and converts around 50,000 tonnes of raw materials into products. Investment is mainly in machinery and injection moulding tools where we are investing in new product families in Europe and globally.”
Within the UK specifically, George Utz Ltd is preparing to double its turnover by 2020 and to capitalise on the momentum it has built over the years. “Within the UK we have experienced constant growth and during the last ten years we won considerably new customers within England and Ireland with new innovations and products. In fact each year we deliver between nine and ten new products that are developed inline with customers’ needs and also for the general market,” Carsten says. “We have a strong growth strategy in place and we need additional capacity and new machinery and equipment as well as to reduce lead-time, to be leaner and to be more efficient because customers tend to not want to wait anymore. They need a product today and they want it more or less tomorrow.”
During March 2014 George Utz Ltd announced a £3.5 million expansion to its Alfreton factory including increased manufacturing space, offices and warehousing to meet the rising demand for of-the-shelf products and bespoke RTP solutions. The increased manufacturing space will house a new 2700-tonne injection-moulding machine to complement the UK companies existing 650-tonne to 1000-tonne machine range. “Our plastic containers are primarily used in the retail and automotive markets where they are used to move parts around supply chain company’s distribution centres. The UK is moving in the right direction and, although it is still tough, there are lots of positive signals. We make approximately a million parts a year and with this investment, we are looking to double our output in the future. The building work should be completed by Christmas and then the additional injection moulding and vacuum forming equipment can be installed,” Carsten elaborates.
“We have a core strategy for really high quality machinery where we invest in additional equipment that is also more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Within the Group the main companies that supply our injection moulding equipment are KraussMaffei from Germany and Engel from Austria,” he continues.
Environmental concerns and responsible operation are at the core of how George Utz Ltd conducts its business and interacts with its customers. “We are audited in the UK for our environmental management system, which is compliant under ISO 14001,” Carsten details. “We recycle the material that we use and we also promise customers that once products have reached the end of their life cycle, that we will take the products back and recycle it to use the raw materials in new production runs. Furthermore we also use our own production rejected heat to heat the factory and our offices so environmental concerns are something that have been quite important to us for many years.”
As well as increasing the productivity of the company through greater numbers of machines and more efficient energy management, the new equipment due to go into operation in 2015 will allow George Utz Ltd to enter in a new market with a new plastic pallet as an effective alternative to the traditional wooden design. “We will enter into new markets through the creation of 1200 millimetre by 1000 millimetre dimension plastic pallet for the UK market, with the additional advantage that we will be the first UK plastic pallet producer and we will have the benefit of avoiding logistical costs because we will manufacture here in Derbyshire,” Carsten says. “The pallet will be produced using a new large injection-moulding machine. An additional 1000-tonne injection-moulding machine for RTP products will arrive at the end of 2014, supplied by KraussMaffei from Germany.”
In terms of the advantages of plastic pallets over wooden pallets, Carsten observes: “The lifetime of a plastic pallet is longer and the quality is very high. The dimensions can be guaranteed, which is very important for automated warehouses and there is not a problem with water or oil becoming absorbed into plastic pallets. The main advantage is the lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the pallet and in terms of health and safety plastic pallets does not splinter in the way that wooden ones can, which is very important in food processes and distribution.”
As George Utz Ltd and indeed the wider Utz Group seeks to expand its market share and grow the business, its will continue to focus on increased capacity, efficient fabrication and new products. However, core to its strategy is also it commitment to long-term customer relationships as Carsten concludes: “We are committed to develop the company further and offer our customers the security to know that we will produce locally for the local markets and remain on hand for the next ten to 20 years, so it is real long-term investment.”
George Utz Ltd
Products: Material handling products
Sites: UK, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, France, the US and China
Employees: Aprox. 800