Berry’s Scottish factories focus on crucial PPE supplies

TWO Scottish factories belonging to polythene film specialist Berry bpi are adapting their manufacturing facilities and investing in new equipment to provide PPE equipment for NHS workers.

In just three weeks, Berry bpi revealed it has equipped its sites in Greenock and Dumfries, as well as its facilities in Heanor and Stroud in England, and by early May will be manufacturing around 200,000 special fluid-resistant, long-sleeve apron-style gowns and over six million disposable standard aprons every week.

Berry bpi already produces clinical waste sacks used in UK hospitals. The company said its ‘extensive experience and manufacturing excellence’ made it an obvious choice for the NHS procurement team seeking a UK-based supplier for the creation of the apron-style gown, which provides a higher level of protection for use in more critical situations.

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.

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 said the aprons pipeline has been secured through a supply chain established by a cross-government team including the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, NHS Scotland and the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland.

Berry bpi added that it has made a ‘substantial’ investment in the new equipment and technology in order to produce both style of aprons, which are manufactured in low-density polyethylene (LDPE). The ultimate aim is to establish a sustainable domestic supply route for these types of 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, 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 response to the project was supported by key suppliers XPO, Promopack Digital Solutions and Auria Solutions.

“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,” Andrew Green added. “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.”

Ivan McKee, Scottish Government minister for trade, investment and innovation said, “Our health and social care system is facing unprecedented demand and protecting staff working on the frontline is an absolute priority. This is yet another example of a business quickly diversifying their product line by adapting their manufacturing facilities and investing in new equipment to support the national response to Covid-19. I thank them for their efforts to help us deliver what is needed, when it is needed.”