Moulding the next generation
Already established as a preferred supplier of technical injection moulded products, Advanced Plastics’ is proactively preparing for the future by shaping the development of the engineers of tomorrow
When asked to describe the core mission that drives Advanced Plastics, Joint Managing Director, Rob Anderson has a simple, yet powerful response: “Our basic aim is to be the best and to achieve, and retain, world class status. This is the goal that we measure our success upon and, having grown consistently over the last 25 years, it is one that we continue to move toward.”
The company, specialists in providing a diverse range of technical injection moulded products to its portfolio of blue chip clients, has certainly laid the foundations needed to reach the status it desires. “We are now six months into our financial year and we are already around ten per cent ahead of budget, meaning we are targeting revenues of between £15 million and £16 million for 2017,” explains fellow Joint Managing Director, Chris Pearson. “Beyond this, we have growth plans to take the business up to a £20 million turnover within its current infrastructure, while our expansion plans for the current site will allow us to increase this further to approximately £25 million.”
Things have certainly come a long way since the business, originally known as Advanced Plastics & Composites Ltd, was formed in October 1992. In that first year, the company’s three employees worked with just two machines within a 4000-square foot unit, yet still managed to generate sales revenue of £100,000. Fast forward through 25 years of increased sales, infrastructure investment and expansion, and the Advanced Plastics of 2017 provides employment for 150 people who work with 34 machines, ranging from 40 tonnes to 1500 tonnes, and 25 six axis robots.
“To this day, we continue to achieve business excellent across the company, be it within our manufacturing process, the training and development of our people, or our commitment to customer service, the latter of which has always been, arguably, the biggest contributor to our success,” Chris continues. “When our customers visit our facility, they get to see firsthand how intrinsically involved in the running of the business we are as directors. They also tend to comment on how impressed they are with the organisation, cleanliness, modern machinery and evidence of continued investment that is on display for all to see.”
Since its inception, Advanced Plastics has seen its client base expand across different market sectors, all the while enjoying an excellent client retention record. Today, heating and automotive are the company’s two largest areas of business, counting for around 80 per cent of its revenue. Nevertheless, the process of injection moulding, as well as the added value offering that Advanced Plastics provides, allows it to be highly diverse in its application. This has resulted in the company making promising gains in fields such as the industrial, construction, packaging, defence, consumer goods and medical sectors.
Present on many of the most prestigious consumer goods available, products the company offers include large mouldings and assemblies, modular plastic assemblies, structural plastics for metal replacement, aesthetic plastic and fluid carrying plastic assemblies, and welded, co-moulded and insert moulded plastics. These products are created using manufacturing equipment certified to the latest standards of technology and energy efficiency, while automation, Poka-Yoke, 5S, Kaizen and Lean Manufacturing methodology has been adopted throughout Advanced Plastics’ manufacturing processes. The company is also one of the leaders in the use of six axis robots in its discipline.
“It was as recently as January 2013 that our first six axis robot was installed at our facility,” Rob states. “Immediately we identified the advantages that the robot provided us, particularly in regards to manufacturing flexibility and the way it helped make better use of space. We now not only have as many as 25 of these robots within our facility, we are also actively working to replace our pre-existing machinery with these six axis robots. An added benefit is that we remain very self-sufficient, in that we build our own automation cells, carry out our own programming in-house and ensure that our apprentices and employees are trained to utilise these solutions.”
The personal development of these aforementioned apprentices and employees is something that is of huge importance to Rob and Chris, both of whom were apprentice trained engineers themselves. In fact, at the time of our conversation, the company had recently submitted its nomination for ‘Apprentice of the Year’ for the 2017 Plastics Industry Awards and had been successfully shortlisted as a finalist. Having been one of the first apprentices to enter into Advanced Plastics’ restructured apprentice scheme in 2013, Dominic Turner has used it to realise his potential and thus has seen his name being put forward for consideration.
“We see the development of people, particularly apprentices, as being vital to our future, our sustainability and our succession planning,” Chris says. “The programme that Dominic has been a part of is made up of broad-based engineering training. Beginning with a basic introduction to engineering, we then run with a structured rotation scheme which sees the apprentice spend three months in six different disciplines, including mechanical maintenance, process condition setting, robotics and automation, and quality assurance. In each period, they are assigned a mentor and are trained in a number of core skills that they should become competent in within that three-month period. At the end, they are scored on their competence and are able to provide their own feedback, before moving onto the next discipline.”
With a defined business plan, which is issued on a rolling three-year basis, in place the key message from Rob and Chris is that they are focused on achieving continued, sustainable growth. “The fundamental tools to achieve this are already in place,” Rob reveals. “What it remains for us to do is maintain investment, further develop our people and make additions to our manufacturing processes in the way of automation in order to facilitate growth. At the end of the day what we are doing is taking something that we already know to be very good and making it excellent.”
Advanced Plastics Ltd.
Products: Injection moulded plastics and assemblies