image of uk extrusion engineer with PET sheet extrusion packaging line in background

Packaging Sheet & Foil Line Wins Plastics Industry Award

What do you do when you have an essential PET Foil & Sheet Line for food packaging, manufactured in Italy, ready and waiting to be shipped and installed in the UK when a worldwide pandemic hits?


Panic, would be an option. However, not in this case due to two secret weapons in UK Extrusion’s customer satisfaction toolbox. Read on to discover what they were and how they convinced the judges of the Plastics Industry Awards to honour an extrusion application in the category of Supplier Partnership – Prime Machinery, for the first time. 

The Packaging Manufacturer

AMB is a leading international company in the food packaging sector. At the time Covid19 became a serious issue for the world, AMB had on order from Bandera an extrusion line destined to provide a further 10,000 tonnes of capacity. Transitioning from PVC material, which continues to be in short supply, to rPET which fulfills the urgent need to ensure that packaging materials are fully recyclable and sustainable, AMB planned to add a further 500 million rPET post-consumer bottles per year to the 12 million they were already reprocessing into food-grade packaging material, per day. AMB’s strategies had identified this transition as a market issue and the company was confident that with this new capability they could be flexible enough to provide the much-needed capacity earlier than their competitors.


The Machinery Manufacturer

The Bandera machine was on schedule and due to be delivered when suddenly, Covid 19 became a very serious issue indeed and borders were closed. Crucially, for AMB and Bandera’s local support UK Extrusion, engineers were also unable to travel. Ordinarily, whilst UK Extrusion would provide engineers for the installation of a machine, they would also be supported by at least a couple of technicians from the manufacturer.


A liaison line was set up between UK Extrusion and Bandera and it was rapidly confirmed that yes, in line with regulations, the wagons transporting the many components of AMB’s line would be able to make the journey from Italy to Gateshead in the UK. But, still, a major concern to all three partners was how would this highly complicated line be installed on site.


The Engineering Heroes

Enter stage left, the Covid19 dream team. Two UK Extrusion engineers, who just so happened to not only be father and son but also happened to live in the same house. You couldn’t make it up – and no we haven’t, it’s perfectly true.


So, the wagons started to roll out of Busto Arsizio, in a carefully orchestrated, staggered schedule on their way to Gateshead. Fortunately, this was not AMB’s first purchase of a Bandera extrusion line and their engineering team did have some experience of the enormity of the task. UK Extrusion arranged for Bandera to provide a spreadsheet detailing the contents of each wagon and its arrival date on site. UK Extrusion also made sure that their Lead Engineer on this project was present for delivery in case he was needed by the AMB team, who took the lead in the off-loading of the wagons.


Steve Trainor from UK Extrusion and his lead engineer went to the AMB site on Friday 20th March to agree on a plan of action for the install and on Monday 23rd March the engineers from UK Extrusion and AMB began the installation. This was only 4 days later than the pre-Covid schedule and was caused by delays with the transportation at various points on its journey across Europe. Bandera had already sent layout, utilities, and cable support diagrams for the UK Extrusion engineers to enable them to proceed with the project.


Clearly, manpower was kept to a minimum to allow social distancing during the construction of the line. Imagine a huge project being fitted together, with the added complication of utilities to consider and not being able to work too closely together. This is where the family engineering team came into their own and we must point out that this was their first solo Bandera installation.


The AMB engineering team describes the build as ‘completing a jigsaw puzzle without the benefit of the picture on the lid’. The transport issues across Europe meant that the wagons containing parts did not always arrive in the expected sequence. Normally, a team from AMB would have visited the Bandera factory for the commissioning of the line. They would have been familiarised with all the aspects and putting it basically, would have known what went where before it was delivered to the UK. However, circumstances did not allow this and so the AMB and UK Extrusion teams worked it out between them.


As the build progressed and became more complicated the UK Extrusion engineers established a remote link to Bandera to allow video conferencing in the event of issues. A build of this magnitude always experiences circumstances such as the need for extra schematic diagrams or technical advice from the manufacturer, even if it is being undertaken with the manufacturer’s technicians. So, this remote link was crucial. UK Extrusion also provided an electrical engineer for the later stages, working within social distancing guidelines, with the rest of the small team.


When it came to the commissioning of the line the team was fortunate in being able to source a Bandera engineer from Portugal. This was made possible due to arrangements made by UK Extrusion for the Bandera engineer to stay in a friend’s rental flat for the time he was needed. So protecting both him and the established team on site.


Schedule-wise, it was tough. Bandera had set a timescale of starting the installation on 19th March 2020 and completing on 29th May 2020. UK Extrusion’s 2 engineers were on site from 23rd March and the line was signed off on 9th June 2020. 10 days longer, including weekends. UK Extrusion cannot stress enough, what a herculean task this was to build a line in this timescale with this number of engineers.


The Added Value

There is a further twist to the partnership story of UK Extrusion and AMB. At the very same time that the new packaging line was being installed, Steve Trainor of UK Extrusion discovered in a conversation with another customer who was local to AMB, that they were having serious difficulties sourcing adequate supplies of quality sheet PET for their Face Shields. They had high targets for the numbers they were supplying and consistent supplies of high-quality PET sheet were crucial to this effort. Steve introduced them to AMB who was delighted to help.


Mark Prinn, managing director of AMB Packaging UK comments “Despite the challenges of Corona virus, our installation team, & UK Extrusion collaborated brilliantly under very difficult circumstances & showed a huge commitment to get the line operational. Since going live the packaging line has operated without issue 24/7.”


Steve Trainor, managing director of UK Extrusion Ltd shares his thoughts on winning the award “The team at UK Extrusion are both proud and honoured to have been given this prestigious award. The hard work and commitment of our expanding team over the last 6 years, is a testament to the core values of our business. To be the first winners representing the extrusion sector makes the award even more special.”