During the Coronavirus pandemic, PFF used its expertise in the food sector to meet the increased global demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). In early 2020 we won a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) contract to manufacture polythene aprons for frontline NHS staff and social care workers. PFF created over 100 jobs for the duration of the contract and invested more than £2m in custom-built machines to manufacture the aprons, ramping up production to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Polythene aprons, along with other PPE items, became, and remain, a vital source of protection for health workers. Once we were up and running, we began to look for greater efficiencies and scoped out a blueprint for bespoke apron manufacturing machinery. Collaborating with British machine manufacturer Hanbury-Autogil, we commissioned two specialist machines – the fastest in the world, designed and manufactured here in the UK. These machines now form the backbone of our manufacturing capacity. To date we have supported the UK Government and (DHSC), having manufactured just under 400 million aprons.
Traditionally polythene aprons contain little recycled material and PFF Health is seeking to change this. We are using our expertise and that of our partners in a major project to significantly increase the recycled content of the aprons we supply. At the present time, it is not known how high we can go but that is all part of the challenge!
We are immensely proud of what we have achieved but at PFF never stand still. The business is now taking decades of expertise in injection moulding and thermoforming to the medical market. The medical device industry is constantly innovating and PFF can add value and help organisations on their sustainability journey.
We are working with several medical device businesses to design both standard and bespoke solutions for medical product components and packaging solutions. Using our expertise gained over many years in the food industry, we can re-design products to reduce the weight, and therefore quantity, of plastic required. Crucially we must ensure that product performance is not compromised, and this is where we work in partnership with our clients.
Where an end product requires sterilisation, samples can be test-sterilised and examined. The polymers used will be influenced by the sterilisation method. PET/rPET is not ideal if the product is to be sterilised in a high temperature autoclave. A better polymer in this instance might be PP. Polypropylene itself is a good all-round raw material and it is no surprise that many medical components and packaging are manufactured using it. Through our innovative designs, achievable weight savings can range from 10% to more than 40% and this can become a significant contributor to the overall objective of the NHS to become net zero.
The NHS has two targets for its carbon footprint. Firstly, for emissions that it can directly control, it will reach net zero by 2040 and will achieve an 80% reduction by 2028-32. A broader target ‘NHS Carbon Footprint Plus’ focuses on the wider carbon footprint of the NHS and will directly impact medical device manufacturers, both the devices they produce and the carbon impact of freight transport. This target states that the NHS will reach net zero by 2045 with an ambition to reach an 80% reduction by 2036-39.
This means that going forward, the UK can no longer simply source products from around the globe while ignoring the carbon impact of doing so. The impact of the pandemic, as well as previously unthinkable events such as the blockage of the Suez Canal, have starkly exposed the UK’s supply chain vulnerabilities.
At PFF Health we are actively seeking partners who need solutions for medical device packaging and the sourcing of components. We will collaborate with you, make recommendations, evaluate ideas and make sustainability improvements which are increasingly required by the NHS and other customers. We have established a Regulatory Project Group and will work with businesses to ensure the correct quality standards are met. PFF Group is a member of Made in Britain, an initiative which champions UK manufacturing.
In summary, we are UK-based and privately owned with a resilient supply chain. Right now, this is a good place to be!