Repacking Case Study

At Grotech Production, we get asked to undertake a wide variety of jobs to assist our customers. We’d like to  share this one with you.

Client Challenge

Grotech Production were requested by a customer to repack a consignment of a powdered raw materials which had been dispatched incorrectly from their supplier. Whilst the customer has a strict packaging policy, the goods were both incorrectly packed and palletised meaning that they could not be accepted into their storage facility.

 

The materials were required within a short time frame, so a quick turnaround was required.

 

Our Solution

The seven different products were delivered to the Grotech Production factory in 14 FIBCs (1000kgs) together with new compliant bags, labels and pallets.

 

The Grotech team set about the preparation for the product repack by initially checking that all the components were present and relevant COSHH assessments had been prepared. Unfortunately, our customer had not provided the SDS documentation for all the products which resulted in a number of products being quarantined. However, this was swiftly rectified and the job started in earnest, mindful of the tight timescale.

 

During the decanting of one of the products, a number of contaminants were captured in the sieves placed above the transfer hopper. As part of the SOP for such a repack, the operator immediately stopped the line so that an investigative search could be undertaken.

 

This search resulted in the removal of a number of foreign materials (large amounts of tissue paper and a number of candy wrappers) from the bags allowing decanting to continue. The decanting and packing operation were then recommenced using a finer mesh sieve to ensure that any further contaminants would be captured.

 

The find was immediately notified to the customer so that in internal investigation to identify the entry point of the contaminants could be identified.

 

Results

As an experienced contract manufacturer and packer in the chemical industry, Grotech Production is relied on by our customers to ensure that products are received, handled and dispatched with the highest level of attention, skill and speed.

 

Whilst the additional sieving added time to the operation, it ensured that no further contaminants were packed into the customers product. This sieving operation allowed Grotech to safeguard the factory machinery of our customer’s client as the raw materials were destined to be used in the manufacture of their products.

 

The sieved and repacked raw materials were not only delivered to the customer on time, but also with the safeguard that the contaminants had been removed and expensive customer machinery protected.

 

To learn more about how Grotech Production can help your business, contact us on 01405 761746 or e-mail sales@grotechproduction.co.uk.

 

Holiday Packing

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As it now “officially” the summer holidays (so my children tell me !!) our thoughts turn to our hard earned week in the sun !! Day spent lounging by the pool, meandering through local markets or cycling down scenic country lanes.

To get the most out of your holiday, it is important to ensure that you pack all those little (& big) essentials that give you the “home from home” feeling wherever in the world you chose to roam. From your holiday wardrobe of the latest high street purchases to the latest blockbuster from your favourite author.

As a leading contract packer, Grotech have collected some top tips to help you with your holiday packing.

1 – Buy a lightweight suitcase

Don’t assume that buying the most expensive designer suitcase will get you an upgrade, instead, it’s more likely to attract thieves at the airport and on your travels. It’s better to be inconspicuous and go for a lightweight option. If you’re using a hardshell suitcase, this can add up to 4 kilos of weight before you’ve even started packing, so expensive isn’t always best.

2 – Get “Suitcase Smart”

All suitcases can look the same when they are travelling around an airport baggage carousel !! Clearly label your suitcase with luggage tags and “smarten it up” with ribbons and/or stickers so it’s instantly recognisable. As luggage labels can come off, make sure your case has more than one.

Make sure that you have a label inside your suitcase with your name, address and contact number in case it gets lost.

3 – Be Secure

If you plan on securing your bag with a padlock British Airways recommend a TSA-approved lock to avoid potential damage to your bag in the event that it has to be opened by baggage handlers or security inspectors.

4 – Make a List

To make sure you don’t forget anything, make a list of your essentials and try to prioritise it. It would be great to take everything but you don’t want to pack a necktie and leave out your swimsuit !!

5 – Take sealable freezer/sandwich bags

Phone charger, camera charger, adaptors, headphones – we all have so many gadgets can get lost in your suitcase. To prevent this problem, sealable freezer/sandwich bags are the answer. Use them to separate your gadgets and gizmos.

6 – Avoid Stains

Holiday laundry should be done when you get home, not when you arrive !! To avoid stains – pack light coloured clothes inside out and put disposable shower caps over your shoes

7 – Avoid Stains (Part 2)

To prevent liquid products from bursting (and ruining everything else) inside your bag, cut a small square of plastic wrap, unscrew the product’s lid, set the plastic wrap on top, and screw the lid back on. That way if the lid pops open, no product can spill out.

8 – Avoid Creases

Don’t arrive at your holiday destination and be faced with a pile of ironing. To save space and stop creasing, roll your clothes instead of folding them, then place them in vacuum compression bags. To use these bags, you put your clothes in, seal the bag, then squeeze the air out. This will leave you with lots more space in your suitcase and will prevent creases more effectively than folding.

Most important – Do not overpack !!

9 – Use a Luggage scale

This is the secret weapon to help you avoid being charged unnecessary fees at the airport. Invest in some luggage scales and make sure you weigh your bags on both legs of the journey to see how close you are to reaching the weight limit.

10 – Keep Fresh

It’s important to keep your clothes smelling fresh, especially if you’re on a long trip. By taking a couple of fabric conditioner sheets/scented drawer liners, you’ll keep your clothes smelling fresh throughout the trip.

11 – Prepare for the Worst

If you are travelling with a partner or a friend, put some of your clothing in their suitcase and vice versa. This ensures that if your (or your travelling companions) case gets lost or delayed, you will have some clothes to wear when you arrive.

You can always pack some spare clothes in your hand luggage.

12 – Fill Your Boots (& Shoes) !!

Roll tops/underwear/socks and other small items and stuff them into your shoes to make sure every possible space is filled.

In addition to our tips, British Airways have produced a great video with baggage and packing tips that can be seen here – https://youtu.be/QW6wff0w3Q8

For more information on how Grotech Production can help with your contract packing, contact us today.

Are You a “Green” Business ?

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In this age of heightened environmental awareness there is a desire and pressure on companies across all industries to be seen to be green. Most are motivated by the steady march of public opinion and all are herded by new legislation, either way it is a definite trend that is unlikely to abate.
The response of companies by this need to be green, or need to be seen to be green is highly dependent on the industry and often the size of the business. Big companies who put a lot of investment into their image can devote resources on green-PR and on improving their processes, which can for example involve switching to “green raw materials”. Smaller companies often spring up with a specific focus on being green, which forms a big part of their marketing angle with phrases like “organically sourced” and “chemical additive free” being frequent key phrases.
For small to medium sized companies it isn’t always that easy, it’s difficult to switch suppliers to something that is truly green without facing a multitude of issues and depending on the sector a lot of effort across the whole business is needed to really become green, which as everything does will cost a lot of time and money and will invariably be difficult to justify financially.
So what should a company do? Firstly and critically it is important to pin down what the term “green” actually means, as in general terms it is a very vague and woolly notion. Quoting the twelve principles of green chemistry is often a good place to start, however beyond chemical processing operations the lessons learned aren’t often that practical for many businesses. Sadly what seems to happen in many instances is a level of “green-washing”; which can involve overstating the environmental benefit of a particular aspect of a business’s process or output. Green-washing can often be applied out of ignorance, with companies thinking that they’re doing the green thing when in fact the opposite is true.
A scenario that we see at Grotech is a small company wanting us to manufacture and pack a product for them, this is our bread-and-butter and so we’re more than happy to help, the company also has a green ethos which is obviously very pleasing to us, however the devil is in the details.
So the company has a product, it is made up of naturally sourced ingredients and doesn’t contain any “nasty chemicals”, it has a growing number of people who are interested in buying and stocking it and so we have been approached to scale-up the enterprise. We ask what the ingredients are and where they come from; we find that the main active is bought from a man who grows and processes the ingredient himself in a natural and organic way. Another ingredient is sourced by the customer from the local river, again in a wonderfully natural way. Finally the last ingredient comes from an online shop that specialises in green and sustainable materials.
This paints a lovely picture with images of hand-crafted love and care going into every package and not a single industrial process or any chrome, glass or tarmac in sight, surely this product meets all the criteria needed to label something as purest green?
Whilst we value our customer’s enthusiasm and intentions we can’t help but feel like harbingers of doom as we politely air our concerns. The person that sells the active… do they have a safety datasheet or specification for the material? What batch-to-batch variation can we expect? Is he able to scale-up in line with our needs? What security of supply do we have? Are there any health hazards associated with the material? What is the shelf-life? Are there any compatibility issues? Beyond these routine manufacturing questions the questions of how green it actually is are important as well; what waste streams are being generated and how are they being dealt with? How much energy/man-hours are spent per kilogram of material created? Are the inputs into the process green/sustainable?
With the material from the river the same questions apply but there is also the legality of harvesting quantities of river-side materials and potential pollution and contamination issues. With the online shop again the same questions apply, but also the practicalities and inherent greenness of shipping from another city or perhaps even another country.
You raise these points with your customer and they either vehemently stand by their supply chain or they acknowledge the points you’re making and realise that suddenly their whole marketing angle is starting to look very shaky indeed.
So what’s the answer? Sadly there isn’t often an easy resolution, as much as we’d like to all be green, organic, naturally sourced and not generate any waste it isn’t always practical, or even possible. This may sound cynical and defeatist but I would beg to differ, this doesn’t mean that you should give up, it just means tempering your expectations and getting there steadily rather than in one go.
Firstly sustainable has multiple meanings and doesn’t just mean grown or processed from natural local resources. Your local friend may give you mate-rates on their home-made produce but the prices will still go up if their own costs go up, or supplies may dwindle if they have a bad year. They may be forced to use chemicals to improve their yields and suddenly the green claims aren’t so green. Your business takes off and all of a sudden you need 5kg a week when before you were ordering 5kg a month, which they may not be able to support. Your other neighbour may also make the stuff but it’s a different colour or smell, is this an issue for your customers? Do you know if the stuff is like-for-like? You need a sustainable business model and stable supply chain if your business is going to get off the ground and stay aloft, you need options for scale-up and materials that are cost effective, your product expects a premium but people will only pay so much!
You need to know what is actually in your raw material, a natural extract makes for great advertising but if it contains allergens or variable amounts of your magic active ingredient then you run the risk of getting complaints for a product not working as it should or worst case being sued for hurting someone. If you’re selling to a shop then the product is expected to last a certain length of time on the shelves, it’s no good if it goes off, separates, develops a bad smell or just stops working after a few weeks of warm weather. The ingredients need to be compatible; the formulation needs to be stable and sadly the majority of products need the necessary evil of a biocidal preservative. It’s all well and good claiming that no nasty preservatives grace your wonderful product but in this age of convenience where we expect our products to still be good to use months after purchase then you need stabilisers and preservatives, bacteria don’t care if you’re trying to save the world.
Like with everything in life it’s a compromise. In trying to help our fictitious client we would look to offer them alternatives to their magic ingredients, we’d seek the expertise of our own suppliers in the appropriate industries and try and help to make the marketing claims a reality. Just because a raw material comes from a factory with a chimney stack doesn’t mean it can’t be green! Companies are becoming serious about being sustainable and many products now come from sustainable feedstocks and involve processes that don’t produce vast quantities of effluent and waste. These companies work on scales that make a lot more sense, the “green” local material may take six hours per kilogram to produce where the large company can make a highly refined, uniform, characterised and sustainable version at six hours per tonne and at a fraction of the price. This isn’t about the little guy verses the big guy; it’s just good sense and economics.
So we would help our client by consulting the experts and putting together for them a product that meets their needs. The image may not be the stereotypical green image they had before of selling something just-like-granny-used-to-make, but they get to sell something that they know will do the job it’s supposed to. A product that can be readily bio-degradable, from sustainable sources, has the potential for scale-up, has the safety hazards properly classified and equally as important allows for a reasonable margin so that they have a sustainable business that has the capacity to grow.
Whatever the end goal it’s becoming easier to be green, simply because not doing things efficiently and cleanly is becoming so expensive. Waste is inefficient and expensive to dispose, it makes sense to prevent it in the first place. Non-degradable or toxic raw materials can result in problems in the field, which can damage the reputation of the product and lead to claims for damages. Cheap materials may be attractive for the procurement team, but may create a less effective and more variable product, which allows for few positive selling points. Beyond the raw materials the energy requirements, clean-down processes, transport costs and safety requirements are all important economic factors as well as green factors, even if your company isn’t that environmentally focused then consider it a positive side-effect of striving towards a sound business model!
Ultimately the question of how best to be green is going to be highly subjective and need a fair bit of thinking from all parts of a business. The take home message is that green is about efficiency and not trees and bunny rabbits, it doesn’t have to mean accepting a poorer quality end product and should result in money savings and not expensive concessions.

 

It’s Showtime !

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The Great Yorkshire Show starts this Tuesday 12 until Thursday 14 July.

The Great Yorkshire Show features the best of British farming and is England’s premier agricultural show. Held at the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate it gives first-hand experience of agriculture and rural life through demonstrations and exhibitions as well as a ‘not to be missed’ insight into the very latest in the agricultural industry. There are exciting ring displays and more than 1,200 stands with everything from country clothing to combine harvesters.

We hope to see you there.

Lab and Factory Tours

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Tours and site visits are part and parcel of running a business, at one stage or another everybody will host exotic visitors who are treated like royalty and in a carefully choreographed manner weaved and led to the shiniest and least moth-eared parts of your site.
At Grotech these visitors are often prospective customers, existing customers, auditors, suppliers, family members, sometimes regulatory inspectors, interviewees and even the occasional tour group. Depending on what the visitors are visiting for their visit will most likely include a meeting in our aptly named meeting room, a brief visit to the lab, a tour of the factory topped off with a tour of the storage warehouse.
Whenever you want to share something with someone, be it a talent such as a musical ability, a creative effort such as a custom built thingamajig, a prized possession like a vintage car or family heirloom or just something you think is impressive and interesting, your goal is always to make the person you’re putting the display on for find everything impressive and interesting as well.
The consequence of this is that you sometimes try to show an idealised or exaggerated version of the reality; you practice the neglected piece, hide the crack in the thingamajig, clean and buff the rusty car. In a factory setting this often involves cleaning anything that’s not 100% clean (so everything), avoiding the waste storage areas (as no factory has any waste), closing off the area that needs a new paint job (because we’re picture perfect every day), wiping off the ever so amusing jokes and nicknames from the staff PPE lockers (because we all have the same PC-attitude, sensitivities and clean sense of humour) and above all look happy and motivated – big smiles!
So your business looks the part, now we have to look interesting and like a well-oiled machine with a great hubbub of activity going on in every corner. Ultimately this comes down to the visitor’s own expectations, those who are well-versed in the realities of a business like yours will know what to expect and so can appreciate statistics such as fill rates mixing vessel capacity. Those who aren’t may be less impressed.
It also comes down to timing. At Grotech the bulk of the work is seasonal, so in the Spring every piece of equipment is constantly in demand and lead times lengthen with the days. Conversely in the Autumn the need for agro-chemicals falls with the leaves and things become comparatively much more sedate. So it’s a bit of a Catch22; visit in the Spring and get a busy, but less presentable factory, come in the Autumn and get a quiet but sparkling factory, sadly getting both at the same time is nearly impossible, or perhaps possible for a three day period at the back end of July!
In the lab a successful first impression is also dependant on the expectations of the visitors and timing. If you plan the dreaded lab demo for your guests (which invariably go wrong anyway) you have to pitch it right. Using universal indicator to show a colour change with pH is always an easy winner for many; evoking images of high-school chemistry which are often a source of fond nostalgia. However such test-tube parlour tricks go down like a lead balloon and make you want to crawl into your beaker if your visitor is the Technical Director of a blue chip multi-national.
The surprise lab visits are also a roll of the dice as well, without any time to prepare you’re forced to talk about the immediate job you’re working on, this could be some paper based exercise such as writing a safety datasheet (SDS). Explaining the authoring of a SDS could be the height of tedium for many, or you may get lucky and be talking with someone who actively wants SDS writing for their products. You may be taking a simple pH measurement, which is trivial to the Technical Director but could be interesting to the person who receives the certificates of analysis but never gets to see the tests performed. So, there’s not much you can do about the turning of the seasons but knowing your audience is key!
The picture painted here is slightly on the extreme side, at Grotech site visits are relatively frequent and are generally handled and received well. In all honesty people are rarely blown away but fortunately it’s even rarer for them to walk away disappointed. In the lab there have been a few comments such as “It’s not as big as they look in the movies” and “It’s not quite like [insert name of big global company]”, which isn’t really what you want to hear but it happens, expectations must be tempered, hopefully you can demonstrate that looks can be deceiving.
The point however isn’t to hide the bad and the ugly at the back of a cupboard and promote only the things you feel are worth showing. At the end of the day we’re all human and have our own styles so like a home a workplace should look lived in and not like a show room. Desks shouldn’t be cleared of all the clutter, operators don’t have to articulate like a Shakespearean actor, companies don’t need to be seen to be curing cancer or developing cold-fusion power every day of every week.
Showing what is real is what’s important, with everything laid bare you get an impression of honesty. Luckily at Grotech that is recognised and so visits are less feared and can be something that is looked forward to, or at the very least something that is accepted as just another everyday process.
Ultimately if your visitors are expecting something that you have to create as an illusion with smoke and mirrors then they probably aren’t the customer for you. Likewise if you have to cover all the warts and boils and cordon off half your site in the fear of causing upset everytime someone comes for a walk round… then you probably should be questioning whether you should be doing business at all.