Apprentices keep the UK competitive, says award-winning MGS Technical Plastics

This week is the 12th annual National Apprenticeship Week, a week-long, country-wide celebration of apprenticeships. And here at MGS, we believe there is a lot to celebrate.

Following the appointment of six new apprentices over the last 18 months, they now account for more than 10 per cent of our total workforce.

And that’s not forgetting that each of our directors began their careers on apprenticeship programmes.

Ask Neil Garrity, our Operations Director, and he’ll tell you that not only are apprentices the key to our success, but they’re crucial to keeping Britain competitive in a global marketplace.

“Apprenticeships are absolutely critical to the future of the engineering industry,” says Neil.

“The programme allows firms like ours to shape the next generation of workers in terms of skills and attitudes, while the apprentices earn a professional qualification and benefit from on-the-job, hands-on training.

“But while employing apprentices has been fantastic for our business. I think some of our peers worry that an individual may walk away once they have completed their training. Despite this small risk, our apprenticeship programme has paid for itself ten times over.”

Neil says: “Employers who choose not to invest in apprentices are being left behind. They struggle to source the skills they need while forward-thinking companies like ours design bespoke programmes for the specific work we undertake, creating our dream workforce.

“Our apprentices get the experience on the job and can really gain in skills and confidence. Both our staff and our company can progress. It’s a win-win situation.”

The apprentices who have joined MGS in the last 18 months range from school-leavers beginning their careers through to supervisors looking to boost their skills sets.

They are: Lee Smith, Technician Apprentice; Steven Hyde, Toolroom Apprentice; Dillon Tennant, Electro Mechanical Engineer Apprentice; Simon Glasson, Leadership Apprenticeship; Glenn Miller, Leadership Apprenticeship; and Mark Hartley, Technician Apprentice.

MGS backs Blackburn charity run

As a proud Lancashire company, MGS Technical Plastics is excited to announce its sponsorship of Blackburn’s Winter Warmer charity run this February. And we’re sending a team along to compete, too.

The Winter Warmer is an annual 10 kilometre race organised by the Blackburn Road Runners Club. It starts and finishes within the picturesque Witton Park, making use of its athletics track.

The event – on Sunday, February 3 – aims to promote running as a fun and healthy activity. Participants are also encouraged to use the opportunity to raise money for local charities, and there is also a Junior 2K run for younger runners aged five to 15.

With 800 runners already signed on to take part, there is a limited number of places still available on the day.

Several of the company’s employees will be taking part on the day, ranging from beginners undertaking their first roadrunning event through to seasoned competitors who have been sharing their experiences and encouragement.

One of the MGS team new to running is Director’s Co-ordinator Megan Johnson, who said: “At the start, I didn’t believe I would be able to run 1km let alone 10km. But after training with colleagues, I’m ready for Sunday!”

Director John Sturgess said: “I’m delighted that we can support this great event. MGS is committed to supporting the local community, and running is a personal passion of mine, and so the Winter Warmer is the perfect combination of the two.

“For several years, this run has presented a fun and challenging start to the year for beginners and more experienced runners alike and has raised a great deal of money for some very worthwhile local causes.”

John added: “I’d like to wish everybody taking part the best of luck, and for those who won’t be running on the day, I urge them to show their support for any friends, family and colleagues who are!”

Backing the Winter Warmer is the latest in a number of initiatives by MGS which is aimed at supporting Blackburn with Darwen and its residents. We helped demonstrate the town’s manufacturing capabilities by getting involved with the towns Festival of Making.

We are a supporter of the Nightsafe charity for the homeless, a sponsor of the local Good Neighbour Awards and we were named the best engineering company in the county at the 2018 Red Rose Awards.

More details of the Winter Warmer can be found at blackburnroadrunners.net or facebook.com/winterwarmer10k

The MGS Team together for a group photo with their NAA Manufatcuring Excellence Award at the Mere Golf Club

MGS Technical Plastics wins Manufacturing Excellence award

Blackburn-based MGS Technical Plastics has won a major industry award in recognition of its continuous effort to make its manufacturing processes more environmentally friendly, and for its commitment to training and developing an engaged workforce.

The company was awarded the Manufacturing Excellence Award at the Northern Automotive Alliance (NAA) Awards 2018.

MGS operates 20 machines ranging from 35 tonne to 900 tonne, producing bespoke plastic components for a range of industries and serving as a tier 1 and 2 supplier to some of the biggest automotive companies in the world. The award win follows a multi-year, seven-figure investment project which has seen the company move to new premises and invest in new machinery and leaner processes.

The judges of the award were particularly impressed by the programme of improvement focusing on reducing energy use. Investments include the introduction of Thingtrax ‘internet of things’ software which monitors the usage of all machines and helps identify smarter ways to operate them.

In addition, MGS recently invested £43,000 on a 49Kw solar panel unit, and employs a recycling system to grind leftover sprues ready for reuse. MGS was also acknowledged for its ongoing training and personal development programmes which cater for all employees, including apprenticeships and long-term college courses.

Judson Smythe, Technical Director, said: “MGS has gone from strength to strength and what’s really exciting is we still haven’t even begun to realise our full potential. The vision, to be a world renowned technical manufacturer, will be achieved in the near future, of that we are all certain.”

Mark Preston, Sales Director, added: “This award is just the beginning of what’s to come. These are just the foundation bricks being laid thanks to all the hard work and determination of every single member of MGS. Watch this space, it’s going to be a spectacular future.”

MGS collected the award at a prize-giving ceremony held in Cheshire. The master of ceremonies and guest speaker, Red Dwarf star and Scrapheap Challenge presenter Robert Llewellyn, entertained the audience with stories about his adventures with electric vehicles.

The Northern Automotive Alliance is an independent, not-for-profit company which provides a membership service to the automotive community. The NAA Awards were launched to showcase the successes of vehicle manufacturers, supply chain companies and service providers in the region.

Rowan Egan, NAA Chief Executive, added: “As my first Awards event as NAA chief executive, it was impressive to see the diverse range of companies in the Northern region that are offering world-class products and services.”

Written by Amanda Jackson, TigerFish PR

http://www.tigerfishpr.co.uk/

Judson sat down in front of MGS logo

MGS announces senior appointment ahead of growth

26/10/18

Judson Smythe has been appointed to the board of directors at Lancashire-based moulding specialist MGS Technical Plastics as it plans its next stage of growth. Judson joined the company in the summer of 2016 and has now joined the board as Technical Director.

The 32-year-old brought international experience to the role, joining MGS from the Jasco Group in Durban, South Africa, where he was an Engineering Manager working with 50 injection moulding machines and a workforce of 250. He was previously an Apprentice Tool and Die maker, and later read Industrial Engineering at Durban University of Technology.

Now he will play an integral role in MGS’s bid to reach £10m turnover. He will oversee the technical capacity of factory operations and hold responsibility for tooling and new product introductions.

Since moving to its Blackburn home in a major £2m project, MGS has invested heavily in upgrading and adding to its equipment. The most recent purchase is a KraussMaffei KM900 dual platen machine with a 900-tonne capacity at a cost of £530,000. MGS has also invested a five-figure sum in Thingtrax, which uses the Internet of Things to monitor production around the clock and identify inefficiencies in production processes.

Judson said: “This is the most exciting time in the company’s history and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to play a role in taking it to the next level.

“With modifications to the factory and significant investment in new equipment, we have strong foundations on which we can build towards our ambitious growth targets.”

John Sturgess, Director at MGS said: “The most important resource for our company is the people we employ. Our skills, expertise and customer-first approach put us ahead of the competition.

“Judson is a shining example of what we’re all about. He is a great addition to our management team and we’re sure he’ll play a valuable role in our growth over the coming years.”

Written by Amanda Jackson, TigerFish PR

http://www.tigerfishpr.co.uk/

Charity Knockout for MGS

The MGS team took part in an “It’s a Knockout” Event at the weekend, based on the hit tv programme from the 70s.

 

The event was to raise money for Theo’s Warriors, a local charity dedicated to the support and treatment of children with cancer. The team, consisting of members from across MGS, got stuck into completing the 5 challenges and had a great day participating against the other 8 teams. The MGS Team ended up finishing fourth overall.

Shortlisted for 2 Awards at the NAA Awards

We are pleased to announce MGS Technical Plastics have been shortlisted for the People & Skills and Manufacturing Excellence Awards at the Northern Automotive Alliance Awards 2018. It is a testament to the MGS Team to be recognised for the two awards, and is a great opportunity to celebrate our successes and progress in these fields. Team MGS are looking forward to finding out the result at the Awards Dinner on the 8th November.

The NAA Awards are hosted by the Northern Automotive Alliance. The Northern Automotive Alliance is an independent body based in the north west of England supporting Automotive Companies, from micro businesses to large vehicle manufacturers, using its established network.

Northern Automotive Alliance Logo

View of the MGS factory

MGS harnesses ‘Internet of Things’ to improve efficiency

Plastic injection moulding specialist MGS Technical Plastics has invested a five-figure sum in a new system which will allow it to more closely monitor its production facilities to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

MGS has installed Thingtrax at its Blackburn, Lancashire, site to monitor machines and processes around the clock.

Utilising the Internet of Things to oversee and report on productivity, downtime and processes, MGS employees can log in via any computer, smartphone or tablet to view up-to-the-minute information.

The data helps identify which machines are due maintenance, and when production schedules allow for work to be carried out. Reports can also locate inefficiencies to be corrected, and help plan projects to make the best use of the factory’s resources.

The tool is more commonly used by engineering firms much larger than MGS, and the investment is a key part of the company’s long-term goal to reach £10m annual turnover.

Judson Smythe, Technical Director at MGS, said: “Not many companies our size employ monitoring systems this advanced, but we have big ambitions and this exciting new piece of technology will help us achieve our goals.

“The key benefit will be a more seamless production process and eliminating unplanned downtown. As well as reducing day-to-day costs, it will make us more efficient and improve our ability to deliver projects for customers in shorter time frames.

Judson added: “ThingTrax is a new and exciting start-up that is disrupting the machine monitoring market and we’re excited to have their tools in our hands.”

Written by Amanda Jackson, TigerFish PR

http://www.tigerfishpr.co.uk/

Training 2000 Representative with the two mgs apprentices sat around a table

MGS appoints Three New Apprentices

Blackburn-based MGS Technical Plastics is investing in the future with the appointment of three new apprentices. Manufacturing director Neil Garrity says that training young adults is not only essential for the UK to continue its manufacturing excellence, but that MGS’s apprenticeship programme has paid for itself ten times over.

The three apprentices at the injection moulding specialist are: Steven Hyde, toolroom trainee; Dillon Tennant, electrician apprentice; and Michael Critchley, trainee technician. As well as learning their job by getting hands-on at MGS, Steven and Dillon will also study for Level 3 Diplomas in Advanced Manufacturing Engineering with the College of West Anglia, which offers specialist injection moulding machine related courses, in partnership with Training 2000, based in MGS’s hometown. Michael will soon begin onsite training with Solution 4 Polymers in partnership with College of West Anglia.

The new trio takes the number of apprentices trained by MGS to six in the last five years, as the growing company aims to reach £10m annual turnover. Following a multimillion relocation to its current headquarters in the last decade, the firm has invested an additional £2m on property, machinery, staff and training.

Neil Garrity said: “Apprenticeships have proven to be very valuable to the individual, us as an employer, and the manufacturing industry as a whole. It is a great way to find and develop the fresh talent that our sector so badly needs.”

Neil says that a lack of companies offering apprenticeships over the last two decades has left the UK short on skilled workers, which could eventually hurt the country’s position as a world-leader in the field. And he says there is a very strong business case for employers to make the most of apprenticeship schemes.

Neil added: “There is always the risk that you train an individual who then goes on to work for another business, but despite that our apprenticeship programme has paid for itself ten times over. “Businesses that don’t take on apprentices are the dinosaurs of the sector and are hurting their own prospects as well as the industry as a whole.”

“Apprenticeships are also a great proposition for our trainees,” he said. “We give individuals a chance to shine, and the ones who show initiative get plenty of opportunities to develop their careers.”

Written by Amanda Jackson, TigerFish PR

http://www.tigerfishpr.co.uk/

Is green the new black?

Is Green the New Black?

I’ll take whatever colour you have, as long as it’s green.

Understandably, given the popularity of David Attenborough’s programmes and the awful scenes shown almost daily on the news, there is massive public concern surrounding synthetic plastics.
Wrongly, the media, government and charities such as Greenpeace often miss the vital ‘single-use’ and ‘waste disposal’ out of their attacks on plastic, leading to widespread misconceptions – surrounding plastics in general – in the public consciousness.

I came across a brilliant example of the inconsistency, ignorance and hypocrisy shown in the opinions of many who are ‘against plastics’ when I was skiing in Scotland in February this year.
I found myself on a T-bar lift (nobody’s favourite) on my way to the summit of Nevis Range, itching to drop into the Back Corries. I was sharing this T-bar with an off-duty instructor.
After the usual grunted greetings, the conversation went as follows.

Instructor: So, what do you do for work?
Me: I work in procurement for a plastic injection moulding company.
Instructor: Ah, contributing to the destruction of the environment, then?
Me: I don’t think so, really…

Tutting followed, with an insistence that plastics are ‘bad’.
This is a bloke who was wearing a helmet with a polypropylene shell and an expanded polystyrene inner, clothes made from nylon and/or polyethylene, goggles made from polypropylene and polycarbonate, boots made from some form of polyurethane, and skis with nylon top sheets and UHMWPE bases. I couldn’t be bothered to stand and discuss it further as we were at the next lift (thankfully, a one man drag). Off I went.

Behaviour

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

It seems the public love attacking the plastics industry when such issues arise, as it somehow absolves them of all responsibility – in their heads, at least.
We are an easy target in a way, as anything said by industry experts can be twisted as propaganda by short sighted opposing interests; which seems insane, given it is industry experts who are best placed to advise government and think tanks on how to adapt industry standards on disposal and recycling into common practice for the whole population.

As with anything, most are happy to sit on their hands and wait for someone else to sort the problem, but often find changing their own habits the most difficult part, yet it is – without a doubt – a change in the behaviour of the public that will solve the issues we face.

Green?

It’s difficult to know what people mean when they use the word ‘green’, although it is fair to assume that most people will be referring to either: polymers from renewable sources, polymers that are biodegradable, or polymers that are easily recyclable.
What if we extend that meaning? It could be argued that plastic car parts moulded in polymer grades from non-renewable sources, are ‘greener’ than a plastic bottle that is made from a polymer from a renewable source.
Less energy is used to make plastic parts than is used to make steel or aluminium equivalents; they are less dense, so require less energy to transport and help to increase the energy efficiency of the vehicle on which they end up; they are likely to remain on the car for a number of years (average age of cars in the UK in 2015 was 7.8 years); the polymers used are relatively easy to recycle, and with advancing technology will be even more so by the end of the car’s lifetime.

The plastic bottle made out of a polymer grade from a renewable source (bio-PET, for example), on the other hand, is just as likely to end up in the sea, at the side of the road, or left in some woodland as an equivalent made from a non-renewable source. It will not biodegrade or degrade physically any faster than an equivalent made from petro-PET. It is still PET.
You also have to consider the potential for deforestation – and the threat to animals that also entails – when proposing that large swathes of land are used for growing crops from which these polymers are derived.

What about biodegradable polymers?

They do exist, but you have to be careful when looking at their properties. Obviously, if you want an item to last longer than 6 months, truly biodegradable plastics are out – which removes them from consideration for food packaging and most medical applications.

There are some polymers that are claimed to be biodegradable by their manufacturers that will last longer than 6 months and offer similar properties to traditional polymer grades, but it’s important to look at the properties of these grades before specifying them for a project for their ‘green’ credentials. BioPBS – increasingly used to make disposable hot drinks cups – for example, will not start to break down unless it is in a compost environment at 30oC, meaning they will not break down in ‘normal’ conditions, i.e. in oceans, forests, beaches, etc.
Biodegradable? I’ll let you decide.

There are also grades marketed as being oxo-degradable. The problem with many of these grades is that they do not fully degrade, they fragment into small pieces of a similar size as (recently banned) microbeads, which can eventually find their way into watercourses.

Is ‘single-use’ the end of the world?

In my opinion, no. Single-use plastics are used in medical applications, for barrier packaging in the food industry, for the transport of hazardous materials, and many other sectors. The alternatives to single-use plastics require more energy in every aspect of their lifecycles; from the extraction of raw materials, all the way through to the point at which they are destroyed or recycled.

I’ve heard many raise the ‘Why aren’t the government doing something about it?’ question.
They are, to an extent. However, there should be more thoughtful, less knee-jerk legislation on a national and international scale, more education and more encouragement.
If we want to see change, such as a reduction in the amount of plastic going to landfill or ending up in our oceans, we must change the way we dispose of single use items. How often do LDPE food trays, ketchup bottles and shampoo bottles still end up with general waste to go to landfill?
The ‘it’s not my job’ attitude will not work. In my opinion, governments shouldn’t have to spend more money on waste sorting centres because the population is too lazy to act on something they supposedly care about.

We are a nation of (mainly) free-thinking, autonomous individuals.
If we don’t take responsibility and change our behaviour, the only answer will be to implement more/higher taxes somewhere. Who’s cool with that?

Repro Grades and Recycling

OEMs and Tier 1 moulders are increasingly specifying repro grades, or allowing a certain percentage of a repro material to be fed into the production of new components – a good example of this would be for non-visible parts in the automotive industry. More work is yet to be done; however, as an industry, we are making progress.
There are complexities to this approach. It requires close partnerships and trust throughout the supply chain to ensure everyone is taking the right steps to assure product integrity, which in turn requires a level of skill and professionalism that may not have been present in most trade moulders of the past. Through our hard work and determination, we are well equipped for this.

We already use a reasonable amount of repro ABS for one of the projects we run, and would love the opportunity to use repro grades of other polymers. We often offer them as alternative grades when working with customers on new projects, it may be the case that a repro material won’t be the grade that offers the most ‘impressive’ specs. on its technical data sheet, but if it’s fit for purpose and offers increased value for the customer, it could be the best material for the job.

As for recycling, we have been working with a plastic recycling company (Indigo Environmental Group) in order to see what we can do to improve our performance. They already have ties with many T1 automotive manufacturers and food packaging companies, and were able to offer an ‘off the shelf’ package which we will be trialling in the very near future.

Plastic: we’d be in the shit without it.

We rely on plastics. They are the best materials for almost every product and application they are currently used for.
The plastics industry is the second largest direct employer within UK manufacturing, but is also a massive indirect employer. Plastic parts are used throughout food and drinks industry (the UK’s largest manufacturing employer), the automotive industry (3rd), the defence industry (4th), furniture and furnishings (the 5th largest)… The list goes on, but you get the picture.
Plastics are also in the top 10 of the UK’s exports.

If public apathy was to cause a move from plastics to less suitable and less environmentally friendly alternatives, the result for the UK’s economy – and the world in general – would be disastrous.

Written by Nathan Sturgess

Check out his Linkedin

Employees at training

Recent training and its role at MGS

This past month has involved a lot of training for Employees, which is usual for MGS. However, this time there was more of a focus on developing towards our Quality Standards. Our first lot of training focused on IATF 16949 Internal Audit training. This involved our employees completing a 2-day course to ensure we are IATF ready throughout the year. The second involved a team learning more about HACCP and Hazard and Risk Management for a day and the second day for Internal Audit Training. Both days in preparation for a BRC audit to become accredited in a couple of months. Overall, our employees gained 15 more certificates at the completion of this training.

Training at MGS

It can be easily said training is a very important aspect at MGS; we want our employees to have the knowledge that will allow them to excel in their job role. The opportunities we provide our employees will allow us to reap the rewards in the future. We already have a vast number of employees currently in further education, involved in college courses, training days and apprenticeships to name a few. This means there is always a range of training available for employees to take advantage of throughout the year. Also, being in the manufacturing industry and the looming skill gap, we want to ensure we can develop and retain the skills we need to succeed and grow. We see the developments we are making as a long term investment in our employees and for ourselves.

A quote to remember:

‘What if we train them and they leave? What if we don’t and they stay?’