Vertical integration expediates Waddington Europe’s turnaround for essential NHS PPE visor production


European thermoforming packaging company Waddington Europe has joined forces with longstanding customer and partner Ricoh 3D to help bolster the national manufacturing and supply chain effort to provide supplies of personal protective equipment for the NHS.

In a bid to help meet urgent demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic, 3D printing specialist Ricoh 3D were first approached on Monday 23rd March by The Royal London Hospital. Since then, countless NHS trusts and medical establishments have come forward requesting support, with Ricoh now fulfilling mass production of 40,000 face shields per week.

Following a swift response to source and produce the plastic visor component of the face shield, Waddington Europe was primed to go into full production by Wednesday 8th April, only 16 days after the initial request was made.

Waddington Europe, Managing Director Eduardo Gomes said; “The coronavirus outbreak requires support and collaboration from all manufacturing and supply chain companies, and we are pleased to be working in solidarity to support the increased production of PPE and medical supplies to the NHS.”

Waddington Europe’s Bridgwater based in house design and development team produced and laser cut two initial design options with amendments to the position of the visor holes, so that the visors could be made on their thermoform machines. Samples were dispatched within 12 hours of receiving the request, so that Ricoh could assemble and present the prototype visor to the NHS for approval within 24 hours.  

Feedback from Ricoh required extra clear material to be sourced, which was immediately used to re-sample the visor, while working with Waddington’s manufacturing site in Arklow, Ireland, to begin mass production of the super clear extruded material within a week. 

Eduardo continued; “We were also able to ensure our tool makers delivered the new cutter, required for production to the same tight timescale, and I’m pleased to say, also free of charge to the customer.”

“As a truly vertically integrated thermoforming business, we have the agility, flexibility and in house skill to respond to our customer’s needs at short notice in this way, and I’m delighted we could pivot and provide for such an essential need at this unprecedented time”

Mark Dickin, Additive Manufacturing & Moulding Lead at Ricoh said, “We were very impressed at the speed and efficiency that our packaging supplier, Waddington Europe were able to work with us to turn this critical project around.” 

The government has recognised anyone involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery as essential key workers. As one of the largest thermoformed food-packaging suppliers in Europe, Waddington Europe has already ramped up production to ensure uninterrupted supply to all their customers. 

They are reviewing all government guidelines, as well as guidelines from the CDC in conjunction with their USA based parent company, Novolex on a daily basis across the group, with changes implemented immediately as new requirements and best practices are identified. 

Secondary tier support staff is working from home, and clear procedures for self-isolation or quarantine are in place. Hygiene and cleaning procedures have been re-evaluated and frequency has been increased. External visitors and sub-contractors are no longer permitted on any of the sites and staff cannot move between sites. Contacts have been established with COVID-19 certified cleaning companies and preparations for a quick response action plan have been put in place in case of a COVID-19 positive test event.

Eduardo finished “I am personally committed to ensuring a seamless and reliable service to all our customers at all times, but now more than ever, we will be going the extra mile to help our colleagues and customers, friends, families and local communities.”

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