From swimming pools to reservoirs
Manufacturing company Plastipack produces energy-saving swimming pool and water storage coverings materials. Managing Director, Peter Adlington joined one of the first Profitnet groups when University of Brighton launched the programme in 2004.
At the time, Peter was wrestling with three new product ideas that were in development. The company had taken them as far as it could, but didn’t have the specialist expertise needed to get them to market.
Also, Peter had heard about funded programmes available to industry through universities, but didn’t think this type of collaboration would be suitable for him. ”I wasn’t confident about going down that route” he said, “but the Profitnet group gave me a kick to do something about it”.
Peter Adlington, Managing Director, Plastipack
The group helped Peter to focus on important issues such as water saving, solar energy, product life cycle and heat retention. The company had practical knowledge in these areas, but it needed systematic and technically validated data to support its marketing strategy for the new products.
The company embarked on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the University of Brighton. This is a government funded programme whereby a graduate ‘associate’ works on a project that is strategically important to the company, with the support of senior academics at the university.
A series of tests were carried out at Plastipack’s facility to characterize the heat retention, solar gain and water evaporation properties of the coverings materials. Testing tanks, heat measurement probes and a weather station were all set up to enable the materials to be monitored. They were also subjected to accelerated ultraviolet ageing tests in the university’s QUV age accelerating machine. The project was so successful that three new patented and trademarked products were created as a result.
During 2008 Plastipack launched: Energy Guard which inhibits the growth of algae, saves electrical costs and absorbs the sun’s heat; Cool Guard which gives the same energy saving benefits but also reflects sun’s heat to keep the pool cool and Sol+Guard which allows maximum solar gain. These new products have helped to position the company as a leading innovator in the sector.
The company has also benefited from many other sources of assistance including the Product Development Centre in Hastings which has provided help with design and rapid prototyping for Plastipack’s new products, the Manufacturing Advisory Service, National Physical Laboratory, and the Innovation Advisory service, all introduced as a result of Profitnet. “These organisations have given us access to a wealth of resources similar to those available to multinationals” says Peter.
The company has now started a second Knowledge Transfer Partnership to address new techniques for reliably joining the coverings materials on remote sites. This will give the capability to make sheets large enough for covering vast expanses of water, such as reservoirs.
Despite the recession, the company is performing very successfully with first quarter 2009 turnover 9% ahead of last year, and April 2009 the best month in Plastipack’s history. “This wouldn’t have been the case without Profitnet and the contacts it brought” says Peter, “Innovation is key to survival and you don’t do it alone.” Peter Adlington, Managing Director, Plastipack
"Innovation is key to survival and you don’t do it alone."
Peter Adlington, Managing Director, Plastipack.