For more than four decades, Belgrade Polymer Products’ thermoforming expertise has fulfilled bespoke orders for a range of unusual items across very different sectors. Patrick Burke, General Manager at Belgrade Polymer Products, is the next PlastikCity Partner to face the HotSeat…
What trends do you think will shape the future of UK Plastics? How will Belgrade Polymer Products respond?
Currently, I think that the three key influencing factors are Raw Material Price Trends, Brexit, and Recycling.
Raw Material Price Trends, together with the impact of Brexit, has been the single biggest factor that has affected our business – and the sector as a whole. ‘Force Majeure’ is constantly being cited by our suppliers as the main reason for justification, and this had led to our customers requesting ‘value-engineered’ solutions, such as cheaper material options, thinner wall thicknesses, or higher MOQs to reduce the piece price. I wish I had a ‘crystal ball’ that could enable me to foresee the raw material trends in future!
While we have seen significant momentum from the UK Government in moving forward towards an end game over Brexit, there are still concerns regarding what standards and legislation will be adopted. Our Export market has developed substantially over the last 12 months and some of our EU customers have expressed the same concerns as we do and ask simple questions such as:
- Will a certificate of origin now be required?
- What VAT arrangements will be adopted?
Recycling is another key issue. Most responsible polymer processors and recyclers have a robust and reviewable recycling strategy in place. Our closed-loop manufacturing process boosts our eco-credentials as we can account for 100% of the raw materials utilised in our business – whether virgin granules or re-chip.
We reprocess most skeletal waste, while ABS and HIPS scrap is supplied to our approved recyclers. This reprocessed material goes back to our raw material suppliers who convert this material into finished product, then re-supplied to us for thermoforming. It’s a ‘virtuous’ circle!
How has Belgrade Polymer Products developed during your tenure?
We have seen tangible improvements in internal and external communication that are benefiting customers. Re-evaluating our supply chain has also improved our quality threshold. Adopting the simple policy of ‘purchasing the highest quality raw materials with the best performance, from the best suppliers, at the best possible price’ has yielded positive results. These include better surface finish on some products and reduced scrap rates.
Introducing a ‘closed-loop’ manufacturing process is a major step forward. We have also experienced a significant increase in export sales of thermoformed products.
What do you credit as the key to your success?
As a result of restructuring the business and bolstering the key areas of customer service and production management, we have seen a substantial improvement in communication (both internal and external), efficiency, and quality.
What has been the greatest challenge in your career ?
Maximising productivity, efficiency, and profitability, within a challenging operating budget – issues which I’m sure many manufacturing operations can identify with!
What advice do you wish you’d had on entering the industry and does that differ from the advice you would give to an apprentice joining now?
On leaving the Army after active service some years ago during a previous recession with an Engineering Construction qualification, my priority was to secure the best possible employed role that reflected my skill set, experience, and ambition.
In hindsight, my advice would be to adopt an enthusiastic and open-minded approach and make the most of any mentoring opportunities, if available. Capitalising on the mentor’s experience helps the apprentice to integrate more quickly into the business, gain confidence and actively contribute as part of the team.
What hidden talents do you have?
A sixth sense that has enabled me to judge both commercial and personal situations.