Pentagon Plastics Group incorporates Phoenix Engineering and Pentagon Plastics, a well-established plastic injection moulder. Owner and Managing Director Paul Edwards is the second generation of leadership at this family-run business. He worked his way up through the quality and production departments of the company, before taking over the role of Managing Director from his father in August 2011. He is the next PlastikCity Partner to face the HotSeat…
What trends do you think will shape the future of UK plastics? How will Pentagon Plastics respond?
A major issue in UK Plastics, as well as manufacturing in general, is the skills gap. Many companies such as ours are taking on apprentices and spend time talking to schools and universities to promote our industry. This is great news but is also a long-term solution and doesn’t compensate for the generation gap we see that makes skilled positions hard to fill today. It is crucial that schools, colleges & universities deliver quality STEM students to the workplace. However, we also need to consider how we can retrain a generation that were not taught adequate STEM skills in education and due to the lack of apprenticeship opportunities didn’t realise a career in our industry.
Thermoplastic material for us will always play a major part as the advancements in polymers opens new doors of supply within industry. However, when high value materials are subject to high MOQ’s they can prevent products with potential in industries that demand only low volume of parts, such as Aerospace, not making it to market. At Pentagon we look to form partnerships with our Customers and material Suppliers to offer best advice for long term success of new projects.
I suppose I also must mention the ‘B’ word, Brexit…. this is an ongoing frustration for many people and I do feel we just need to get on with it, making the best deals we can. In my humble opinion a lot of people that voted to leave didn’t understand what they were voting for but once the decision was made we all must back those looking to shape relations on issues such as trade, travel and security. This is not something we can fight so as businesses we will have to make the best of how the new landscape will look.
How has Pentagon Plastics developed during your tenure?
Although I have been at Pentagon now for 24 years working my way through many roles, I only took over the reins as Managing Director from my father 7 years ago. Before becoming MD, I had implemented our ISO9001 quality system as well as a bespoke database system written in Access 97!
The last 7 years have seen us race forward with a complete refit of our factory facility improving the work flow and conditions for our staff. Regular investment in both moulding machines and ancillary equipment in our Mould Shop has been key to improving our process and efficiency together with the implementation of a fully integrated ERP and Accounting System.
The acquisition of Phoenix Engineering in 2016 has massively increased our tooling capabilities. This not only adds support to the Pentagon customers requiring bespoke products and tooling solutions but also provides us with a foot hold in the Caps & Closure tooling market, supporting the sectors high volume moulders.
Having taken delivery this year of a state-of-the-art Laser Welder and 2 x CNC Machining Centre’s there is certainly no letup in our strive for continuous improvement. This is supported by the steady growth in our turnover, seen especially in the medical and aerospace industries. As we grow we are maintaining our profitability which means the investment cycle can continue.
What do you credit as the key to your success?
The ability to listen to the views and advice from those I respect and trust throughout my career whilst staying true to myself and my own beliefs. This goes right back to starting as an apprentice for a Flight Simulation firm.
I have always tried to be personable and honest in dealing with colleagues, customers and suppliers alike as I feel that this is how you build trust and relationships.
What has been the greatest challenge in your career?
The greatest challenge has undoubtedly been getting staff and relatives to buy into my ideas in taking the family business forward to meet the new challenges the business faces today. This has included integrating new technologies beside the old and embracing the use of social media for business. Scepticism is expected when change is required but looking back I am proud to have taken our staff with me on this journey and to have made my family proud of our achievements.
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?
I think many engineers who have come through an apprenticeship scheme as I have will agree that the mentoring in those early days helped shape you as a person both personally and professionally.
The advice I would give any apprentice is to be prepared to do the jobs that aren’t your favourite with the same intensity that you would those you enjoy and want to do more of through your scheme. The more you learn and the more processes you understand the more rounded a person you will be and therefore a greater asset to any employer. Also you are never too old to learn so seek and retain the advice you are given throughout your career, just always remember if you are respected then the support is there for you but it is up to you to earn that respect as it isn’t a given.
There are so many opportunities out there and important roles to be filled in the coming years. The right people will have the honour of shaping the future of UK Plastics.
What hidden talents do you have?
I am a single figure golfer, have run the London Marathon and coached local youth football for 10 years!