IPL’s Tamworth Site Gains Prestigious BRC AA Rating

IPL Tamworth, formerly known as Protech Plastic Containers, has recently achieved a full BRC AA rating for food-grade packaging.

Just over two years ago, IPL Tamworth decided to create a brand new food-grade production area within a facility that predominantly manufactured plastic paint cans and a standard range of packaging products. This required a significant investment in new equipment and a complete change in manufacturing practices.

The newly commissioned production cell soon began manufacturing items such as ice cream containers and lids, sweet tubs and festival cups. A high degree of automation allowed minimal operator interventions and product customisation via In-Mould Labelling.

The company rapidly achieved BRC accreditation, although it took another year to reach the milestone of a grade A rating. The stringent assessments involve a yearly two-day audit. Shortly after their 2020 evaluation, the management team created a new long-term initiative to reduce non-conformances further. The ambitious target set was for five or fewer issues raised, as this is the requirement for a prestigious AA award. The initiative was driven by ‘shop floor’ personnel, but all senior staff members fully engaged in the process.

As a direct result of the initiative, a complete overhaul of manufacturing and support procedures has taken place. A dedicated team leader now conducts a regular Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point survey (HACCP).  This survey examines all stages of the manufacturing process, from goods inwards to warehousing and despatch. For each critical control point identified, the team develops new procedures called prerequisites, then trains relevant staff members in up to four languages.

Examples of prerequisites include detailed procedures for cleaning that stipulate the use of particular named products and techniques.

Internal audits called Gemba Walks now take place every 48 hours. These are focussed facility tours that follow the flow of a particular shop floor process and identify any potential issues.

On the 10th and 11th of February this year, the BRC audit was conducted by the BSI. The entire assessment was performed via a live video stream due to Covid restrictions. Key members of staff carried mobile cameras and were guided around the facility by the assessors. With only minor non-conformances identified, the company was awarded the latest BRC issue 6 – 2020 award, with a full AA rating.

When asked about the benefits seen as a result of this major initiative, Steven Tomlin, the company’s Quality, Health, Safety & Environmental Manager, said:

In terms of our workforce, they have been empowered and engaged by the process, something that is key to job satisfaction and ultimately, staff retention levels. There have also been significant improvements to our working environment, including warehousing and canteen facilities.

“Since gaining our AA rating, we have also seen a marked increase in site visits by blue-chip companies looking to source food-grade packaging manufactured to the highest possible standard.  They have all been impressed by our facilities and working practices, which we believe now far exceed the levels needed to attain our accreditation.”

Having achieved the highest rating possible for a scheduled BRC audit, Steven added that the company also has plans to improve its quality and environmental systems further:

We are now developing a fully harmonised quality system that encompasses ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and the BRC accreditation. By July of this year, we also anticipate achieving the ISO 45001 occupational health and safety standard, being the first site in the IPL group to do so.”

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