An award-winning Sheffield manufacturer is hoping to create at least 20 new jobs over the next five years after securing funds from the South Yorkshire Business Productivity Programme to improve its manufacturing process.

Starting production during the pandemic in 2020, PolyProducts manufactures a wide range of plastic products ranging from aquatics and garden products to defibrillator cases and even radar components, which are manufactured using vacuum forming and rotational moulding. The company is part of the Poly Group of Companies, which has been trading in Sheffield for almost 40 years, with PolyProducts employing nine members of staff, and are presently recruiting further employees.

When company owners Julie Garner and Andrew Oldale spotted an opportunity to create a new range of products, they invested in purchasing a second-hand rotational moulding machine and began exploring ways of making it operate more efficiently as well as finding ways to make cost savings on its gas and energy consumption.

This machine was central to the company however, with new machines costing from £250,000 - £500,000, a new machine was out of the question, so there were plans to modify, and they secured a match-funded grant, to improve the operation and productivity of the machine. Rotational moulding is a process that sees plastic resin placed into a mould, which is heated. As the plastic melts, the machinery rotates to create an even coating of plastic within the mould. The problem they faced was that parts of some of their moulds needed to be heated by hand, which was a very time-consuming process. The machine operating system needed to be modified to improve production cycle times and efficiency of the oven and burner.

Covid-19 forced PolyProducts to re-think business priorities, as the production of vacuum formed marquee panels to the events market temporarily ceased. The company owners redeployed its workforce elsewhere in the business to ensure the rotational moulding machine was ready to start producing and began working with Business Sheffield to review the way in which the business operated.

After securing a match-funded grant through the Business Productivity Programme, Andrew and Julie implemented new software in the business, allowing the cycle times and temperature of the machine to be controlled more effectively. The improved controls have helped PolyProducts to automate parts of its manufacturing process, increasing capacity as well as making significant savings on its energy bills.

Since implementing the technology, PolyProducts has added over seven hours production each week due to the amount of time spent preparing and monitoring its specialist machinery. PolyProducts is now planning to invest in purchasing additional rotational moulding machines, and as a result of the increased capacity it is hoping to create over 20 new jobs in the business during the next five years.

Julie said: “When Covid 19 forced us to re-think our priorities, we used the time to review all aspects of the business, and the help we received from Business Sheffield enabled us to create significant time savings in our manufacturing processes. The grant funding we secured has helped the business to operate more effectively, and I estimate that we will be able to save around £50,000 per annum due to the changes we’ve made. This will enable us to invest in more machinery, create additional jobs in the business and expand the range of products we manufacture.”

Dan Wilkinson, key account manager, South Yorkshire Business Productivity Programme, said: “PolyProducts is a business that produces an incredibly diverse range of products. However, faced with a changing marketplace and rising energy costs, the company knew it needed to invest in its equipment to meet customer demand. When Covid-19 forced them to re-evaluate priorities, they used the time to look at ways of reducing the time taken to produce its range of products as well as increasing capacity within the factory.

“The specialist machinery used by them can cost up to £500,000, so the challenge they faced was how to build on their existing equipment by embracing new ways of working. The support received through the Business Productivity Grant has helped PolyProducts to not only operate more efficiently in terms of the amount of energy it needs to manufacture its product range but has also helped to create new skilled jobs within the business as well as helping it to seize new market opportunities.”

The Business Productivity Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and provides businesses with 50% grant funding up to a maximum of £12,499, and the other 50% must be provided by the business. The maximum project application is £24,999 and can include investment in new equipment or machinery and consultancy services to help them overcome barriers to growth. The scheme is delivered by Enterprising Barnsley, Business Sheffield, Business Doncaster and the Rotherham Investment and Development Office (RiDO).

Any business based in South Yorkshire wishing to find out more about the grant funding available through the Business Productivity Programme should contact the Enterprising Barnsley team via