Chemical innovator invests in automation to drive green growth


A manufacturer of eco-friendly, innovative domestic cleaning products is forecasting 25% growth and creating new jobs after investing in a new automation technology.

Qualkem (formerly Repclif Chemical Services), based in Crewe, has installed new tube labelling and filling machinery specifically for short production runs.

The second generation family business with 16 staff has been developing and making chemicals for half a century, and believes that the solution – which uses up to 100% recycled plastic tubes and closures, 85% recycled polyurethane labels that are in-line applied, and 85% recycled cardboard packaging – is unique to the market and will give it a competitive edge.

As a result, Qualkem is forecasting 25% sales growth over the next three years and creating two new jobs, while upskilling several existing roles.

The £57,500 technology investment, supported by a £20,000 grant from Made Smarter’s North West adoption programme, will also give the company visibility and access to valuable production data to drive continuous improvement across its processes.

Ivan Anketell-Clifford, Director, said: “Introducing the automatic tube labelling and filling machinery will see the start of our commitment to digitalisation. Not only will it allow us to offer another packaging regime to our existing customer base, but it will also allow us to actively market to new sectors, for example cosmetics.

“The new Rigao machinery is going to make a huge difference to our company’s future and will help us achieve our true potential. Moreover, this digitalisation project will allow us to offer customers the ability to source green chemistry in green packaging, driving more sustainably packaged products into the marketplace, doing our bit for society and the environment.

“The impact of Made Smarter’s support has been instantaneous and we see them as an important partner to assist other technology projects as we search for production efficiencies, as part of our continued growth plans.

Launched by chemical engineer Robert Frazer and industrial chemist Doug Holt in 1971, as Repclif Chemical Services, the business has worked with many blue chip companies and household brands including Mercedes-Benz, Rowenta, Lakeland and Portaloo.

For the last two years the business has been run by Robert’s son-in-law Ivan and daughter Rachael who have embarked on a change in business strategy focussed on developing its own label, or dual branded product ranges in partnership with market leading wholesale/distributors in growth sectors. The business was rebranded as Qualkem in January.

Donna Edwards, Made Smarter’s North West Adoption Programme Director, said: “We are delighted to be supporting Qualkem on the first stage of its digital transformation. It is a fantastic example of a business using technology to automate how it manufactures products, creating growth, new jobs, new skills, while laying the foundation for further improvements.

“Qualkem is among hundreds of manufacturers in the region grasping the opportunities offered by Made Smarter which include expert, impartial technology advice, digital transformation workshops to help take that first step to transform a business, and support with technology investment. I would encourage other SME manufacturers to do the same.”

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