Goodfish's plastic injection firm talks business and Brexit

Materials World magazine
,
2 Aug 2016

Ellis Davies talks to Goodfish Group’s Business Development Manager Paul Groenestein about the Goodfish Group, and the possible effects of Brexit on UK injection moulding. 

What is Goodfish and what does the company do?

Greg McDonald, Managing Director, started up Goodfish in 2010 with an acquisition of a Cannock-based plastic injection moulding and toolmaking business. He added three bolt-on acquisitions between 2011-2013. In 2015, Goodfish purchased Powell & Harber, an established injection moulding and toolmaking business based in Worcester, which introduced Goodfish to new sectors. Since then, Group annual turnover has increased from £800,000 in 2010 to in excess of £5 million presently.

We have injection moulding capabilities across the group, with press sizes ranging from 30–800 tonnes across our two facilities, and in-house tool rooms giving us the opportunity to really take a project from concept stage right through to design, and see it into production with approved samples. 

Goodfish holds ISO 9001, 14001 and OHSAS 18001 accreditation, which few injection moulders in the UK can offer.

What are you currently working on?

The Stique project started in September 2013 when McDonald realised that a new plastic he had come across at Goodfish would make a very strong tyre lever for cyclists. This plastic was and still is used in the automotive industry to replace parts previously made of metal. The project applied this material to a new multi-purpose cycling product, the Multilever.

It is injection moulded from metal-replacement plastic, combining the tyre lever with the essentials of a multi-tool. Further products are in development, while the Multilever and tyre levers are marketed through independent cycle shops and at cycling events around the country.

Do you think that investment in UK injection moulding from European companies will suffer as a result of Brexit?

It’s possible. Like everyone else at the moment, we don’t really know what will happen right now – from our perspective, it’s business as usual. Many of the larger injection moulding machinery companies are based in Europe, and fluctuation in exchange rates may impact them negatively. As polymer pricing is related to US Dollar-based oil prices, we might see costs rising in the UK – maybe even in the Eurozone, as a direct result of Brexit. Injection moulders may hold off on buying new equipment until there is a clearer view of what will happen with the single market – will there be restrictions? I, personally, think that any free access to the single market Britain can achieve will allow the free movement of people. I don’t see how the Government could avoid that. We’ll have to wait-and-see.

We are still looking for the right opportunities to grow the group, organically and through acquisition. 

Have you noticed any effects already?

I think it’s still too early. We have recently made enquiries for a larger 1,500t injection moulding machine, and one of the suppliers has a ‘cancelled order’ machine on short availability. Other than that, we’re not seeing any significant changes at the moment. Clearly in the automotive sector, manufacturers have benefited from the EU over the years and were mostly in favour of a continued involvement in the EU. However, going forward, any investment in the UK, as opposed to the rest of Europe, could be something that will impact the industry. As a business, we are not overly reliant on the automotive industry. It makes more sense to be involved in as many sectors as possible for any injection moulding business – you can’t rely on just one industry. 

Everybody is watching and wondering about what will happen to the automotive industry going forward. Interestingly, I attended the Warwickshire Manufacturing Group’s (WMG) Summer Networking event on 14 July, where one of the presentations was about the fact that currently there are currently 1.86 million vacancies in engineering and engineering apprenticeships in the UK. This figure is growing at 3% per year, and highly skilled people from the EU could, and do, fill a lot of those roles, adding a lot to the UK’s economy and business in general. 

One solution to this currently being carried out is the establishment of an academy by the WMG, which takes 14–19 year olds, and adds practical exercises to the standard curriculum. This has received a lot of support from many Midlands based manufacturers, to the extent that a second academy will open in the West Midlands in September.

Do you think these academies could be a solution to the potential loss of skilled engineers from the EU?

Absolutely. Everybody is aware that, for example, in our own tool-making units, some of our older employees are approaching retirement, and it is important that the new people coming in and taking up the mantle are interested in engineering. I would like to think that the students at these academies and schools could become skilled employees in a lot of UK manufacturing businesses. 

Do you think the injection moulding industry is in a strong position to deal with the possible negative effects of Brexit?

I think a lot of businesses, or a lot of OEMs, are re-shoring. It’s gone from a low-cost sourcing environment to ‘best cost’ sourcing. Shipping costs vary tremendously from month to month, transit times are unpredictable, and I think people want to source locally and guarantee supply for sudden spikes in production. This is a key reason why the injection moulding industry, like many different technologies, has brought a lot of business back to the UK and Europe, because the whole strategy has changed. China and other low-cost countries have become increasingly expensive as labour rates increase. Things are definitely changing, regardless of Brexit, and Europe as a whole will continue to thrive. More manufacturing could return to these shores.

Are there any positives for injection moulding to come out of Brexit?

I don’t think you can focus on the negatives. Each company has to go out there and grab what they need to shape their own business with OEMs and other companies worldwide. The UK has an opportunity to negotiate separate trade agreements with China, India, and the USA. From our perspective, direct exports only represent about 15% of our overall turnover, but indirect exports are probably in excess of 60%. Nationally, I think there’s still much to be done. Those companies that go out and work hard will continue to succeed – but there will be others, some in our own field, where acquisitions and mergers will be important. I think this is just part of business today.

Looking to the future, what’s to come for Goodfish and injection moulding outside the single market?

The future is still very bright. Our Group has targeted sales of £20m by 2020. Despite Brexit, these have not changed, and we are on track to reach them. Some of our targets include diversifying into other sectors, while continuing to grow our business in existing sectors. The business is out there, and Goodfish intends to be a part of it. 

MX Series moulds door panels

Automotive supplier Arkal Automotive has produced two side door panels using a MX 1600–12000 injection-moulding machine from KraussMaffei, Germany (KM). The KM machine employs two LRX linear robots mechanically coupled on a single axis to ensure that components are demoulded and deposited quickly. This allows for a short cycle time and high precision. 

KM claim that the MX 1600–12000 is capable of processing 30% fibre glass-reinforced PP, and produce two panels simultaneously. Arkal use multi-daylight moulds that the MX series protects against wear by ensuring they do not tilt. High quality components can be produced over long periods of time, aiding in Arkal’s production of 3,600 door side panels per week.

Product focus

1.  Netsal’s new high performance injection moulding machine, the Elios 7500, will be demonstrated at K 2016 in Düsseldorf, Germany. The new machine from the Swiss suppliers has a clamping force of 7,500kNm along with a cycle time of four seconds. Netsal claims with this cycle time, the Elios 7500 can produce more than 43,000 round lids with a part weight of 2.8 grams per hour. 

The Elios 7500 can be equipped with hybrid injection units in the 2900, 4200 or 6000 sizes. The two-valve technology enables a flow rate of up to 2 x 550 l/min, and a reaction time of 11ms. The machine can achieve injection speeds of up to 2,200 mm/s, and acceleration values of up to 20G.

2. Pentagon Plastics, UK, has invested £95,000 in new injection moulding machines in a continued effort to enhance its manufacturing facilities. The Horsham based company has acquired both machines from UK-based Premier Moulding Machinery – a MARS MAII 900/300 Universal and a ZERES ZE1200/430.

The addition of these machines means that Pentagon will be able to deal with heavier demand. Pentagon says that this investment will set the company up for the next 40 years of trading, as well as saving on energy costs and increasing the company’s ability to output product.

3.The Leeds and Liverpool based consultancy, Plazology Ltd, UK, has achieved ‘Expert Accreditation’ status from Moldex3D. The professional qualification is achieved through challenging technical, written and practical examinations. Plazology Ltd is well known for its work in plastic injection moulding, along with polymer physics and computational fluid dynamics.

Plazology is the first UK company to receive the Moldex3D qualification. The consultancy has recently invested heavily in improving and updating their capabilities, including the launch of the Virtual Moulding Design Analysis (VDMA) service.