Alpha Solway – Perfect Protection
Alpha Solway, a specialist in the design and manufacture of personal protection equipment (PPE), is expanding the business in line with new market needs.
Alpha Solway is part of Globus Group, a market leading, global organisation, with over 25 years of heritage in manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE) for industry and healthcare. Globus Group products keep wearers safe in many situations, across a spectrum of industries as well as at home. They meet and exceed a diverse range of personal protective equipment requirements from the rigours of heavy construction to the complexities of clean room and aerospace manufacturing.
The range of innovative products that the company has launched over the last few years is extensive and includes, for example, the new Alpha Flow™ Series protective mask range, which includes the UK’s first P3 charcoal filter to provide enhanced breathing protection, and the award-winning ENHA Ranger safety helmet that has revolutionised head protection across mainland Europe thanks to its innovative design features.
The company’s products reflect decades of experience and development. Alpha Solway has been manufacturing PPE since the 1990s as a family-owned business, initially focusing on respirators and gradually expanding the portfolio to include industrial gloves, protective clothing and other items of personal protection for the healthcare sector and industrial segments.
“The production of respirators moved offshore 15 years ago to maintain cost-effectiveness and competitiveness with Asian importers, while the protective clothing business remained in Annan,” says Managing Director Steven Binnie, adding that the products from the Annan facility are supplied all over the UK but also to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, typically to the petrochemical, offshore and marine industries.
In 2016 Alpha Solway reached an important turning point when the business was sold to Globus Group, a multi-million-pound international business consistently achieving double-digit turnover growth that acquired Alpha Solway to further extend its role in the personal protective equipment industry. A move that boosted the company’s position and secured investment in its further development.
“The last four years, even when we exclude the Covid-19 months, have been a period of continuous growth. We have doubled the size of the business primarily by focusing on developing new products and also by actively engaging with the end-users,” affirms Mr Binnie.
Facing the virus
In 2019, in response to a growing demand for more UK-manufactured products, the company initiated the process of bringing the respirator business back to the UK and completed the process earlier this year to reduce the disruption to the global PPE supply chain caused by the coronavirus. The plan was to place the business in a new larger factory in Annan where respirators would be manufactured alongside the clothing.
As demand continued to increase dramatically, Alpha Solway promptly decided to significantly expand its output capacity further.
Alpha Solway and Globus group have won contracts with both the Department for Health & Social Care and NHS Scotland to manufacture one billion type IIR medical masks across all UK factories in Dumfries, Scotland, and Warrington, North West England. In addition to this, 200 million FFP3 respirators, 100 million FFP2 respirators and 22 million visors annually. Both contracts will meet the demand for the UK’s health and social care sectors until summer 2021. In addition to ensuring frontline staff have the required PPE, the multi-million pound contracts have also enabled Globus Group to create an extra 600 jobs across the UK since the start of the pandemic.
“We are proud to be awarded this order to further support NHS Scotland. Capacity-wise, it has been a challenging time: we have set up two new respirator production facilities in a very short time, both of which are producing now. We aim to have 75% of the product range and the respirators onshore as soon as possible,” says Mr Binnie.
“NHS Scotland’s commitment to purchase critical PPE equipment from local manufacturers sends positive signals to businesses such as ours and gives us the confidence to continue investing in the local area. It enables us to do more in the fight against the impact of Covid-19, and do it in a way that lays positive, sustainable foundations for the future.”
Alpha Solway will be fulfilling supply for the new contracts, including 50 million high-performance FFP3 face masks for the Department of Health and Social Care, and 232 million surgical masks & 2 million visors for NHS Scotland.
Beyond the pandemic
The creation of over 600 new jobs will be a significant challenge, but one that the company can manage well, say Mr Binnie. “We have training programmes in place as well as an apprenticeship scheme. People are key, and we put a lot of emphasis on human resources development. We have always been a people-oriented business supporting our staff and once people join us, they tend to stay a long time.”
He insists that the increased workload for NHS Scotland and DHSC will not be at the expense of customers from industries. “We have many years’ experience in providing protective equipment and advice in this market, always keeping high standards and investing in R&D to come up with innovative solutions.”
“What we have tried to do from the start of the pandemic was to make sure that we keep supplying our existing customers. People working in the NHS are not the only key workers, so is someone working in a power station or petrochemical plant. They all need PPE to be able to perform their jobs safely and effectively,” he points out.
He affirms that continued investment in further enhancement of the production capability throughout 2021 and 2022 will help to satisfy increased demand in both the health care and industrial markets.
“We have the heritage, experience in making the majority of the products in the UK and the reputation of a trusted, reliable supplier. These are the strengths that will support our position in export markets where our products are regarded very highly, be it in Europe, the Middle East or North America.”
“These are exciting times for us as a business. Not only in terms of growing the business but also in terms of re-establishing UK manufacturing capability beyond the pandemic, and doing so competitively as well.”