For over 30 years we (Bluetree) have been manufacturing quality products from our base in South Yorkshire, only recently has that story begun to include face masks.
Originally, we started life as a screen-printing business before joining forces in 2012 with an online printing business called instantprint, started by Adam and James. Together we created the Bluetree Group and became one of the fastest growing businesses in the country, appearing on the Virgin Sunday Times Fast Track 100 ranking not once but twice.
(James Kinsella and Adam Carnell accepting their virgin Fast Track 100 award in 2015)
When we moved to our current home in sunny South Yorkshire back in 2015, we thought we'd never fill the space. At 100,000 square foot, it was bigger than most supermarkets and made a lorry look tiny. In fact, our machinery back then didn't even cover half the factory!
(Our first building before we fitted it out)
Fast forward four years, the factory was filling up fast and the offices beginning to become a squeeze. With an ever-expanding team we needed additional space, so we bought the building next door. Our plans for using the extra 45,000 square feet were to expand our new exhibition range downstairs and create a new office space upstairs with over 300 desks.
(Our 100,000sq ft UK Based Production Facility)
In early 2020 we had to adapt. Many of our customers run bars, restaurants and exhibitions were, and continue to be hit hard by the impact of COVID-19. Our print work was dropped significantly and many of the team were furloughed.
Then it struck us, we had a team of brilliant machine operators, a large empty factory ready to use, a Biomedical scientist and a country in need of a supply of facemasks.
(Our first face mask machine arriving at Bluetree)
Realising we were well positioned to take up the call to arms, we set about transforming the building, creating clean rooms to house a surgical mask production facility.
(Applying the finishing touches to the construction of our clean room)
Over the last few months our team have learned more about non-woven fabrics, ultrasonic welding, ISO clean rooms, air filtration systems, the European testing standard certification (EN14683:2019), medical device registration and ourselves than we ever could have imagined.
(Our face mask machines installed in the clean room)
Fast forward to today, we are ramping up our manufacturing capabilities which will enable us to produce around 20 million units per week. A staggeringly higher amount than our original forecast of 1.4 million. The business is proud to supply the NHS who take over half of our available capacity.
Having recently diversified our manufacturing capabilities to produce meltblown, the bacterial filtration layer of our masks, in-house; we have greater control over our supply chain resilience. With one meltblown production line in place and another projected for November, we expect a combined capacity of 100 tonnes of the material per month. This will enable us to continue to provide the country with a constant and reliable source of surgical face masks.
(James Kinsella and Adam Carnell on the top level of our first meltblown machine)
We are proud to say that our hard work is being recognised; recently we were shortlisted as a finalist for the NHS Excellence in Supply Awards 2020. The award purpose is to recognise organisations demonstrating innovation in supply or a product, process or service which directly supported the response of the health and care system to the virus. We were celebrated as an inspirational example of business because of our efforts to supply the NHS with Surgical Masks during the pandemic (COVID-19).
As the UK’s first manufacturer of Type IIR Surgical masks, we’re proud that our work helped, and continues to help protect front line staff when they need them the most.