NEC Packaging Innovations & Empack Exhibition on 25th & 26th May 2022
Roberts Mart will be at the NEC Packaging Innovations & Empack Exhibition on 25th & 26th May 2022.
Come and see the Roberts Mart team on stand J76.
Book your tickets today here today:
Launch of pioneering Eco-friendly packaging for leading supermarkets
The award-winning Leeds-based flexible packaging manufacturer Roberts Mart & Co Ltd has launched its pioneering and environmentally friendly stand-up pouch for leading supermarkets across Europe.
This pouch has been developed in conjunction with McBride, the leading European manufacturer of private label products for the cleaning and hygiene market.
The doyback pouch will be used by major supermarkets for their own brand laundry capsules and dishwasher tablets.
Ben Roberts, the marketing director of Roberts Mart, explained that the company was extremely proud of this new packaging because it embraced the use of recycled plastic in the manufacture of plastic packaging and is produced from mono material as opposed to a traditional complex, multi-material laminate that isn’t recyclable.
Ben commented: “Given the widespread global fears about plastic pollution, it is absolutely crucial that we look at innovative ways to reduce plastic waste and to promote increased levels of recycling and collection of plastic waste, diverting it away from landfill or incineration.
“Our new packaging for supermarkets’ own brand laundry capsules is a classic example of putting this aim into practice. 30 per cent of this plastic packaging is recycled plastic, making the whole process a more virtuous circle.
“The packaging also addresses the challenges posed by the new Plastics Packaging Tax, which only applies to plastic packaging components that contain less than 30 per cent recycled plastic. The tax is a crucial step in the UK’s journey to be more sustainable in its use of plastic.
“It is important to stress that all responsible plastics packaging manufacturers – and their customers – should accept this tax, rather than fighting against it.”
Thomas Deremez and Mathilde Viot, product development specialists with McBrides, said they were delighted with the collaboration with Roberts Mart.
“The move away from plastic packaging which cannot be recycled, together with the successful utilisation of more and more post-consumer used recyclable plastic, is now a reality, while the strength and rigid character of the new pouches means that can they be processed at speed on our production lines.
“Thirty per cent PCR (plastic made from recycled plastic) content is already a great achievement but it is a first step: we are now aiming to increase further the level of inclusion of PCR plastic.
“For McBride, this project is also an excellent example of the success that comes from pooling expertise between suppliers and customers to deliver the innovation to support the essential move to more environmentally friendly products.”
“Ben Roberts added: “We are consistently looking at ways of reducing the impact they have by light weighting them, by reducing pack sizes and by substituting or replacing plastic with paper, where it is a viable alternative. In addition, we can make some plastic compostable where composting is an option, i.e. industrial composting in European markets.
“Our main goal is to ensure all packaging for our customers is designed for a circular economy. Plastics are a valuable resource and need preserving through collection, sorting, recycling and re-use.
Ben added “Our initiatives such as this stand-up pouch mean that we have put ourselves in a strong position to cope with the new tax. For example we are able to produce both plain and printed films and bags, which contain a percentage of recycled material and are deemed recyclable.”
What is the Plastic Packaging Tax?
What is the Plastic Packaging Tax?
The Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT) will be a tax on plastic packaging manufactured in, or imported into the UK, where the plastic used in its manufacture contains less than 30% recycled plastic. Where 30% or more recycled plastic is used, no tax will be due, but the plastic packaging will still need to be reported to HMRC.
The tax will come into effect from 1st April 2022 and will apply to any affected product completed from this date. The rate of tax will be £200 per metric tonne.
It will not apply to any plastic packaging which contains at least 30% recycled plastic, or any packaging which is not predominantly plastic by weight or exported outside the UK.
The tax is aimed at creating demand for increased recycled content and minimising unnecessary plastic usage with potential to divert plastics from landfill or incineration, and drive recycling technologies within the UK.
A plastic packaging component is chargeable for Plastic Packaging Tax when it’s finished. A component is finished when it has undergone its last substantial modification unless the pack-fill of the product takes place at a different time from the last substantial modification. You will need to notify us if you believe you will be making a substantial change to the plastic we supply you as you will then be liable for paying the HMRC directly and not Roberts Mart, for example if you are not pack-filling at the same time as you convert our reel into a bag.
The last substantial modification is the last manufacturing process that makes a significant change to the nature of the packaging component, as it alters one of the following characteristics of the packaging component:
Not all manufacturing processes are substantial modifications. More information on this can be found here in section 2.4: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/get-your-business-ready-for-the-plastic-packaging-tax/further-information-for-businesses
Am I liable to pay the tax for the packaging we buy from Roberts Mart?
Indirectly yes, where it applies, we will charge you the £200 per tonne on each delivery where the tax comes into force. If your film you buy from us contains 30% or more recycled plastic content then the tax will not apply. We would need to confirm this with you on an item-by-item level prior to the tax becoming enforceable.
Will we need to register for the tax?
You must register for Plastic Packaging Tax if you import or produce 10 or more tonnes of plastic packaging over a 12-month period, even if all the packaging you produce, or import contains 30% or more recycled plastic.
The tax comes into effect on 1 April 2022 and you must tell HMRC you are liable to register by 30 April 2022. We expect more information about how to do this to be provided later in the year. You must include all plastic packaging manufactured or imported, including packaging:
• used in the immediate packaging of a medicinal product
• components that are permanently designated or set aside for use other than a packaging use
• containing 30% or more recycled plastic content when calculating whether you manufacture or import 10 or more tonnes of plastic packaging
Where can I find out more information on the Plastic Tax?
You can check for updates and more information on the Government website on the following link:
Alternatively, if you have any queries about the content of this guidance you can email the following team; firstname.lastname@example.org.
£3m-plus press investment
Roberts Mart has invested more than £3m in a new 10-colour Allstein press to boost its flexo firepower.
The Yorkshire-based printed flexible packaging specialist will take delivery of the press at its facility on the outskirts of Leeds next weekend, and it will be in production by late June.
The company said the machine, a replacement for an existing press, will bring added internal efficiencies and quicker changeover times and will support the business to achieve growth of 25% in its targeted sectors, such as FMCG, by helping brands get their goods to market even more quickly than before.
The press is the second machine that Roberts Mart has bought from German supplier Allstein, and the seventh press it has installed since 2004, when it moved to a single-site operation.
The new machine will handle a wide variety of materials including paper, polythene, polyester, and polyethylene, according to Roberts Mart managing director William Roberts.
He said: “We have a great relationship with Allstein, who give us superb back-up support and service. The press is easy to operate and will provide us with even quicker processing of different materials.
“This is all part of our ambitious growth plan put in place back in 2004, since which the company has broken into multiple new markets resulting in a trebling of the headcount at the site. We are now producing packaging that can be found in every aisle in every supermarket in the UK.
He added: “Roberts Mart’s spectacular growth and success is definitely down to our independence, which means we have the ability to react quickly to changing markets. Plus, the fact that we refuse to compromise on buying the best-of-range machinery and coupled with employing some of the most experienced flexible packaging professionals in the industry.”
Further investment in plant is also in the pipeline at Roberts Mart, which has planning permission in place to expand its facility by building a 5,110sqm extension, a project which has been earmarked for late 2021.
Supreme Award winners at FlexoTech 2019 Awards
We were delighted to be awarded not only Gold winners in two individual categories at the 2019 FlexoTech Print Awards but also the recipients of the Supreme Award for our recently printed “Fruit Bowl Moreish Mango” design. In winning these three awards the judges said:
‘We are very happy to see that this humble four colour reproduction achieved the highest overall score. This is how flexo is able to confirm its position as the benchmark for packaging printing.‘
Competing against our industry peers from across Europe we were naturally thrilled to be recognised for our outstanding strides in flexo development.
South America Calls For Eco-Friendly Roberts Mart
The Leeds-based Roberts Mart and Co, one of the UK’s leading independent manufacturers and suppliers of flexible packaging, has created an award-winning compostable barrier sachet for coffee capsules.
The eco-friendly product, developed in conjunction with German bio-plastics manufacturer BASF, has already attracted serious inquiries from South America. .
The launch of the new sachet comes in the wake of a tremendously successful 12 months for Roberts Mart with a booming order book and turnover set to reach a record-breaking £36 million by the end of the year.
The sachet won the Product Innovation prize at the prestigious Sinal Exhibition in France. The tenth edition of this international exhibition was dedicated to agro-resources in the bio-economy and featured non-food applications.
Simon Roberts, Commercial Director at Roberts Mart, commented: “We are absolutely delighted with the reaction to our new sachet. Not only has it won an award at an internationally-renowned exhibition, reflecting our commitment to creating chemistry for a sustainable future, but it is also attracting serious interest in Europe and South America.
“We are currently in discussions with a Chilean company and are hopeful of breaking into the flourishing South American coffee packaging market.”
He explained: “We worked closely with BASF to develop a bag made from a multi-layer film that provides oxygen, aroma, and moisture barrier, and – crucially – is compostable.
“This innovative sachet preserves the coffee aroma contained in the coffee capsules and reduces waste by prolonging the shelf life of the coffee capsules. As such, it was a complete solution containing bio-sourced and compostable capsules, thereby reducing waste and the carbon footprint.
“This is the first in a range of new compostable structures that we are developing and we are excited about working with BASF to deliver sustainable packaging solutions, fulfilling our main objectives of providing innovative solutions by combining competitiveness, social responsibility and respect for the environment,” said Mr Roberts.
FTA 2018 Excellence in Flexography Awards Wide Web Winners
Great printers don’t just get the job done, they focus on building a reputation in the industry based on print quality and colour consistency. That’s why they have been trusting in FTA’s Excellence in Flexography Awards—the industry’s longest running and most prestigious annual print competition—to assist in gaining the accolades and recognition they deserve.
Competitors from around the world handpick and submit their finest work to be evaluated by a panel of judges, comprised of industry members who have exacting standards and an eye for detail. Of the hundreds of entries submitted, a small subset are deemed worthy of an award—either bronze, silver or gold, and from those awarded gold, a handful are named best of show.
Roberts Mart were successful in receiving a gold award in the WIDE WEB, SCREEN, UNCOATED PAPER category for our design “Cafe Liegeois Mano Mano Puissant/Discret/Subtil Coffee Capsules Bags”
This new award sits proudly amongst many others revived in the past few years for our outstanding development in taking flexo print to the next level using our SpectRM technology.
New ten colour press being installed April 2018
Keep your eyes on this space for more developments…
Eight more awards from the EFIA 2018 Print Awards
We were delighted to receive a staggering eight awards including three Golds and the Bronze for Best In Show at the recent EFIA Print Awards ceremony held in Birmingham.
The haul included the following awards:
- Flexo Reverse print on film wide width GOLD
- Flexo Surface on paper wide width GOLD
- Flexo Surface print on film medium width, GOLD
- Good Manufacturing Practice SILVER
- Flexo Reverse print on film wide width BRONZE
- Best in Show BRONZE
- Technical Innovation BRONZE
- Use of Flexo for brands BRONZE
Scrumptious award seals golden year for Roberts Mart
Roberts Mart & Co Ltd is celebrating more success after clinching two Gold awards for its design skills at the 2016 FlexoTech International Print and Innovations Awards held at the London Hilton Metropole in October.
This latest recognition for Roberts Mart’s flexible printing and packaging expertise follows hard on the heels of the company’s double earlier in the year at the European Flexographic Industry Association (EFIA) Awards, where it also picked up two Gold awards, for Technical Innovation and Best Use of Flexo for Brands.
At the EFIA awards, Roberts Mart’s innovative design for Milky Way Hot Chocolate took both the accolades, while the winning job in the FlexoTech event was for the Scrumptious Crunchy Oat Granola design, which won Gold in categories for Flexible Packaging (Wide) and Flexo Job Previously Printed by another Process.
The FlexoTech judges commented on the solid colour of the Roberts Mart entry, which was “carried out perfectly and contrasted well with the high quality of the illustrations”, and the comparison with the previous printing by gravure, saying “this job highlighted the strength of colour and ability to print very fine screens that the flexo process now achieves”.
Winning awards is nothing new to one of the UK powerhouses of the flexible printing and packaging industry. It has gone from strength to strength and 2016 had already seen a multi-million pound investment in equipment and personnel at the company’s Leeds-based production facility to meet the growing demand for its high performance packaging films.
Roberts Mart’s Print Technical Manager, Tony Rymer, said: “We are delighted to win two Gold awards for Simply Scrumptious Crunchy Oat Granola. We sent in the design accompanied by the gravure sample from the supermarket – in our opinion ours was superior. Following the achievement at the EFIA Awards, 2016 has been a very good year for Roberts Mart.”
Two Gold Awards at 2016 EFIA Print Awards Ceremony!
A leading UK supplier of printed flexible packaging enjoyed huge success during the latest EFIA Awards in recognition of their work for global confectionary brand, Mars. The success comes as a result of a significant innovation in the flexographic print industry, making its commercial debut.
Leeds based Roberts Mart were awarded two Golds for ‘Use of Flexo for Brands’ and ‘Technical Innovation – Printer’ during an extremely successful event for one of Britain’s longest serving print companies, who swept both categories with their reproduction of Mars’ Milky Way Hot Chocolate design.
Heralded as “a flawless, fixed palette 4 colour job with amazing colour vibrancy” in the judges’ comments, the plaudits were courtesy of a newly developed pre-press innovation, implemented by Roberts Mart for the first time. The innovation, named ‘SpectRM’, enabled Roberts Mart to deliver a print result that matched the stringent expectations of a brand such as Mars.
Roberts Mart Commercial Director, Simon Roberts, explains:
“We have been producing a range of products for Mars for a number of years and were challenged with the task of taking our flexo print to another level; a level that matched gravure.
“Having worked on the development and commercialisation of ‘SpectRM’, it seemed to me to be the obvious choice to utilise this technology and meet this challenge.”
New managerial appointments following multi-million pound investment
A trio of managerial appointments are among 16 new jobs created by Roberts Mart & Co Ltd as a result of its multi-million pound investment at the company’s Leeds-based production facility to meet the growing demand from all industry sectors for its high performance packaging films.
Production Manager Mark Sarjantson, Assistant Technical Manager Jince Joy and Quality Manager Paul Melia all join the successful family-run firm, which also announced promotions for John Ambler, moving from Process Engineer Manager to Extrusion Production Manager and Tony Rymer, who takes on the role of Print Technical Manager after seven years as Shift Manager.
The addition of three highly experienced leaders to its managerial team at Aire Valley House will help drive the development across both the company’s sites in Leeds to meet the future strategic needs of one of the UK powerhouses of the flexible printing and packaging industry.
Mark Sarjantson, who has a proven track record in productivity improvements at his previous employers, said: “With the high level of investment and an improvement culture using lean manufacturing techniques, the future holds many opportunities for Roberts Mart.”
Sustaining Roberts Mart’s success in providing high value and quality products to many of the top UK brands is part of Jince Joy’s brief. He has a wealth of experience in the flexible packaging field, including a stint in the Middle East, and has been tasked with incorporating new technologies and driving innovation at all levels.
Completing the trio of new appointments is Paul Melia, who is responsible for maintaining the Quality Management System, including ISO9001 and BRC Standards. He will be focused on ensuring continuous improvement across all areas of the business.
Roberts Mart’s Managing Director, William Roberts, said: “The company is growing rapidly. These new appointments and the changes to our managerial team will drive the business forward and help it remain at the forefront of the flexible packaging industry.”
The business’s £2million investment in new equipment includes the BOBST 20SIX Flexo Eight Colour Printing Press – the latest in printing technology for the flexible packaging industry – a Nordmeccanica Super Simplex Laminator and Proslit Slitter Rewinder. This latest increase in capital expenditure takes Roberts Mart’s overall investment to just over £17.5m over the last 10 years.
New investments in 2015
Roberts Mart & Co Ltd has invested £2million in new equipment, leading to the creation of 16 new jobs, at the company’s Leeds-based production facility to meet the growing demand from all industry sectors for its high performance packaging films.
The multi-million pound investment package in its Aire Valley factory represents another boost by Roberts Mart for employment in the area. The successful family-run firm has purchased the BOBST 20SIX eight colour printing press – the latest in printing technology for the flexible packaging industry – a Nordmeccanica Super Simplex Laminator and Proslit Slitter Rewinder.
One of the UK powerhouses of the flexible printing and packaging industry, the business currently employs around 170 people across both its sites in Leeds. Once fully implemented the latest investment is expected to increase the workforce to 190.
Roberts Mart’s Sales Director, Ben Roberts, said: “It has been a busy year for the company. This significant investment in new equipment is possible because we have a healthy order book – with a good number of new orders coming through the pipeline as well. We are seeing growth across the board, particularly food where we are seeing much more opportunity in snacks and confectionery.
“Normally you would spread capital expenditure out over a period of time but the amount of new business we are winning dictates that this time it has been made all at once. The slitter is in place already, while the laminator and printing press are coming in during August.”
Central to the business’s latest investment is the new BOBST 20SIX Flexo Printing Press. Chosen by Roberts Mart for its print quality, ease of use and versatility, the Press can be used to accommodate print jobs for a variety of industry sectors, including food, beverages, pet food, supermarket own brand, bottled waters and textiles.
Capable of delivering the highest quality printing on any flexible packaging substrate, this addition to Roberts Mart’s equipment portfolio enables it to boost capacity, providing further benefits for its growing customer base.
This latest increase in capital expenditure takes Roberts Mart’s overall investment to just over £17.5m over the last 10 years, as the company has exploited new markets, whilst remaining at the forefront of the flexible packaging industry.
Outstanding achievement award for our Chairman, John Roberts
John Roberts, the Chairman of Roberts Mart & Co Ltd, has been given an Outstanding Contribution award by the British Printing Industries Federation (BPIF). The much coveted industry award is given to just one individual, normally each year who have been deemed by the BPIF panel of judges, to have been of exceptionally high calibre.
Presentation of the prestigious award took place at the All Party Parliamentary Print Group Reception at the House of Lords. The event was also attended by members of Mr Roberts’ family including his two sons and co-directors William and Ben, who are sixth generation of the Roberts family to run the Leeds-based firm.
BPIF President Gerald White, who presented the award, paid tribute to Mr Roberts, contribution to the industry. He said: “John has devoted his life to print packaging and has been for most of his life at the forefront of developments within the industry during which time, Roberts Mart has evolved from paper based printing to a market leader in high performance packaging films.”
Mr Roberts, who last year celebrated 50 years of service with Roberts Mart, told the VIP audience: “I am delighted but also humbled to have been nominated for this achievement. However, I would like to say that this is very much a family award because if I hadn’t had the support of my wife and family in keeping me going during the ups and downs of the trading cycle, I may have been tempted to retire many years ago.”
The BPIF is the principal business support organisation representing the UK print, printed packaging and graphic communication industry and is one of the country’s leading trade associations, working hard across the sector to ensure its members continue to develop.
John Roberts, who studied at Leeds College of Printing and Technology in the early 1960s, joined Roberts Mart in 1964. He subsequently took over management of the firm from his father Peter in 1974 before handing over the day-to-day management in 2009 to his two sons.
Of particular note is Mr Roberts handling of a major upheaval around 11 years ago when Roberts Mart uprooted from its landmark site of 113 years at Bank Mills on the Leeds waterfront to a new state-of-the-art production facility on the outskirts of Leeds at Thornes Farm Way.
Despite enormous challenges, Mr Roberts stood by his decision to modernise the company and with his depth of experience helped guide Roberts Mart through a challenging period to successfully turn the business, with the support of his family and fellow directors, into its current position as one of the UK powerhouses of the flexible printing and packaging industry.
Multi Million Pound Investment
Roberts Mart & Co Ltd, the UK’s leading independent manufacturer of flexible packaging, has just invested a further £2.5m in new plant machinery to boost production capacity at its two facilities in Leeds.
With the company’s order books growing, this significant investment is expected to have a substantial spin off in jobs with the creation of a potential 25 new posts planned for 2013 to cope with increased production requirements, following the purchase of a state-of-the-art printing press and laminator for its Aire Valley factory, as well as an extruder for its sister business, Romar Packaging, based at Newmarket Lane on the outskirts of the city.
Central to the family-run business’s investment is the new F&K 20SIX Central Impression Flexo Printing Press. Chosen by Roberts Mart for its print quality, ease of use and versatility, the Press is the latest in printing technology for the flexible packaging industry and can be used to accommodate a wide variety of print jobs.
It already supplies specialised, high performance films to a variety of industry sectors, including food, beverages, pet food, supermarket own brand, bottled waters and textiles.
Capable of delivering the highest quality printing on any flexible packaging substrate, this addition to Roberts Mart’s equipment portfolio enables it to break into new market areas, with the company set to boost production by 30 million linear meters a year, providing a significant return on its original investment.
Meanwhile, an increase in capacity will also follow at Romar following the installation of the new three-layer co-extrusion line, which will boost the subsidiary’s production of coextruded low density blown polythene film by 1600 tonnes per year.
The latest increase in capital expenditure takes Roberts Mart’s overall investment to just over £15.5m over the last eight years, bucking the general economic difficulties affecting other UK manufacturing sectors by expanding into new markets, whilst remaining at the forefront of the flexible packaging industry.
Underpinning this success story is the family atmosphere on the shop floor. Not only is Roberts Mart family-owned, but it has attracted several generations of employees’ family members creating a resolute and loyal workforce over the years that has helped the company prosper through thick and thin times.
During the last year Roberts Mart has taken on 16 new staff and currently has a total workforce of 147 at its two Leeds sites, however, operating the new equipment will require more workers and the company will be looking to recruit again in 2013, including press and lamination operators and warehouse personnel.
Sales director, Ben Roberts, said: “This significant new outlay we are making on capital equipment underlines our confidence in developing our existing and new markets. To meet the challenges ahead we are committed to building a team with a diverse range of skill sets. Although Roberts Mart is extremely family oriented, we always welcome new recruits selected by merit to join the company and become a part of our extended family.”
Roberts Mart was founded by William Roberts in 1852 and from producing paper bags it now develops the latest range of specialised, high performance films to meet the growing demand from a variety of industry sectors, including food, bottled waters and textiles.
There has always been a Roberts at the helm since it was established 160 years ago, and the present joint managing directors are father and son duo, John and William Roberts.
It’s all in the Family
Roberts Mart & Co Ltd is celebrating 160 years in business and puts the secret of its success down to family, not just because it’s a family-run business, but the company’s ability to attract several generations of employees’ families to the workforce as well.
Since its humble beginnings as a paper merchant, the Yorkshire company has survived World Wars, a General Strike and several recessions to become one of the UK powerhouses of the flexible printing and packaging industry.
William Roberts founded the business in 1852 and from basically making paper bags it now develops the latest range of specialised, high performance films to meet growing demand from a variety of industry sectors, including food, bottled waters, textiles and household items.
To help expansion into new markets, Roberts Mart has spent almost £13million over the last eight years alone on its state-of-the-art manufacturing site on the outskirts of Leeds. The company is now planning to announce a further £2million investment in new plant machinery and potentially additional staff.
But another factor in the firm’s longevity is the family nature of the business from the boardroom through to the shop floor. There has always been a Roberts at the helm since it was established 160 years ago, and the present joint managing directors are father and son duo, John and William Roberts.
But family connections at Roberts Mart do not stop with the company owners. Over the years sons, daughters and wives have all joined their husbands and fathers as employees at its site on Thornes Farm Way, and subsidiary company Romar Packaging, a specialist packaging film converting business based at Newmarket Lane on the edge of the city.
The Wintersgills are one of seven families that currently have more than one employee at the firm, ranging from Production Managers to the office cleaner, with some of them having been with Roberts Mart for several decades.
Print supervisor Alan Wintersgill received a long service award after completing more than 40 years at Roberts Mart – his son Lee is also employed at the company as a printer – and he thinks the family atmosphere on the shop floor inspires loyalty from its staff.
He said: “Whoever you are, whatever your role, people matter at Roberts Mart and that does make for a dedicated workforce who will rally round when the going gets tough. I should know having survived four recessions.”
Other long-term staff include Printer Gary Foster, who has been with the firm for almost 35 years and whose son Lee joined in 1997, Production Manager Bob Hadfield (28 years, son Mark is an Assistant Production Manager with 21 years service), whilst there are two members of Warehouse Manager Andy McGoldrick’s family at the company, his wife Gillian and son Callum.
Roberts Mart chairman John Roberts, who handed over the day-to-day running of the firm to his two sons William and Ben in 2009 after 45 years in control, believes the number of different family members employed by the company does bring advantages.
He said: “It has not been a conscious thing to employ different family members over the years but we do seem to have been a bit of a magnet in attracting sons, daughters and wives. Perhaps they are more motivated to prove themselves and are very focused on our cause.”
However, Ben Roberts is keen to point out that a company is only as good as its workforce and there is no favouritism shown to family members when jobs become available.
He said: “Although Roberts Mart is an extremely family oriented business, we are committed to developing a team with a diverse range of skill sets and to this we always welcome new recruits selected by merit to join the company and become a part of our extended family.”
Roberts Mart employs 140 people across both its sites in Leeds and counts a number of household names among its customers. Generations of families have helped the company go from strength to strength to put Roberts Mart at the forefront of flexible packaging provision.
Print supervisor celebrates four decades of service
Long-service awards are getting scarcer in today’s workplace where longevity is more often measured in months but at Roberts Mart & Co. Ltd, a leading flexible packaging and printing business, an employee has just clocked up more than 40 years service.
Alan Wintersgill has been with Roberts Mart all his working life since walking through the doors of its Bank Mills factory in Leeds in 1970 as a nervous fresh-faced 16-year-old ready to start his first day as an apprentice.
Since then he has experienced several economic downturns and upturns, the three-day week, the effects of different political ‘isms’, modernisation, the computer age and the upheaval of moving from a traditional factory site to a spanking new state-of-art facility – and he says he wouldn’t have missed a minute of it!
Over four decades, through thick and thin, his life has been linked with the fortunes of Roberts Mart and he still shows tremendous enthusiasm, loyalty and respect for the company he joined straight from school.
“I was just a boy when I was taken on. In those days apprenticeships were still a popular route into work for kids leaving school at that age – I was one of a procession at Roberts Mart but I must admit never did I think all that time ago that I would still be here 40 years later,” he says.
Alan, who was rewarded with a watch after completing 25 years at Roberts Mart back in 1995, believes his early days learning on the job were the perfect launch pad for his career at the company.
“It’s a shame that apprenticeships fell out of fashion,” he says. “I suppose unions saw them as cheap labour, while companies baulked at the cost of training up young people only to risk their investment disappearing for a better-paid job elsewhere.
“I’m glad that today apprentices are making a comeback and at Roberts Mart we run two-year in-house apprenticeship courses. I think learning advocates can inspire loyalty and continuation.”
His mentor was chairman John Roberts, who last year celebrated 45 years at the company by handing over the day-to-day management to his two sons Ben and William – the sixth generation of the Roberts family to be in charge.
Alan thinks it is the “family atmosphere” encouraged by the company which inspires loyalty from its staff. He says: “Whoever you are, whatever your role people matter at Roberts Mart and that does make for a dedicated workforce who will rally around when the going does get tough – and I should know having survived four recessions!
“I also think it says a lot about John Roberts and the family. He has been brilliant. He has been the driving force at the company. He employed me as a junior and has encouraged me all the way through my career. I like to think of him as a friend as well as my boss.”
Alan is now Print Supervisor and the changes on the factory floor he has witnessed have left a lasting impression on the 56-year-old. “When I joined it was very labour intensive and physically demanding,” he says. “But new technology and health and safety legislation have changed the environment in the workplace.
“With any machinery you still have to be aware of what’s going on around you, but the technological advances that have taken place have been unbelievable and Roberts Mart has never been afraid to change with the times.
“Forty years ago we were basically making paper bags. Then In the late 70s the company were among the pioneers for printing on polythene and invested in a four-colour flexographic printer which was quite radical for the time. Next were six-colour printers, converting machines and slitter rewinders. Now we can print in 10 colours and can turn out around 500,000m of printed film a day.
“Customer expectations are also higher. Back in the old days the artwork was very basic but computers have changed all that and designs come in all sorts of formats. Clients want more attractive packaging so that it stands out on shelves but are also much more knowledgeable and have more input than they did before.”
A significant sea change came in 2004 when Roberts Mart uprooted from its landmark site of 76 years at Bank Mills on the Leeds waterfront, a place that still holds fond memories for Alan, to a new modern facility on the outskirts of the city at Thornes Farm Way.
“In the last six years the company has taken huge strides forward and invested where other companies haven’t. Recently we purchased a Fischer & Krecke 14S press which features ‘smartGPS’, a graphic positioning system with automatic registration – a far cry from the days of levers and gears!”
Alan has taken all the changes in his stride and he was delighted to be given a large framed print of the former site at Banks Mill by John Roberts at the presentation to mark his milestone.
Sales Director Ben Roberts and Chairman John Roberts led the tributes to Alan, saying: “He has been a real stalwart at Roberts Mart and his type is the backbone of any company. To complete 40 years service at one place is a remarkable achievement and we hope he will continue to play a part in our success for years to come.
“Innovation is at the heart of our business as is a continued investment programme which has resulted in one of the best, most modern equipped flexographic facilities in the UK. But ultimately we are only as good as the people we employ and Alan is testament to that.”
Roberts Mart has spent almost £13million over the last six years as part of an ongoing expansion programme to meet growing demand for its film printing and packaging services.
Established in 1852, Roberts Mart is a major player in the printed collation shrink sector and is continually developing specialised high performance films for a variety of sectors which deliver full operational characteristics, in terms of clarity, gloss and strength, whilst minimising gauge.
From its humble beginnings as a paper merchant, Roberts Mart is at the forefront of flexible printing and packaging, helped by loyal staff such as Alan Wintersgill who best summed up the company’s progress and his own part in it by saying: “It’s been a long road but it has gone very fast.”
Energy Efficiency Loans help Roberts Mart shrink its energy bills by £129,000.
Following expansion, Roberts Mart sold its main premises, a Victorian mill in central Leeds in 2004. As a result, it was able to develop a purpose built factory
to accommodate its expanding business.
Built on a tight budget, the new factory included light fittings which were cheap to install, but expensive to run and not very versatile. This became particularly obvious after the company moved from a seven-day to a five-day week.
“We found that when we switched the lights on after the weekend there were quite a few which didn’t work,” explains the Sales Director, Ben Roberts. “The original light fittings weren’t really designed to be switched on and off. We occasionally had power surges and power cuts in the factory which resulted in the lights turning themselves off, and when power was restored many of the lamps would not reignite. As they were all in the ceiling the only way we could change the bulbs was by hiring a cherry picker to get to them at great expense.They cost £40 each to replace, and there were over 100 fittings in the factory.”
The company was also in the process of installing a new eight-colour printing press. This gave it the opportunity to review the way in which it dries the inks on newly printed packaging. The existing gas burners were costing about £6,500 a month to operate. This made it an expensive solution which would also struggle to meet the increased requirements of the new press due to be installed. A Carbon Trust loan of £93,000 enabled Roberts Mart to improve the lighting, while a second loan of £195,000 allowed them to install a regenerative thermal oxidiser (RTO), which uses thermal oil to dry the packaging. All told, the
New Eight Colour Press
A new eight colour printing press has recently been installed from German manufacturer Fischer&Krecke.
The press is a 14S capable of speeds of over 400 metres a minute which is boosting capacity by approx. 30,000,000 linear metres a year. The press comes equipped with the smart GPS system and significantly reduces both setup times and waste. The press is positioned next to the ten colour F&K on the shop floor.