£9.5m technology investment will double facility's output
A Plymouth manufacturer's new £9.5 million steriliser unit will enable it to double production and create jobs.
Medical technology firm BD (Becton Dickinson and Company) began using the massive facility, which employs the latest robot technology, this week.
Bosses at the huge plant, in Roborough, said the investment makes it the first BD plant from 50 around the world to have two sterilisers.
And it is therefore a major vote of confidence in the factory and the city and will secure jobs in the plant's 720-strong workforce and create new posts too.
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It comes in a year in which the Plymouth factory has also seen £10 million injected into its safety needle production line.
Plymouth Moor View's Labour MP Alison Seabeck, who officially opened the Gamma Steriliser yesterday, said: "This is good for Plymouth and the UK. It highlights how important firms based in our city can be for the wider economy.
"It is evidence of the belief in what they produce here, and a huge pat on the back for the workforce."
The international BD empire opened its Plymouth plant in 1981, at a 27-acre site in the north of the city.
From the factory it manufactures a range of blood collection products and systems including BD Vacutainer tubes which draw samples of blood from a patient's arm.
A large proportion of the products are exported to Europe, America and Asia, where the firm is targeting emerging markets.
BD has had a steriliser unit, which ensures products are completely germ-free for use by medics, at the site since it opened and it is still functioning perfectly.
But it decided to build a second unit to double its already high-volume production.
The steriliser and production line investments were supported by a £2.2 million grant from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, with came with a job-creation proviso.
The firm then embarked on a two-year project to build the new steriliser.
This involved constructing an extension 15 metres high and sinking seven metres below ground level too.
Inside this is the steriliser unit, created by Canadian firm Nordion. Robots feed boxes of Vacutainer tubes in and out of the automated device, before they are loaded on trucks and shipped worldwide.
Mike Syrett, production manager, said: "This will enable us to double the output here in Plymouth because there is year-on-year growth in demand.
"This kind of investment is not short-term – it's for our long-term future and part of an on-going programme.
"It's about supporting our year-on-year growth, and along with that there are opportunities for further job creation, as well as safeguarding jobs already here.
"It allows us to stay leading edge and competitive, which is also important for UK manufacturing.
"And it comes on top of our normal, annual investment programme, which is not insignificant."
Shaun Curtis, director of manufacturing, said: "This shows our confidence in Plymouth to put this capability here and secure jobs."