Leeds business switches from branding to making PPE

A Leeds print business has boosted its production of PPE and delivered almost 3,000 visors to care home and hospice staff.

Imageco designs and produces large-format branding for retail giants but, since the onset of the coronavirus crisis, it has diversified its production facility to manufacture protective visors.

The firm was forced to halt print production when orders from its global retail and events industry client base were cancelled in March.

The company has upped the manufacture of the PPE to up to 400 visors a day. The adjustable visors are being dispatched to frontline staff at hospitals, care homes and hospices in Yorkshire and across the UK.

Furloughing 25 of Imageco’s 30-strong workforce, MD Nathan Swinson-Bullough was keen to put the company’s production facilities in central Leeds to good use, relying on the help of colleagues and volunteers to switch the firm’s high-tech equipment and design expertise to making the protective face visors that have been in in short supply for frontline staff dealing with the coronavirus crisis.

“As a team we’re all about bringing creative ideas to life and clients know us for our innovative approach, so I was convinced we would be able to come up with a way we could help,” he said. “When we started out on this initiative though I didn’t realise how big it would become.”

After Imageco operations manager Edward Hillam came up with a cutter to use, Mr Swinson-Bullough  used clear PVC and plastic fixings which the firm already had in stock to trial making the protective face masks.

“Producing the adjustable visors turned out to be relatively straightforward and we were able to give the first 160 we made to the neurology team at Leeds General Infirmary,” he explained.

Individual donations soon began to arrive and Mr Swinson-Bullough had the idea to set up a Just Giving page to raise money and boost production.

Within three days £1,000 had been raised, at which point the print trade organisation FESPA UK Association, whose head office is in Barnsley, also offered their assistance to contact local hospices and care homes to see if they required visors.

Mr Swinson-Bullough added: “The support of Suzi and Carol at FESPA UK has been incredible and we have formed a great team.

“We are staggered at how it has all snowballed. People’s generosity, whether donating money or giving their own time, has been incredible. As well as FESPA UK, our own staff and their friends and families, the South Yorkshire Police are also on board with this now, which has helped to spread the word and also to deliver to some of the places that need the visors.”

Mr Swinson-Bullough and the team have raised £4,000 and produced 2,900 visors so far, including buying a set of special visors designed for children’s hospices with a colourful rainbow motif.

The equipment has been delivered to care teams across the UK, including in Rotherham, Leeds, Sheffield and Glasgow. The business is also working on other covid-19 related projects, including producing a range of sustainable hand sanitation stations and social distancing floor signage for commercial clients.