A KEIGHLEY-based firm has invested over £2 million and created 100 new jobs to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline NHS staff and social care workers.

PFF Group has installed custom-built machines and taken-on the extra employees after being awarded a contract by the Department for Health and Social Care to manufacture 360 million disposable polythene aprons.

The company – which is also maintaining its more-normal role of producing food packaging – collaborated with British machine manufacturer Hanbury-Autogil to design and commission two specialist pieces of equipment.

Kenton Robbins, managing director of PFF Group, said: “Demand for personal protective equipment has soared globally, with 210 million plastic aprons needed every week in the NHS alone.

“In just six months, in the midst of a pandemic and while continuing to support the UK’s food retail sector through the production and supply of packaging, we worked in collaboration with the Hanbury-Autogil experts to set-up a new capability and capacity to manufacture disposable aprons.

“We have been able to design and build two innovative, all-British machines that are the fastest and most reliable in the world, enabling us to significantly increase production.

“We’re delighted to be able to use our specialist sector knowledge and in-house expertise to ensure the UK’s need for PPE can be met during and beyond the pandemic, as well as creating job opportunities across our sites in the current challenging climate.”

In addition to its base in Royd Ings Avenue, the company also has a manufacturing facility at Washington, Tyne and Wear.

The permanent workforce across both sites totals more than 220.

Robert Hanbury, managing director of Hanbury-Autogil, said he was “very proud” to be part of the project.

He added: “PFF approached us with a challenge – the business was seeking apron manufacturing machines that had a quicker output than the industry standard versions.

“Our team showed an incredible work ethic that led to the design of a machine that is clearly the fastest in the world at what it does.

“We look forward to collaborating with PFF on future projects.”

PFF Group is also investing in four machines from Europe to fold the polythene before it is fed into the apron manufacturing machine.

During the pandemic, the Government has expanded the UK’s personal protective equipment supply chain from 226 NHS trusts in England to over 58,000 different settings, including care homes, hospices and community care organisations. More than 3.5 billion PPE items for use by health and social care services in England have now been distributed.