Friday, April 12, 2024

Macpac: 50 years old and growing stronger every day…

From a small-scale humble start-up manufacturer in 1973, Macpac has grown to be the innovative and successful thermoforming packaging company it is today – and one of the UK’s largest privately-owned manufacturers in its sector.

2023 sees Macpac celebrating its milestone anniversary of 50 years, and we could not be prouder or more excited to celebrate all that Macpac has accomplished during this time in partnership with employees, clients, and industry partners.

This half a century of conceiving, designing, and manufacturing packaging is no small feat, particularly when taking into consideration how we have had to evolve with such turbulent times and demands, driven inexorably by climate change and environmental concerns, fuelled by a powerful and growing environmental lobby.

This major achievement is the result of the combined efforts and hard work of every individual within Macpac and is more remarkable for a privately-owned manufacturer to not only survive but thrive within a packaging sector that is notorious for its short-stay players, where there are numerous acquisitions, take-overs, and mergers.

Through two generations from father to son, Macpac has consistently delivered excellent customer service and provided packaging in a timely and cost-effective manner during a time that has seen a tumultuous evolution in packaging design and advances in materials technology. Testimony to this success is the number of customers that have remained loyal to the company over several decades.

The early days…

In 1973 the company was founded by Chris Kershaw, father of the current owner and Managing Director, Graham Kershaw. The company was born out of the demand to produce packaging for Dinky Toys and Meccano and operated on the first floor of an old printing mill. With the invention of ‘thermoforming’, growth was rapid and in the 1970’s the business re-located to Macclesfield, out of which the name ‘Macpac’ was born.


The business continued to expand throughout the 1980’s, with a further move to Bredbury in Stockport due to outgrowing the Macclesfield site. In 1990 Macpac gained the ISO9001 accreditation for the development processes put in place for tooling development.

A low point in Macpac history came in 1996 when a devastating fire at the Bredbury factory prompted the move to the current address on the Heaton Mersey Industrial Estate in Stockport. Occupying just a single industrial unit with a modest 4 thermoforming machines on site, Macpac continued to operate and grow.

Keeping it in the family…

In 1997 Chris Kershaw’s son, Graham, returned to the family business after graduating from university and working overseas for 10 years on robot control systems. It is this interest in manufacturing processes & his commitment to the environment that would be a guiding factor in the direction that Macpac would follow in the years ahead, influencing the green credentials of the company’s packaging designs and choice of materials.

By 1998 Macpac realised that to achieve increased productivity it had to modernise its processes, therefore introducing Computerised Numerical Control machines (CNC’s) into its toolroom. This departure from traditional cast aluminium toolmaking provided highly accurate CAD/CAM machining and gave a distinctive competitive edge whilst speeding up the whole process. Over the following years Macpac would continue to invest heavily in supporting the tooling manufacture process which in turn plays an important part in feeding the thermoforming machines.

The next generation…

In 2000 Chris Kershaw decided to take a step back from the business and Graham became the new Managing Director of Macpac. This was to be a turning point in Macpac’s history – with an injection of new investment and forward-thinking ideas, to grow what was already a well-established business, into the force it has become today.

RPET takes centre stage…

In 2003, there was a stampede to move from PVC due to recycling issues and heightened concerns for the environment. Macpac was to be a forerunner in the application of its preferred replacement – Recycled PET (R-PET) – promoting the uptake and use of the material across a wide range of key markets. In 2005 Macpac entered the medical/pharmaceutical sector, naturally using R-PET as the choice of material in its design of the very first thermoformed dosage pill tray, which was to revolutionise the administration of tablets to millions of patients. R-PET has now become the most widely used of all thermoforming materials and by 2023 makes up over 90% of the material Macpac processes through its factory.

The scalable process

By 2008 and following sizable investment in new thermoforming equipment, Macpac had doubled the size of its factory with the acquisition of adjoining units, with later expansions to the site for larger raw materials and finished goods warehousing. In 2010 and a further investment of £750,000 in new machinery and staff, the company achieved BRC/IOP accreditation which it has proudly held ever since.

2011 saw Macpac make a big step forward with the acquisition of Hamilton Packaging. This purchase expanded Macpac’s customer portfolio and introduced Macpac to new markets they had not been involved with previously.

Working with German machine manufacturers Illig, Macpac, always being innovative and looking to improve efficiencies, helped develop a new rewind system for their machines. 2013 saw Macpac install the first Illig 74 down-stacking machine ever made incorporating this new design – this new machine allowed for a reduction of tooling costs without compromising on production efficiencies.

Innovation at our core…

Innovation is at the centre of Macpac’s ethos; this is evident with a plethora of awards gained over the past few years:

Macpac saw double in the year 2000 – winning both the prestigious Starpack ‘Gold Award’ for its packaging design to house a Carbon Monoxide detector, and with a ‘Bronze Award’ for technical innovation.

In 2014 Macpac won another Starpack Award – this time ‘Silver’, for a patented clam pack design called ‘Surecel’ which offered a range of high security, tamper-evident clam packs, without the requirement for specialist machines to close the packs, nor scissors to open them.

During 2015 Macpac received a Starpack ‘Bronze Award’ for ‘Snap In’, another patented solution. This clever design offered the opportunity to lock a thermoformed part to another substrate, such as board or acetate sleeve, and was perfectly conveyed when used for the popular Orchid retail market in Tesco.

A year later Macpac was awarded ‘Best Innovation Award’ at the 2016 Gro South Horticultural show for its Large Letter Pack design enabling plants to be sent through the post at the Royal Mail’s Large Letter rate.

In 2020 Macpac won the ‘Special Award for Covid 19 Response’ at the Railway Industry Awards. This was for the design and manufacture of special, thermoformed visors that could be uniquely fitted over hard hats and were produced in record time for the Network Rail workforce to use during the height of the Covid outbreak. The designing, prototyping, manufacturing of tooling and then forming of the visors took place over the Easter Holiday weekend, during a challenging time for all, whilst adapting and coming to terms with new working rules brought about by the pandemic.

Never standing still, Macpac added a further string to their bow in 2022 by installing the very first down-stacking machine with punch and die capabilities in the UK, giving Macpac even more manufacturing options to better service customers’ demands.

A major attraction of Macpac is the company’s personal attention to detail, working with customers to ensure they understand the initial brief and meet their customer’s needs relating to bespoke design, budget, and sustainability. From initial concept to finished design and manufacturing of tooling all under one roof, Macpac has the flexibility to manufacture from as little as 1000 units up to many millions, covering all sectors of industries, each with their own nuanced specifications. Whether dealing with food projects requiring a fast turnaround to meet tight in-store launch dates, wax melt projects with quirky designs, or highly technical, long-term pharmaceutical projects, Macpac has the knowledge and experience, reflected in their solid growth as a second-generation family business.

In 2023 Macpac is 50 years young and counting – with passion and family values at the core, celebrating half a century of proven dedication in design and manufacture, we are very much looking forward to what exciting new challenges lie ahead…

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