Posted on 3 Feb 2010 by The Manufacturer

From its creation 37 years ago to its current status as a worldwide conglomerate, The Quinn Group has had a meteoric rise to success. You only have to look at the diverse nature of the group to understand their secret to success – innovation.

From humble beginnings in 1973, when Sean Quinn began extracting gravel from the family farm in Derrylin, Co Fermanagh, to sell to local farmers, the entrepreneur had foresight. “I suppose what we have always tried to do was to innovate and look at where we are going…..I was always looking for new opportunities…” he says in a rare speech back in 2007.

This philosophy from the chairman of Quinn Group has been instilled in the ever expanding company and coupled with investments in both people and technology, has made Quinn Group one of Ireland’s most successful companies.

With divisions dotted all over the world, ranging from building products, insurance, hotels, packaging and property, the companies activities are far reaching both in terms of diversity and geography.

The manufacturing arm of the Group, including Quinn Glass and Quinn Packaging, perhaps best demonstrates the company’s ability to recognise gaps in the market and address them.

The Quinn Glass plant at Elton, Cheshire is unique in global terms and undoubtedly one of the most modern and efficient container glass and filling operations in the world. The factory, situated between Chester and Ellesmere Port, employs 700 people and state of the art facilities making the factory not only a green leader but also places it at the forefront of automated technology.

The mix of computerised processes and experienced skilled staff ensures perfect results time and time again and the £300 million plant produces more than 1.4 billion bottles a year, making it one of the biggest glass plants in the world.

Manifestations of innovation are omnipresent throughout this enormous 205 acre site. All 13 lines are fitted with Emhart forming equipment, and with coloured forehearth technology, as well as product decoration on site, the company are able to readily adapt to changing customer demands.

An electrostatic precipitator (EP) and Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) ensure that the emissions of Sulphur, Nitrogen and particulate are the lowest in the sector and established a new Best Available Technique (BAT), which ensures the plant, is running to the highest of environmental standards. In fact, recycling and green issues are key to the operations. Quinn uses recycled glass (called cullet) to produce new bottles, which is melted and combined with limestone, sand and soda ash – the main ingredients of glass – at 1600C.

Inspection equipment examines bottles after they are cooled, rejecting those with even the most minute defects, which are then reprocessed back through the system. Not a single gramme of glass is wasted.

The plant also houses one of the largest automated warehouses in Europe holding more than 282,000 pallets, all individually racked. Packaging integrity is maintained as pallets are not stacked on top of one another as would be the case in conventional warehouses. The high bay warehouse provides sequential pallet deliveries and is compliant to full track and trace legislation. Computerised cranes travel down narrow lanes at 4 metres per second between rows of pallets, which are stacked to 35m high. The warehouse covers 13 acres and if the 282,000 pallets were stored in a traditional warehouse the space required would be 60 acres.

Quinn Glass, Elton is one of only a handful of plants worldwide, and the only one in the UK, that manufactures and fills glass bottles at the same site cutting down on transportation costs and making the factory the greenest solution possible for manufacture of glass, filling and distribution to UK markets. The filling hall is as big as five football pitches and is also filled with Automated Guided Vehicles. Five filling lines supply Beers, Ciders, Soft drinks and Wines.

Quinn Glass is not a typical glass container manufacturer.

The investment in technology and people is evident throughout the plant as is the innovation ethos. The addition of a filling hall and bonded warehouse means customers benefit from considerable cost savings throughout the supply chain because containers can now be made, filled, stored and distributed at one purpose-built site.

Quinn Packaging has been a leading producer of both rigid and flexible plastics for food packaging in the UK and Ireland for over 20 years. Recent investment in a brand new 200,000 sq ft production facility at Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, Ireland has seen the company going from strength to strength. With more than 20 production lines and a dedicated workforce producing an extensive product range, this division of the Quinn Group is another prime example the company’s cutting edge technology and ability to identify market chasms.

With products that include thin gauge sheet, diary spread containers, meat & poultry trays, blown film, strapping and agri stretch wrap, Quinn Packaging is pushing boundaries and challenging industry norms. This new state of the art facility is a one-stop-shop beginning with the extrusion of sheet through to the thermoforming of the containers and finally to the decoration of the products. It is through quality and on time deliveries that peace of mind is provided to the Customer whilst saving them time and money.

Product options include both industry standard and bespoke designed shapes, sizes and depths. These are manufactured from a wide range of raw materials. Methods of decoration include printing, injection moulded in-mould-labelling, shrink sleeving or applied adhesive label, all of which provide striking, high quality products when displayed on the retail shelf.

The company, together with carefully selected partners, is constantly innovating manufacturing techniques. By pushing boundaries and challenging industry norms, Quinn Packaging is at the leading edge of innovation and has introduced a number of new manufacturing techniques to make products faster, stronger and lighter.

Having built a new facility to the latest exacting standards, Quinn Packaging has invested in renewable technologies for the extrusion of post consumer recyclate into food approved sheet that is subsequently processed into new food packaging products. This “Green” focus is also reflected in ongoing projects such as “light-weighting”. These projects are designed to reduce packaging waste entering in the marketplace in the first place. For example in all food tray products, Quinn Packaging use approved recycling technologies that allows the use of more than 50% post consumer waste in shallow and deep drawn products to allow packing of a range of food products.

Innovation or “Quinnovation” resonates not just in the Glass and Packaging plants but throughout the entire Quinn Group. The entrepreneurial skills of its founder and chairperson, Sean Quinn, has infiltrated to every aspect of the company, and in such tough economic times as these it is certainly standing to the companies credit as the business continues to grow and diversify.