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Case Study

Ansell Ltd (formerly Microgard Ltd)

Ansell is a world leader in providing superior health and safety protection solutions that enhance human well-being, with an annual turnover of $1.6bn and customers in more than 100 countries. The World’s need for better protection never stops, so Ansell is constantly researching, developing and investing to manufacture and distribute cutting edge product innovation and technology, marketed under well-known brands that customers trust. Operating in two main business segments, Industrial and Healthcare, Ansell continues to grow, employing over 12,000 people worldwide, in North America, Latin America/Caribbean, EMEA and Asia Pacific.

For more information visit www.ansell.com

Challenge

Microgard were finding discrepancies between chemical permeation test results from different test houses, despite the testing being performed to the same harmonised standards. Already a costly and time consuming process, a change in regulatory requirements led to a significant cost increase for the company. At the time, Microgard only had a small testing facility in their China factory and no laboratory or scientific expertise at their Hull base. Furthermore, permeation testing capability was not available in-house.

Microgard wanted to understand permeation at a fundamental scientific level and build a facility in Hull that could operate according to the required regulatory standards. The company wished to reduce testing costs but also bring the technology in-house to aid quality control and to innovate new products with enhanced protection.

Approach

Microgard’s 2-year KTP with the University of Hull had a number of objectives: 

  • Develop enhanced user protection and comfort through modification of existing products and development of new products (post-project)
  • Improve ability to respond quickly to regulatory changes.
  • Enhance control of R&D and quality.
  • Improve quality and ease of manufacturing.
  • Reduce testing costs through the establishment of an in-house testing Laboratory.
  • Enhance customer responsiveness
  • Improve technical marketing information

Dr Mike Draper was employed as KTP Associate to set up a new laboratory to investigate how chemicals permeate through protective clothing materials. The Academic Supervisor was Professor Paul Fletcher, Support Supervisor Ian Dobson and Industrial Supervisor Paul Bryce, who is now the General Manager of Ansell Microgard Ltd in Hull.

Dr Draper initially established test equipment at the University of Hull on a pilot basis, researching standards and test methods and selecting appropriate equipment. Mike also worked at Microgard and organised builders, plumbers, and safety requirements to install a laboratory to house the equipment at their Hull premises. The final six months of the KTP involved the establishment of rigorous testing systems in the new facility looking in-depth at potential materials.

Benefits

The partnership was so successful in meeting the shared objectives that it was awarded the highest grade of “outstanding” by the independent KTP Grading Panel. In addition, the research expertise and capability acquired during the KTP contributed to the award of a major research grant from an industrial sponsor.

Ansell Microgard Ltd now has a world-class UKAS accredited testing laboratory suitable for both quality control and R&D. Dr Draper is now Associate Director of Protective Clothing R&D, managing a team of five in the Hull laboratory as well as a wider team at the facility in China. The Hull laboratory has continued to develop and now also includes a wide range of material analysis capabilities to complement the R&D output.

The laboratory testing and R&D capabilities enabled the company to respond better to market needs, launching new protective clothing using improved barrier materials. This contributed to a doubling of turnover within 3 years and ultimately the acquisition by Ansell, whose global laboratory facilities complemented Microgard’s capabilities. Both Microgard and now Ansell have continued to invest in instrumentation to test the fabrics and the company has gone from strength to strength.

Dr Draper has collaborated in various work which has been published in several journals and is also an active member of Protective Clothing standards committees in the UK and in Europe. He is now an established expert in the field and regularly speaks at events.

As testament to the successful partnership, the collaboration between the company and the University continues to this day.

Future developments

Ansell Microgard has continued to expand and will imminently move premises, with a four-fold increase in their laboratory floor space. They are actively planning a further KTP with the University of Hull, which will investigate models and efficacy of testing for challenge chemicals in the form of mixtures. This will be a first for the industry, as current standards do not address this situation at all. The academic research will drive forward product development for the company.

“Ansell Microgard’s continued relationship with the University of Hull has embedded scientific expertise and world-class test facilities and will continue to drive innovation within the company as we embark on this new KTP.” Dr Mike Draper Associate Director, R&D, Ansell