Catapulting the production of reusable beeswax food wrap
When a client comes to us with a project that will transform a business to engage with entirely new opportunities in a sustainable way we are more than ready to take up that challenge. This means answering the big questions; not just around what the next product should be, but how a business can fundamentally and radically change to engage with entirely new opportunities and disrupt markets.
We are also passionate about sustainability and believe that true innovation has the capability to break the traditional dependency between economic growth and environmental impact. Businesses across all industries are realising the potential of innovation to simultaneously drive profit and sustainability.
This year, I have had the pleasure to manage a talented and enthusiastic team of engineers for Kath Austin, Founder of BeeBee Wraps, who came to us with a problem. In the midst of a media frenzy around plastic, BeeBee Wraps, who produce a reusable wax food-wrap as an alternative to single-use plastics at home, saw an unprecedented explosion in demand. In wanting to uphold the company’s sustainability ethos, increasing production by simply upscaling the existing labour-intensive hand-made process was off the cards since it would be energy intensive and inefficient.
The question was: how should the business address this new demand without compromising the company’s core philosophies?
This posed major challenges which included balancing upscaling with sustainability, increased speed with quality, and repeatability with organic material handling. It required an entirely new production process and a look at the fundamentals of how the wraps are made – this is just the sort of problem that really energizes our team.
We began by performing an in-depth analysis of the available technologies. When this showed that there was no suitable off-the-shelf solution that would meet all of Kath’s business needs, we were asked to help create an innovative bespoke solution.
Science-led innovation – understanding the fundamentals
Since the wraps were originally created through a process of trial and error and use variable organic materials, the team took a science-led approach to understand the parameters that affect the wraps’ quality. The critical output features included the level of impregnation of wax into the cotton, the consistency of impregnation across the material, the thickness of the wraps, the smoothness of the surface and the extent to which the wrap sticks to itself and vessels. These were affected by process parameters which affected the fundamental features of the new production method. Once these parameters were explored and understood by building prototype rigs in our extensive lab and rapid-prototyping facilities, we were able to move on to the design of the new process.
The process design had to meet the remaining challenges, and so concepts were judged against BeeBee Wraps’ core business needs. After an exciting and challenging development programme, the resulting solution exceeded all expectations, delivering a small-footprint, low energy process which increases the production speed by 30 times. A single operator may now produce a day’s worth of existing-production-method material in just 15 minutes.
Committing to a sustainable future
As BeeBee Wraps begins to reach new and larger markets, the potential for widespread behavioural change and significant global impact increases. The crucial first step to reach this wider market was to take the company from hand-made kitchen table production to a sustainable manufacturing process. We have loved being part of BeeBee Wraps journey and for having the opportunity to deliver a solution that really makes a difference to a growing business encouraging sustainability.
We seek opportunities to work on ambitious projects with environmental goals. We want to work with those who don’t just want a step-change in their business, or a minor improvement to current processes, but who have a real appetite to transform their operations or business model to maximise their sustainability.