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7 February, 2006 - 15:06 By Staff Reporter

Charpak plans more investment after move from toy town to medical devices sector

A Huntingdon company is investing heavily after successfully re-engineering itself in the medical device sector.A Huntingdon company is investing heavily after successfully re-engineering itself in the medical device sector.

Charpak Ltd, which started life as a toys business, has relaunched as Charpak Medical to provide custom-designed, plastic thermo formed trays and packaging and says it is also striking a blow for Britain in the process.

Sales & marketing director, Paul Smith said: “The launch of Charpak Medical has been an overwhelming success.

“We are discussing further investment with regard to additional machinery.

“The medical device sector is currently poorly served by UK-based manufacturers, with much having to be supplied from abroad.

This has caused problems with collaboration over design aspects, as well as with general customer service.

“Charpak Medical aims to change all this – bringing all the logistical, communication and cost benefits associated with dealing with a local UK supplier – and generally making life easier for the customer.”

The origins of the business lie in Charbens Toys Ltd – an old established toys business acquired in 1975 by David & Maureen Smith, whose sons Gary and Paul joined in the early 1980s.

The Charpak Ltd subsidiary was formed in 1986 to make vacuum-formed trays in-house for Charbens Toys and gradually began selling to other trade contacts, firstly in toys and games, then to other sectors such as DIY.

A handful of permanent staff was supplemented by part-timers and homeworkers.

By the early ’90s the toys industry market as a whole and the supply side were clearly changing – becoming less attractive to a small family business producing traditional products.

A non-family managing director was recruited in 1995 to devise a strategy to grow the packaging business, Charpak Ltd, and trade out of Charbens Toys. It was obvious that the sea change would require investment in additional plant and forming machinery as well as relocation to larger premises.

The business relocated from St Neots to Huntingdon and Charbens Toys Ltd closed, by which time Charpak’s vac-forming turnover had grown from £500k to £2 million.

Again, management resp-onded to a changing business backdrop; as clients began to rely increasingly on importing ready-packaged games, toiletries, gifts and DIY products, a new strategy was developed to expand into other markets.

The company ramped up its qualifications, operating a zero defects quality programme and was among the first to be certified to what has become the BRC Global Standard for hygienic food packaging.

It invested £500k in a clean room vac-forming facility in 2004 to exploit the growing medical device market and last year topped the £3m turnover milestone.

Charpak Medical’s 30,000 sq ft manufacturing premises includes a 3,000 sq ft Class 7 clean room plus 20,000 sq ft warehousing and staff numbers have topped 40.

Armed with state-of-the-art CAD/CAM design and toolmaking facilities and with a new non executive director with in-depth marketing expertise in situ, Charpak plans to further grow its medical business into quality FMCG areas, food retail, consumer electronics and medical device packaging.

Further investment will be made in plant – a new £250k large vac-form line is due to become operational in March 2006 – and headcount.

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