Coronavirus update – the latest news from Yorkshire businesses

A Horsforth-based soap manufacturer is boosting its output to meet overseas demand for products to fight Coronavirus.

Family-owned maker of soap bases and natural ingredients, Stephenson, is stepping up production levels at its plant as it continues to deliver to international personal care, cosmetics brands, manufacturers and artisan soap makers.

Demand for Stephenson soap bases has surged as the need for hygiene products intensifies across the world.

The technical team at Stephenson has developed a brand-new liquid soap base, Liquid Soap 2020, to meet demand with delivery available in as little as two weeks.

It has been formulated to be an all-purpose liquid soap, suitable for both personal care, such as hand and body washing and multi-purpose cleansing for hard surfaces and floors.

Stephenson also has a fully natural and organic soap named Liquid Soap 105C, which is COSMOS and Soil Certified.

James Clews, sales and marketing director at Stephenson, said: “Our procurement and operations teams have worked hard to ensure continuity of supply of key ingredients, packaging and products, whilst our customer teams have maintained constant communication to keep customers updated with any developments or changes.

“We have remained at full production capacity by careful planning early on in the crisis, implementing a phased process of staff working from home and leaving only essential operational staff onsite in the manufacturing plant to keep production levels at a maximum.

“This not only ensures safe social distancing is adhered to at all times but means we can also continue to operate efficiently and stay in regular contact with colleagues and partners remotely without posing any risks to any of our 100 employees.

“We are continuing to receive many order inquiries from both new and existing customers.

“As a business we are well prepared to meet the ongoing challenge and have the flexibility to adapt our production capacity to meet future needs around the world as the majority of our business is conducted outside of the UK.”


Fourteen apprentices from Keighley College have been assisting an engineering company in the manufacturing of ventilator parts.

Shipley-based Produmax specialises in high precision engineering, operating globally in partnership with aerospace manufacturers.

The firm typically produces machined components and assemblies.

However, it has now begun manufacturing ventilator equipment due to the increased demand within the NHS.

As part of a longstanding arrangement with Keighley College, students on engineering and business improvement courses can take part in apprenticeships at Produmax alongside their study.

Many students have been on apprenticeships at the firm for over three years and the programme covers first, second and third year apprentices.

As a result of the recent rise in demand for ventilators, apprentices have been supporting the manufacturing of component parts, using advanced computer numerical control equipment and employing subtractive and additive machining techniques.

Ronnie Magee, deputy head of Keighley College, said: “It’s fantastic to see a local company supporting the NHS during these challenging times.

“Our apprentices are thrilled to be able to make a difference and assist with producing ventilator components. These apprenticeships are incredibly valuable for students, as they develop advanced practical skills while gaining great insight into a work environment.”

Paul Birtles, operations director at Produmax, added: “The apprentices have been a phenomenal help during these challenging times.

“It’s brilliant to see them involved in the whole process of the ventilator components, from using advanced equipment to quality checking.”

Over the past five weeks, Produmax has produced over 60,000 components for the Rolls Royce and Formula 1 consortium.


The boss of a company which operates a fertiliser mine has praised the “remarkable commitment and pride” shown by workers in maintaining production – and setting a new daily record – through the Coronavirus crisis.

Andrew Fulton, general manager and vice president at ICL Boulby, which produces multi-nutrient mineral polyhalite, said the firm is contributing to the need to support food production while developing measures to protect staff.

He said: “As a major producer of fertiliser products for the agriculture sector, we are recognised as an essential business and the nature of our operations means it is vital we take measures to protect the integrity of the mine, such as the need to pump around a million gallons of brine each day.

“In developing our ‘Barriers of Control’  in response to the Government’s guidance we have  used our long-standing experience in risk management and assessment as well as fully consulting with experts, medical practitioners and a cross section of our workforce, particularly site safety representatives.”

ICL Boulby has amended shift patterns to reduce numbers of staff using particular locations at any one time, provided PPE such as masks and gloves, enhanced cleaning procedures and enabled as many staff as possible to work from home.

It is also ensuring strict controls on access arrangements, including temperature checking for all those coming on site.

Drivers of delivery vehicles are required to stay in their vehicle whilst our staff undertake unloading and loading.

Fulton added: “There is a strong sense of pride in that, at the same time as introducing this programme of safety measures, we are delivering rising performance across the site, including setting a new daily total for processing polyhalite.

“Throughout this highly-challenging and rapidly-changing situation collaboration is the key, engaging and empowering staff to be involved in managing the risk of infection.

“We will continue to review how we can safeguard the interests of our staff and families at the same time as helping to meet the nation’s current needs and securing the company’s immediate and long-term future.”


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