South Derry businessmen in unlikely PPE alliance

Bloc Blinds managing director Cormac Diamond joins Ciaran Doherty, general manager at Huhtamaki Foodservice UK
Gary McDonald Business Editor

AN unlikely manufacturing alliance created by two businessmen from neighbouring parishes in south Derry has churned out the first consignment of a massive order for 30 million face shields for healthcare workers dealing with Covid-19 patients.

The heads of global packaging company Huhtamaki, which is best known for making plastic straws and coffee cup lids for the food sector, and blinds-maker Bloc Blinds in Magherafelt have already repositioned more than 300 of their combined staff on the project.

And the first two million units have already come off the production line just days after the firms got together.

Huhtamaki's Ciaran Doherty and Bloc boss Cormac Diamond grew up in Newbridge and Bellaghy respectively, but until last month were only passing acquaintances.

That was until Ciaran heard Cormac's firm was moving to produce front line personal protective equipment (PPE), and rang him to see how he could help.

“That's where it started, and within days we'd set about working together to deliver on an order of 30 million Bloc FaceShields for HSCNI Business Services Organisation, which will plan to deliver over the next 12 weeks,” Ciaran told the Irish News.

“Both of us are working at incredible speed to scale up manufacturing. We've reorganised our factory to produce four million face shields a week and are continuing to invest rapidly to increase this output.

“Our innovative use of high-speed packaging lines will massively increase the volume of Bloc FaceShields produced each day, and we are fully committed to delivering this high-volume order as quickly as possible.”

Cormac, whose Bloc Blinds operation has shifted to the leisure centre in Magherafelt specifically to fulfil this unique order, said: “This partnership with Huhtamaki can help us take it to the next level and ramp up production and ensure a robust supply chain is in place.”

The order was placed by the health service's procurement wing Business Services Organisation, whose chief executive Liam McIvor said: “Face shields are an important element of PPE for clinical staff, so we welcome and appreciate the initiative and invention of Huhtamaki and Bloc Blinds.”

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