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Scottish Plastics and Rubber Association Scottish Plastics and Rubber Association

40 Years of EPS Moulding in Livingston Site

DS Smith Foam Products premises in Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland

DS Smith Plastics are celebrating 40 years of production in the Livingston plant in 2013. On 1st of October 1973 EPS Moulders started production of EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) in Livingston, West Lothian.  Now 40 years later the plant is still moulding EPS products.

The plant started as a small private company called EPS Moulders, however quickly grew over the years, from starting production with 3 relatively small moulding machines in 1973 to a peak of 35 machines and an estimated output of around 200 tonnes per month in 1985.  In 1996 after several attempts to buy EPS Moulders, the business was sold to the American moulder Tuscarora Inc. who at the time were trying to build their business in Europe. The Tuscarora takeover meant huge changes for the Livingston plant, with large investment projects and a complete change in the management structure, including the appointment of David Vallance as plant manager, who is still with the business in the role of manufacturing director.

Market share for DS Smith Foam Products
Since 1996 the business has changed ownership twice more as in 2001 Swedish Packaging giant SCA bought the business from Tuscarora, and in 2012 the packaging side of SCA was acquired by DS Smith. There have been many changes in the factory over the 40 years such as ownership, material volumes, machine volumes etc.; however one aspect which has not changed much is the workforce.  Although there are only around 40 employees in the Livingston plant now, over 75% of these employees have been employed for 10 years or more, and 35% of the employees have more than 20 years’ service.  Through the years continuous improvement has been a major part in ensuring a viable business for such a long period, with more efficient machinery, automated processes and skills to ensure that the business has grown and adapted to a modern manufacturing environment.

As we enter an age where Health, Safety & Environmental issues are as important as Profit & Loss, the Livingston plant has recognised this and these issues are at the forefront of business ethic. This is realised by many years of conforming to OSHAS 18001, ISO 14001 and also the plant provides a recycling centre for members of the public who wish to recycle their waste EPS in an efficient, environmentally friendly way.

DS Smith Foam Products moulding machines at Livingston

John Purdie who first started when the company was still EPS Moulders in 1985 remembers his early impressions of the plant as a bustling hive of activity, with over a hundred employees producing EPS packaging for then major customers such as Hotpoint and Electrolux. “When I first started you couldn’t see up the walkways for steam escaping from the machines” remembers John. “Times have definitely changed for the better since then in terms of the safety aspect, though the camaraderie which existed then is the same today as it was back then”.

Stuart Martin, Engineering Manager, explaining a typical product to a group of science, design and technology teachers.

The plant has faced some tough challenges in a highly competitive market place and has managed to adapt with the help of new innovation and diversification into other areas, moving away from predominantly packaging related products, and focusing more than ever, on component manufacture and bespoke packaging solutions.” Tim Wilson, Senior Plant Manager.

Our customers’ demands have changed a lot in the last 40 years” says Plant Manager John Johnstone, who has been with the company in its various guises for over 35 years. “They demand quality and excellence from us on a scale never imagined in the early years.”

It is testament to the work force and management, both past and present, who have contributed to making the business what it is today.   I look forward to the challenges which have no doubt still to come  for DS Smith Plastics and look to the next 40 years bringing further success and employment opportunities for the local community.

Report by Stuart Martin, SPRA Council Member and Engineering Manager at D S Smith Foam Products, December 2013

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