When the Honda plant in Swindon, UK, announced its impending closure, a plastic recycling technology provider saw it as an opportunity to offer jobs to its skilled former employees. Partnering with a local college to provide apprenticeships to the displaced employees, Recycling Technologies Ltd. hopes to help further develop their technical, academic and engineering skills.
Recycling Technologies hired seven former Honda workers in partnership with Swindon College to enable the apprentices to attain academic qualifications while gaining experience as part of Recycling Technologies' manufacturing team.
“Honda is an important employer in Swindon,” says Dale Rautenbach, manufacturing director at Recycling Technologies. “It announced last year that it would be closing its plant in the town next year.”
Recycling Technologies has developed a technology that recycles plastic waste into a feedstock for new plastic production.
“Honda hired very good employees and gave them excellent training,” Rautenbach says. “Recycling Technologies is building high-quality, sophisticated machinery, the RT7000, a modular machine to recycle plastic harnessing pyrolysis. This means the company needs to train, hire and retain skilled employees to manufacture and maintain this machinery due to its high technical specifications. Having apprentices join RT who have been immersed in the manufacturing environment will bring in the necessary manufacturing mindset needed to rapidly transition our assembly processes.”
The RT7000 is a scalable patented technology that recycles low-grade plastic waste into a feedstock trademarked as Plaxx that can be used to produce new plastic. It enables the creation of value from plastic waste, which is today difficult to recycle through current mechanical recycling methods and is therefore landfilled, incinerated, or exported.
The apprentices will be employed in the manufacturing division of the business, according to Rautenbach. The first phase of their work will be to help build the production line — designing and building jigs and fixtures, selecting tools, and building quality testing tools. The next phase will be to assemble the RT7000, for which the apprentices are currently participating in training courses.
Once the build is complete, the apprentices will work with the operations team to install the machine in Scotland. After the RT7000 is installed, the team will start on a phase of improving the factory for the next round of production.
“The apprentices will complete their training at Recycling Technologies and will be part of the team to build the first commercial RT7000,” Rautenbach says. “Their training will be both academic and practical, in line with the requirements of their apprenticeships. Their primary focus will be in the manufacturing department. However, their programs will ensure they gain experience in other areas of the business.”
As employees of the company, the workers will complete their apprenticeships and then be able to continue their professional development, Rautenbach says. During their apprenticeships, they have the opportunity to rotate through various areas in the business and assist in different functions, giving them exposure to different tracks for advancement.
“For example, they will spend time with the CAD department, learning how we design the RT7000, or they will work with the electrical design team learning how we design the control and electrical systems,” says Rautenbach. “All this exposure will assist the team in determining how they would like to progress beyond their apprenticeships.”
The unexpected closing of the Honda facility took the new apprentices by surprise.
"I used to work as a production operative at Honda on its assembly line before moving over to the technical apprenticeship,” apprentice Tomasz Piela said in a statement. “Its closure at the time was unexpected, and I needed to find another opportunity. I'm delighted to be joining Recycling Technologies in its apprentice scheme. This will allow me to learn more about engineering and enhance my career prospects. It's very exciting to be working at a company developing and manufacturing specialist plastic recycling equipment."