Keraplast: thinking outside an ever-widening square confers local and regional benefits

A new way of thinking and operating is benefiting a Lincoln-based business, its employees and the sector alike by improving productivity and giving people the opportunity to expand their skills beyond those directly associated with their job roles.

Keraplast Manufacturing extracts keratin proteins from sustainably grown New Zealand wool. It is the world’s leading innovator of keratin protein technology in the fields of hair care, wound care, skin care, and nutrition. The company employs 20 people but plans to recruit another three to four by early 2022.

Paul Sapsford, General Manager

General Manager Paul Sapsford says the company has radically changed the way it operates, creating a far more resilient business and providing opportunities for its factory operators to learn new business improvement skills, and hone them.

Around half of the company’s people work in operational roles. Their shifts have been changed to nine-hours so they can enjoy a four-day working week. While at work they are given the opportunity to identify and lead a business improvement project.

These projects range from a major process documentation and improvement programme, through to how to reconfigure the staff toilets to improve hygiene standards and better meet diverse employees’ needs.

Sapsford says many of Keraplast’s operational employees are young so encouraging and supporting them to expand their skills benefits the business and the employees’ careers alike.

“Encouraging our people to develop new skill sets and breaking down information silos has been mutually beneficial for all.

“We are developing a collaborative culture of managed risk where it’s ok to make mistakes and learn from them,” he says.

And it’s paying off, with up to 40% less time being taken on some key multi-day processes, a 30% reduction in chemicals used and water savings of up to 80%.

While Keraplast recognises the benefits its approach confers to its own business, it is also looking for ways to collaborate for the benefit of the wider food and fibre sector.

To this end it is working with a local economic development agency to develop a skill and facility sharing model that Keraplast and other value-added nutrition companies can utilise.

But it doesn’t stop there. Keraplast also wants to benefit the environment by only taking wool grown on regeneratively farmed properties. This carbon-positive farming method focuses on improving soil quality through reduced nitrogen, pesticides and herbicides, and increasing the diversity of feed species planted.

Keraplast is a fine example of how thinking outside an ever-widening square can benefit everyone from individual employees through to an entire sector within a region.