During the buoyant 1980's there were many people in the plastics industry who were offering their services as consultants. Their success, if at all, may have been due to the fact that expanding companies were having difficulty in finding staff to cope with the rapid expansion experienced by most plastics related organisations in the UK.
Unfortunately, some of the consultants who worked during this period were neither experienced, nor well equipped to carry out many of the commissions that they had accepted. As a result, consultants as a group were often regarded as being an expensive luxury, and sometimes of doubtful benefit. Furthermore, clients often disregarded the consultant's advice, since in a boom time it was still possible to remain in business in spite of the company's apparent inefficiency.
In 1988 the UK Plastics Consultancy Network (PCN) was formed to provide clients with a network of bona fide, qualified and professional plastics consultants. The PCN is a method for potential clients to choose an appropriate and experienced individual consultant or to quickly gather together a team of experienced people to undertake tasks that were too large or time-consuming for the individual consultant. The typical PCN consultant has many years of theoretical as well as practical experience, which is instantly available to potential clients.
The PCN celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 2008, and has been affiliated to the British Plastics Federation for the past 16 years. The PCN also has links with the Plastics and Rubber Advisory Service (PRAS), where it offers extensive consultancy expertise services to inquirers. It also has overseas members in the USA and Europe and is expanding the network throughout the world.
The skill areas
The current members of the PCN can work in all of the following disciplines.
Materials and design - additives & property modification, analysis, materials selection, product design, product engineering, tool design and sourcing.
Processing - All the plastics processing methods, such as injection, blow moulding, extrusion, thermoforming, rotational moulding, welding etc are covered.
Secondary Operations - finishing and decorating, testing, welding and fastening.
Commercial - environmental and recycling, expert witness and legal, export & import, legislative and regulatory, marketing and market research, mergers and acquisitions, strategic planning and forecasting, technology transfer and licensing.
Markets - All major markets sectors.
Other skills - Authoring, benchmarking, degradation, literature and patent search, project management, training, translation, trouble shooting, web site design and manufacture.
Qualified consultants are here to stay. This is mainly due to the fact that methods of trading have changed dramatically and these changes will oblige manufacturers to alter their methods of operation.
At the PCN, we see the role of the PCN consultant expanding with clients and consultants effectively working together for their mutual benefit.