The COVID pandemic has led to high demand for single-use medical items, and global supply chain problems have shown that Europe cannot rely solely on Asia for many of its products. This problem, however, inspired a new business idea in a group of Plovdiv entrepreneurs. A year after – the first nitrile glove factory in Europe is about to open in the City of Plovdiv.
The project is undertaken by PPS Manufacturing, operated by people from the managing team of the medical electronics manufacturer BTL Industries, who were later joined by a partner from Plovdiv. The investment so far is for BGN 16 million, but the company is already planning to increase the capacity by another BGN 8-10 million by 2024.
“At the beginning of 2020, the government contacted us and asked us for help with the COVID crisis,” says Petkov, who is also the CEO of BTL Industries. Then the company, which usually makes machines for physiotherapy, cardiology and aesthetic medicine, very quickly started producing high quality protection masks and respirators. Ironically, the products were not taken by the government, but the company still managed to find a market for them in Europe.
However, the request of the government gave push for the new idea. “From there, it occurred to me and my partners that there is a need for nitrile gloves, and there is no such production in Europe,” comments Petkov. According to him, for now there are only companies that import, repackage and perform quality control of finished products, but there is no factory – technically one is still being built in France and will not open until next year. Thus, as a separate project together with his partners Dimitar Stamov and Anton Petrov in 2021, Petkov founded PPS Manufacturing.
There is already interest in the company’s product from customers in Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Croatia, Slovenia, Germany, France and Hungary. Part of PPS’s strategy will be to maintain large inventory levels, which will allow for quick deliveries.
PPS is also involved in the development of a biodegradable version of the product
In an effort to ensure a variety of raw materials, they also started another venture – the development of biodegradable gloves. For this purpose, the Plovdiv company together with scientific organizations in Germany and other European countries have established the German company PPS Innovation GmbH. Its main task will be to transform the life cycle of nitrile gloves – from the production from eco raw materials, through energy and resource efficiency, to the complete organic recycling of gloves in landfills. This will make the product completely sustainable and eliminate contamination.