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18Feb

Celebrating 150 Years Of... Technological Advances

We are extremely proud to be celebrating our 150th year of trading in 2014, and thought it would be interesting to consider just how far we have come and how the world has changed in that time! This is the first in a series of blogs on the theme of 150 years over the next few months and this time around we are discussing the technological advances and changes that we have witnessed through our history.

Much has changed since the original founders opened the business in 1864. For a start, the product range was nearly entirely homewares and furniture, from chairs to laundry baskets. With alternative materials available today, we have shifted our range towards gifting and retail display items as trends and markets have adapted.

Willows

Logistically and operationally, the business has taken great steps in innovation and efficiencies. In 1864 our business was entirely focussed on the manufacture and sale of willow items.  The raw materials were harvested by hand in the English countryside and transported to weavers by horse and cart. Contrastingly, our present-day business centres on an international logistical operation, with the majority of our items arriving from abroad either by lorry or container, before being unloaded and despatched to our customers from our distribution hub using national courier networks.

Today our modern warehousing features elements such as temperature and humidity control, both vital elements when dealing with natural products. Despite perhaps appearing as simple items, we employ both modern technology and our product experience to ensure that quality is maintained and risk is minimised throughout the supply chain.

Akin to other modern industries, our warehousing is operated using highly mechanised procedures, including robotic pallet wrapping machines, camera-controlled forklifts and iPad controlled stock control systems, which help ensure all goods are despatched in a consistently effective way.

Cutting

 

Despite the Industrial Revolution, the basket weaving industry remained small-scale and highly labour intensive in the 19th Century – the processes operated as a ‘cottage industry’ with each item being crafted by hand, often in homes, before being sold. We now operate on a scale that would have been unimaginable back then. Importantly and interestingly however, the processes still remain the same for many of our more traditional items - all of our willow products are still made by hand, by skilled craftsmen, as there is simply no other way for them to be made. This blend of traditional production methods and modern logistics is a unique and enthralling facet of our businesses, and one which we are proud to continue. Many of our items are classic designs that have changed little over the decades, proving that true style and traditional items stand the test of time.

For all the differences in our products, facilities and changes in technology, many elements of our business remain similar to how they would have been, back in 1864. Of course, the product range has shifted to meet demands, and the company has adapted to fit the needs and requirements of our customers, but core company values such as service and product quality have remained constant.

Throughout our history treating our staff well has been a key part of our family business. An article focusing on the company’s Centenary, published fifty years ago in 1964 noted, “This family business aims at retaining tradition among the employees, with fathers of two of the present men having been employed for many years. Six of the employees had been with the firm for between 15 and 24 years.” Amazingly, this statistic is strikingly similar to the present day!

Interestingly, the article also stated that, “The outlook for the future is bright, although the trade has often been referred to as a dying industry.” Well, I guess they were right about one thing!

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Posted in: General, Other