William Whiteley & Sons, which has been trading for more than 260 years, has spent in excess of £80,000 in upgrading its production capability to include state-of-the-art vibratory finishing technology.

Boosted by a capital grant from the Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP), the latest addition brings automation to the company for the first time, helping it redeploy crucial labour to more value added work and providing a 30% boost in capacity.

It comes at a perfect time for the 12th generation family-owned business, as it looks to make the most of a five-fold boost in online sales, a welcome blessing with Covid-19 disrupting its industrial activity.

“When it comes to producing scissors and shears, we have some of the best craftsmen and women in the world,” explained Jeremy Ward, Director at William Whiteley & Sons.

“What we needed to do was to protect those skills by investing in new technology that would automate a labour intensive, low skilled process and that’s why we pressed the button on the capital spend.”

He continued: “The vibratory finishing machine gives us repeatable quality and the option to manufacture through the night. It also gives us the smoothest and aesthetically pleasing finish possible, which is what customers for our retail scissors and shears demand.

“Sales in this arena now account for 30% of our turnover and our beautifully crafted products are being used by tailors on Saville Row, by major fashion labels and by the army of people who are turning to crafts during Covid-19.”

William Whiteley & Sons, which employs 15 people and boasts a £1.1m turnover, has been working with the Manufacturing Growth Programme to identify and overcome production bottlenecks.

A new machine was identified as one of the solutions, but spending a significant amount of money during a pandemic was causing concern amongst the management team.

“This is where MGP and our Manufacturing Growth Manager Marcus Pearson came into his own, identifying a grant we could apply for that would cover 43% of the cost of the vibratory finishing machines,” added Jeremy, who runs the business with his wife and Co-Director Sally.

“It is very difficult to know what assistance is available when you’re a small company, so professional advice and guidance to maximise financial and other benefits is invaluable, leaving us free to concentrate on what we do best.

“The grant definitely made the difference to us making the latest purchase and now all attention is focused on increasing our sales to fill up the additional capacity.”

MGP’s Marcus Pearson concluded: “William Whiteley & Sons is a fantastic Sheffield business, steeped in history and boasting scissors and shears that are in demand all over the world.

“The management team has a clear vision of what it needs to do to continue to improve its performance and the move towards bringing more elements of its manufacturing process in-house will assist it in this.

“Carefully targeted support and access to financial grants that give our manufacturers a competitive advantage is what the Manufacturing Growth Programme is all about.”