Cutlers’ Factory Visits

Friday 19th May 2017

Having had a long day with a late night and an early start in prospect, we decided to order breakfast in our room as we had to leave all our luggage with reception and be on a bus by 9am. As I’ve mentioned before, anything ‘Livery’ leaves on time or early, I’ve never known anyone late for anything involving a coach trip! On the stroke of 9 two coaches pulled out for rotating visits to two factories, both part of the Gripple Group – I think I understood this correctly, but this group is now, like John Lewis, worker owned having been turned over to the workforce by the founder xxx Vaisey. Thus, each new worker buys shares before he starts which gives them a vested interest not to shirk or cheat – perhaps this is communism as it’s meant to be? Anyway, the factories we visited were state of the art affairs and seemed the acme of efficiency and productivity for a wide variety of products – injection moulded storage boxes and patented bottle stands, metal brackets, woven belting, robotics… all the raw materials and processes sourced in Yorkshire. They have designers (not boffins, apparently!) on hand to design around problems and come up with new products – in fact they have a charter which states that they (the group) need to introduce new products at the rate of 25% every four years to keep them on their toes and find new markets etc. I must say it was all very impressive. After the first set, we then went to the Gripple riverside factories where there mainly produce the “Gripple” – this is the ‘acorn’ that founded the whole group when, back in (I think 1980 or so) Mr Vaizey was in Australia chatting to a sheep farmer who lamented that one of his life’s banes was joining fence wire together as it involved sort of knotting it in a very unsatisfactory way.. Mr V had a think and came up with a tiny, simple and cheap device that solved the problem at a stroke and became required in such demand this factory is dedicated to turning out thousands in a variety of sizes. They are routinely tested for strength and we watched as one wire was shredded rather than the gripple devise letting slip its charge – very impressive. The combines sites were quite a revelation and really gave one an insight into the manufacturing heartlands and ingenuity this country can provide – if we can harness and expand these principals, we’re a massive force to be reckoned with. When the visits were done, we were bussed back to Cutlers Hall for a quick drinks reception then semi-formal light luncheon of cottage pie and posset. I sat next to Mrs Gardner, the Clerks wife and we had a very pleasant chat before the speeches and farewells rounded it all off. After lunch all the Halls had been opened for our inspection and we took a quick look round before repairing back to the hotel and collecting the motor for a w/e in the Peak District and a view of Chatsworth, a long-held ambition for us both. We got home on Sunday at 5pm and 425 miles later to a welcome cup of tea!

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