Over the last 27 years of my career writing about the global corrugated industry, there is one business that I hold in fond regard. RH Fibreboard was one of my earliest interview assignments back in 1995, when I visited the then Managing Director and owner, Rob Ruffell-Hazell.
A lot has happened over the years, as this little business has grown in stature and resulted in the acquisition in February 2019 by Goonvean Holdings. The company specialises in acquiring businesses in the south-west of England, specifically looking at companies that are privately owned, but with no plan for moving to the next generation of family ownership. The group owns a diverse portfolio of businesses, of which RH Fibreboard is just one.
“Within a matter of months of the new ownership, the senior management team were asked to put together a five-year plan,” explains Sean Baxter, Managing Director of RH Fibreboard. “We are pretty restricted in terms of expansion of the factory due to be ‘land-locked’ in our current location, so instead we focussed our plans on new equipment. The owners were happy with our plans and made it very clear that they wanted us to choose equipment that would be suitable for the next 10 years plus, rather than looking at ‘quick fixes’ and used equipment.”
Baxter continues, “The biggest log jam was the old casemaker, so this is where we started our planning. We had a look at several machines, but due to the slightly restricted footprint, we took a long hard look at the Weipong Venus flexo folder gluer and working with David Williams and his engineering project managers at GTS (Europe), we not only specified the three colour casemaker, but also a complete finished goods line and pallet press and wrapping solutions. We also worked with GTS to help us re-arrange the layout of the factory, so we could enhance overall material flow through the site.”
Manufactured by Weipong Machinery, the Venus-1025 is a top printing flexo line, with lead edge feeder. The three colour machine features vacuum transfer throughout and a rubber roll inking system. It also benefits from a double shaft slotting unit and a rotary die-cut unit equipped with an anvil grinding system. The folding and gluing unit features a counter ejector and bundles are sent for strapping on an inline, fully automatic Emmepi Prima 1400 strapping unit. The finished bundles are palletised and transferred on a GTS Europe finished goods conveyor line, feeding into an Emmepi pallet press and Emmepi Group stretch wrapper.
“We are happy with how the machine and pallet line have bedded in,” says Baxter. “Weipong were really responsive and were able to make modifications to their machine to fit our work mix. This is only the second Weipong in the UK and having the support of GTS certainly helped us in making the decision. We are already seeing significant benefits and increase in throughput, less than seven months after installation.”
The growth in the last two years since the acquisition has been impressive. “We have moved the business from £4.2m in sales in 2019 to £6.5m this year,” states Baxter. “Around £2m of that business is in the cosmetics and toiletries industry and we have also seen a significant benefit from servicing the UK packaging merchant sector, something that is new for us.”
Based from a 46,000 sq ft site in Wellington in Somerset, the company employs 42 people and with a fleet of its own vehicles, supplies customers in the south-west of the UK, from Gloucestershire to the south coast and down into Devon and Cornwall.
More to Come
“This casemaker and finished goods line represented an investment of £1.3m and this is in addition to the work we have done in improving our sample-making and design department, new warehousing space and office renovations,” concludes Baxter. “So far, we have invested £2.3m in the factory, all within the first 24 months of being under new ownership. But we aren’t finished there. We have a £4m investment plan, which will see the delivery of two new Eterna flat bed die-cutters to replace our aging die-cutters, the first of which will be delivered in November and the second in the first quarter of 2022. We have other machinery investments which we will announce in 2022, all of which will enable us to carry on growing by way of improved efficiency, reduction in waste and even faster delivery times.