Established in 1970, Severn Valley Woodworks lays claim to being one of the UK’s leading suppliers of quality timber and timber products. Within the company’s extensive manufacturing sites in Gloucestershire, it combines the latest technology in its milling and processing operations with the traditional skills and knowledge of its workforce, to offer total timber solutions to customers.
The business actually started out as a coffin manufacturer but moved into pallet and case making with Heinz, IBM, Hewlett Packard and the ministry of Defence as its significant customers. Acquisitions of businesses such as Challow Agricultural Products and Lingward saw further diversification, whilst in 2003 Severn Valley bought Hutton industrial containers — a supplier of oak barrels to the garden centre market. Today, Hutton Garden Products has become a leading manufacturer of a range of garden and landscaping products.
Here, PBM speaks to David Twigg – Director Severn Valley Woodworks:
Q How did you get into the industry and to your current position?
A With a name like mine I couldn’t work anywhere other than the timber trade but in truth I was an ambitious person and the timber industry was a place where people made a real difference to results. I started my career with Mallinson Denny over 35 years ago and, after having a spell with Montague L Meyer, I joined Severn Valley Woodworks in 2002.
Q How do you feel the industry has changed in recent years?
A The industry has changed considerably and will continue to do so. When I started work, the merchant sector was dominated by independents. Over the years this has seen significant consolidation but this often provides opportunity for people to start their own enterprise and offer something different from the national brands.
My greatest concern is the lack of investment in training and recruitment of good young people to our industry. Many years ago, the timber trade attracted lots of graduates, with opportunities to develop worthwhile, long term careers within successful businesses.
“We live in an age where those that want to work often choose other sectors and perhaps even see the ‘building trade’ as being outdated as a career option.”
Q What are the current challenges facing your company?
A In the past the challenges to all businesses have been fairly predictable — trying to match costs with income streams that deliver profitable results and improve shareholder value.
However, we live in an age where those that want to work often choose other sectors and perhaps even see the ‘building trade’ as being outdated as a career option. As a specialist manufacturer, our current challenge is to cover the skill sets required in our processes.
Q What has been the highlight of your career to date?
A I think I have been lucky to have many highlights so far. These include seeing individual people I have worked with go on and have very successful careers, but in terms of personal achievement, it is probably working with my colleagues on our Hutton brand which has seen growth of over 300% in recent years.
Every year, the Hutton brand delivers new products to the market; for example, last year we launched ten new products at the GLEE show. We see new product development as an integral part of being a brand leader but it is a huge and constant challenge. Fortunately, I work with an exceptional team who play a major role in the sales and marketing aspects of this process.
Q Which individual has influenced you most in your career?
A One of the problems in the industry today is that people are made responsible to achieve targets but not necessarily given the authority to make the key decisions required to meet them. I was very fortunate in my early career to report to a very hard task master called David Stearn. He had an attention to detail that was very exacting and his expectations regarding performance were very high, but he would always give the support you needed when you needed it.
That said, the person that I have the most respect for is our current Chairman and the founder of our business, Andrew Jenkins. He is a man that put everything he had on the line to start the company and even now in his well-earned semi-retirement, he still makes an extremely valuable contribution to the business — because he still enjoys it, and that is something we can all aspire to.
Q Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
A Continuing to get stressed over the development of new product ranges for our Hutton brand, probably! But also hopefully enjoying a brief moment to reflect on how these products have made a small contribution to the sector.
For more information on the range of products and services available from Severn Valley Woodworks, visit www.svw2000.co.uk