Sanderson Brothers is located in Inglewhite, on the edge of the Ribble Valley near Preston in Lancashire. The 115-year-old business has an incredible history and designs and manufactures high quality joinery for a discerning customer base. Ian Sanderson is the fourth generation of Sandersons and is still based on the same site since the business was started in 1898. Ian’s son is now also working for the business.

Nine years ago, the company was forced to develop a new building to keep up with current health and safety requirements. The company has nine employees, including Ian, and comprising machinists, finishers and window construction specialists. As is increasingly common these days, identifying and finding good staff is difficult and Sandersons regularly looks for decent joiners and offers apprenticeships. Saying that, however, Ian ideally wants to keep the staffing level to a maximum of 10 people.

With its in-depth knowledge of the marketplace, its fine reputation for quality work and its long-term customer relationships, business levels have held up well throughout the recession – especially with competitor businesses suffering and closing down – and  Ian is pleased that his business has been able to continue to progress through these tough times.

But even in traditional manufacturing businesses, recognising opportunities to improve the capability and capacitate of a business is critical to its on-going wellbeing. As Ian says: “If you don’t modernise and adapt, you will get left behind.”

And this is why Ian constantly looks at his business, its methods, the industry – and makes informed decisions on investments for his business.

A growing demand for quality joinery, windows and doors has seen Sandersons production requirements triple over the last 12 months – a positive situation on the whole, but one that needed addressing – the business needed to find an improved workflow to prevent lengthening delivery schedules, production bottlenecks and the like. With that sort of production growth, the company needed to make a new investment.

The Sanderson Brothers business is mainly based on sash windows and doors, and as its bread and butter, this is the area in which it wants to be the most competent and productive.
For the last three years, Ian has had in his mind that he needed a solution which provided the flexibility of making varying size sash- and flush windows in one machine. Having attended W8, W10 and W12, Ian had spoken to a number of manufacturers but nothing was available which seemed to offer all the solutions he needed. Ian explains that he was walking around the W12 show and he met Jaroslav Soukup, the owner of Soukup Woodworking Machinery and Ian Brown, MD of Soukup’s exclusive UK dealer IWM Ltd.

The three discussed Sandersons business needs and Ian came away very impressed with the flexibility and potential of the Soukup machinery as well as Ian and Jaroslav themselves.
Ian took his time and carefully compared the Soukup to five other machines of its type, and in his opinion, nothing compared to the Wizard 4L which has been developed specifically for the sash window manufacturer, remarking it was a shame the machine was not available 10 years ago!

Prior to the purchase of the Wizard, Ian was having to turn down large orders of work as the company simply could not manage such large orders and regularly was disappointed to say no to orders of  50+ sash windows, so Ian knew at that stage he needed machinery in the workshop that could increase its productivity and enable his company to meet this demand.

The Soukup Wizard 4L has been installed at Sandersons since Easter and is running seven tool sets, happily producing 25-50 windows a day depending on the design, which previously, by hand with skilled joiners, would have been around two per day – a staggering output growth and clearly something that would not have been possible, or affordable, using traditional methods.

As Ian says: “The joy of this machine is that it takes care of the mass work whilst the skilled joiners concentrate on the smaller more specialist bespoke jobs.”

The purchase of the new machine was made possible with the help of a regeneration grant and Ian is sure that the machine will give a return of investment within three years.

Following the installation, IWM’s Ian Brown organised an open day event for people to come along and see the only UK Wizard 4L installation in a working business.

A key benefit of the Wizard is its ease of operation. At Sandersons, it is currently being very successfully operated by a 19-year-old who has served just two years with the business. When the machine arrived for installation, Ian Brown and Jaroslav Soukup both attended for a week’s installation – the first two days were focused on setting the machine up and the rest of the week was training and fine tuning.

Ian was very impressed with how the Soukup team managed the machine programming remotely – whilst they stood there. This was another major factor in the investment. Ian comments: “How many MDs turn up and help set up a machine? Jaroslav clearly understands window production and this is a major USP for me and another reason why I chose a Soukup machine.” Ian adds that the build quality of the machine is brilliant, describing it as bullet proof.

Thanks to the Wizard, and as the business supplies nationwide, Sandersons can accept substantial orders of £80,000 plus without any drama.  Ian is proud that the company can now produce A-rated energy efficient sash windows and B-rated energy efficient on hardwood windows.

Ian says that the majority of his business is word of mouth and that customers seem genuinely surprised with its newfound capability.

“When people call up asking if we can undertake a job, and they get the quote and see the turnaround time, people can’t believe how quickly we can get them made.”

The company has four van-loads leaving the workshop every week and at the moment, the Wizard is only running about three days a week, so nowhere near its capacity. The only downside is that the rest of the business struggles to keep up with the output and the finishing section is working weekends to keep up! But Ian looks very positively to the future and says that his Soukup offers a number of other cramping and finishing solutions which may be of interest to him.

Currently, Sandersons is booked up with work until January 2014, and also has four orders for windows for barns under way – so Ian’s biggest challenge now is finding the man hours to keep up with the Wizard 4L.