Our Chairman, Norman Gough, celebrates the founding of FineCal* - 50 years ago!
In partnership with his late wife Joan, 1967 witnessed the startup of an industrial wholesale business operating from small premises near Bristol’s Clifton and within a stones throw of the BBC studios in Whiteladies. Little could be known then of how the enterprise would develop into the multi-million pound operation it is today.
The 70's saw the first real change when in 1972, whilst already established in distributing 3M adhesives & tapes and as an agent for Sericol selling screen printing inks, a call for help for specialised labels led to the development of a label making operation for printed & plain labels in reel and flat formats. As this made it absolutely impossible to remain in the current location, a site was rented in Avon Street near Temple Meads which gave some temporary reprieve. However the following year with space still an issue, larger buildings became available in St. Philips and Norman purchased a warehouse and offices of some 4000 sq ft.
The rest of the decade witnessed more growth and appointments as a premier distributor for Advance Tapes International and for E. T. Marler screen inks and sundries which was owned by Doc Reed, the inventor of 'Letraset'.
The 80's began with Simon Gough (Norman's son) joining the business primarily to introduce a simple computer system into the operation in order to streamline stock control and inventory. During the next ten years expansion continued at a steady pace and culminated in the eventual ownership of the whole of Temple trading estate with some 30,000 sq. ft. of buildings. FineCal became strong in supporting Aerospace and Electronics' markets, and was instrumental in setting up the MarketNow organisation, a group of like-minded 3M distributors coming together to determine the best routes to market in order to improve services and offerings to customers throughout the UK.
The 90′s saw further investment and expansions. Customer demands in wishing to reduce supplier numbers led to us bringing on board major products in packaging and other industrial consumables and expanding our delivery van fleet. In South Wales we opened a dedicated facility in Cardiff - FineCal (Cymru) plus the introduction of Gibbon into Marler-FineCal and the eventual links to SunChemical.
Meanwhile pressures from customers to safeguard systems and be able to demonstrate full compliance to various contracts and services became a huge demand. This resulted in investment to formalise our management systems and broaden our scope. Although FineCal was already regularly assessed externally by the MOD, we opted to improve our standing and successfully gained BS5750 leading to our current accreditation to ISO9001:2008. In addition with the fear of the gloom & doom brigrade in the business community prior to the new century, the so called "millenium bug", the threat of this (although mounting to no incidents at all) did lead us to develop systems further and incorporate Environmental and Safety facets into our overall Quality procedures: we term this as the Integrated Management Systems (IMS) of the FineCal Group.
And so the new millenium which started off with a real boost with the taking over of our 3M competitor in the town Brissco Equipment. This was primarily done to safeguard our position in order to strengthen our foundations and with an increased customer base enabled wider product offerings. This acquisition came with another depot based in Great Yarmouth, FineCal (East Anglia) and soon after, FineCal (Wellingborough) too. Simultaneously, we became partners in a new joint venture creating Preline Ltd. This led to Wellinborough absorbing East Anglia reducing the running costs of two branches which enabled fresh investment in our neighbouring Livingston operation in Scotland.
With all these developments going on, you'd think that Norman would be busy enough - but not likely! During the 80's, he seized upon the opportunity and set up FineCal Environmental Systems. This venture aligned closely with Norman's engineering background and our local limestone geography around Bristol – the root cause of limescale in domestic equipment due to the existence of 'hard water'.
The story goes: unable to find an engineer locally with some knowledge of softener equipment as his own home machine had gone wrong, Norman contacted Culligan, an English based U.S. manufacturer of hard water converters to help. Well they soon recognised Norman’s technical ability and trained him to become an expert as they themselves were short of agents. Thus FineCal became the Culligan dealer for the South-West installing softner equipment for both domestic and commercial markets, carrying out maintenance and supplying salt. Nowadays all the work is done by Simon Gough in conjunction with local plumber contractors.
...and for the future,
we have Simon Gough at the helm as Managing Director with the support of a strong Management team led by Lee West, Works Manager. Already work has commenced on the path of gaining ISO9001:2015 accreditation and a full-scale re-appraisal and investment in our IT systems. Meanwhile you won't be surprised by the never-ending activities of our founder Norman Gough who still finds the energy to foster our label operation with investments in the latest of flexo and digital presses. FineCal has certainly come a long way – not bad from humble beginnings or for our chairman who now is well into his young nineties.
* and in case you’re still wondering what does FineCal really mean, it's simple; the ‘Cal’ is an Americanism for self-adhesive and ‘Fine’ ... well there’s really no need to explain this… because we are and indeed offer the best!
(updated Feb 2017 - Tony Eagle, Group IMS manager)