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 stone's throw of the BBC studios in Whiteladies. Little could be known then of how this enterprise would develop into the multi-million pound operation it is today.
The 70's saw the first real change in 1972. Whilst already established in distributing 3M adhesives & tapes and as an agent for Sericol screen printing inks, a call for help from a leading customer for specialised stickers led to the introduction of screen printing and then replacing this with flexo technology to produce printed & plain labels. With the dire need for more space a site was rented in Avon Street near Brunel's Temple Meads which gave some temporary reprieve. However the following year with space again an issue and a fire close by in a flour mill, larger buildings were sought. This culminated in investing in a unit within a small trading complex near the Feeder canal in St. Philips and where we remain to this day.
The rest of the decade saw further growth in being appointed as a premier distributor for Advance Tapes International and also for Marler screen inks which then 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 to streamline stock control and inventory. During the next ten years expansion continued at a steady pace resulting in the eventual ownership of the whole of Temple trading estate. FineCal became a leading tape supplier into both the Aerospace and Electronic 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 access and offer commodity products to customers throughout the UK.
The 90′s saw further expansions. Customer demands to reduce real costs and supplier numbers led us to enlarge our product portfolio in packaging and other industrial consumables as well as increasing our delivery fleet. In South Wales we opened a dedicated facility in Cardiff - FineCal (Cymru) whilst bringing on board Gibbon inks into our what then was our Marler-FineCal operation leading to eventual links to SunChemical.
Running alongside this meanwhile, pressures continued from customers to rely on good supply chains to satisfy their client demands for full compliancy to various contracts and services. This resulted in our investment in formalising our management systems. Although FineCal had been regularly audited by the MOD, we opted to improve our standing and successfully gained BS5750 - we now have accreditation to ISO9001:2015 quality systems.
And so to the new millenium which commenced with a real boost with the taking over of our a neighbouring 3M distributor in the town - Brissco Equipment. As they had decided to concentrate on their sign + graphic's side, this enabled us to strengthen our position and service with the increased customer base and wider product offerings. This acquisition opened branches in Great Yarmouth and soon after, in Wellingborough too. Eventually, FineCal became partners in a new joint venture creating Preline Ltd. This led to Wellingborough absorbing East Anglia whilst enabling fresh investment in our neighbouring Livingston operation in Scotland.
With all these developments, you'd think that Norman and Simon would be busy enough - but not likely! During the 80's, Norman had seized upon an opportunity to set up FineCal Environmental Systems. This venture aligned itself closely with Norman's engineering background combined with the local geology around Bristol – the root cause of furring in domestic equipment due to the existence of 'limescale'.
The story goes: unable to find someone locally with skills in softener equipment as his own softening appliance had developed a problem, Norman contacted Culligan, the manufacturer of hard water converters to help. Well they soon recognised Norman’s technical ability and in conjunction with their own engineer, trained him up as they themselves were short of people. Thus FineCal became the Culligan dealer for the South-West installing softener equipment for both domestic and commercial markets, carrying out maintenance and supplying salt. Nowadays all the work is done is undertaken by Simon Gough who is also very experienced in the art of water softener installation and servicing.
...so to the future,
Simon Gough remains at the helm as Managing Director with the support of a strong Management team led by Lee West, Works Director; Nick Searle, Sales & Marketing; Simon Thomas, Group Buyer & Quality; Kate West, Label Production; Mark West, Warehouse & Logistics. Already preparations are underway in working towards AS9120 (Aerospace accreditation) whilst a recent upgrade of our IT systems has led us to gain Cyber Essentials Plus approval. Nevertheless you won't be surprised by the never-ending energy of our founder Norman who still fosters our label operation exploring ways to improve our quality in print even further. Whatever your view, the fact is that FineCal certainly has come a long way – and not bad for a business starting from humble beginnings or for our chairman who is now well into his young nineties.
* and in case you’re still wondering what does FineCal actually means, it's simple; the ‘Cal’ is an Americanism for self-adhesive and ‘Fine’ ... well there’s really no need to explain that, is there?…
(Tony Eagle - updated Jan 2019 )