Our Chairman, Norman Gough, celebrates the founding of FineCal* - 50 plus 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 specialising in 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 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 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. Later on, FineCal became partners in a new joint venture with two other 3M distibutors creating Preline Ltd. This led to Wellinborough absorbing East Anglia reducing overheads that allowed 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 limestone geography around Bristol – the root cause of furring in domestic equipment due to the existence of 'hard water'.
The story goes: unable to find an engineer locally with skills in softener equipment as his own softening appliance has developed a problem, Norman contacted Culligan in High Wycombe, 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.
...so for the future,
Simon Gough remains at the helm as Managing Director with the support of a strong Management team led by Lee West, Works Manager, Nick Searle, Sales & Marketing & Simon Thomas, Group Buyer and quality representative. Already preparations are almost complete for ISO9001:2015 accreditation whilst a recent upgrade of our IT systems has led us to being certified with the Government's 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 with investments in the latest of printing presses. FineCal certainly has 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!
(Tony Eagle - updated Feb 2018 )