They’ve a knack for keeping in tune with the times at Granton Medical.
And that’s no mean feat, particularly for a firm that is 410 years old and is still in the hands of the family that founded it.
In the years since knife maker Richard Ragg launched the company in 1601, Granton has made blades, table cutlery, scissors, swords and surgical instruments – from scalpels to tuning forks.
The firm lays claim to being the last company in Sheffield to make cut-throat razors and the first in the world to develop a safety razor.
Nowadays the Parkway Close business’s focus is on the medical sector and, while it still makes tuning forks and safety scalpels, specialised packaging and packaging services are driving a business founded at the dawn of the 17th century forward in the 21st.
It began when Granton, which was packaging scalpels, was approached by a big dental products distributor and asked if it could make special pouches for dentists who sterilise their own instruments.
The idea is that, after being used, the instruments are cleaned, sealed in pouches and placed in the steriliser. When they come out, the instruments remain protected by the pouch until they are used.
Granton worked with a UK machinery manufact- urer to develop a high speed, computer controlled plant for producing the pouches, becoming only the second manufacturer of the pouches outside the US and the sole producer in the UK.
“It got us into the NHS, where they started using the product in hospitals for surgical instruments, tattoo studios and beauty salons – anywhere with reusable instruments that have to be sterilised,” says Katie Kirkby, the latest descendant of Richard Ragg to run the company.
“It was a sea change. Rather than making something out of a piece of metal, we were suddenly making something out of a piece of paper, film and tape, at high speed, using computer controlled plant and machinery – very different from traditional manufacturing methods.”
What’s more, the packages – 100 million a year of them, emerging from the machine at the rate of 335 a minute – had to be made in a clean room environment which, fortunately, Granton already had experience of, thanks to its work with scalpels.
The expertise that went into developing the machinery, the cost of replicating that, Granton’s reputation and its approvals – including a prestigious licence from the US Food and Drugs Administration – give the Sheffield company what appears an unassailable lead.
But the firm, whose 400- year success story is built on its ability to embrace change, doesn’t intend to get lulled into a false sense of security by that.
“We won’t be sitting still for long,” says Katie Kirkby.