Scaling new heights

Accuracy: Ian Fellows at work at Marsden's Rotherham factory. '                   Pictures Steve Parkin
Accuracy: Ian Fellows at work at Marsden's Rotherham factory. ' Pictures Steve Parkin
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Brussels Eurocrats get the blame for plenty of things, but, at the Marsden Group’s manufacturing plant in Rotherham, they are more likely to raise a glass of champagne in celebration than bemoan the EU’s penchant for regulation.

Marsden traces its history back to the 1920s, when the original Mr Marsden started renting out and servicing scales for retailers in London.

By the 1970s, the company realised there was an opportunity to sell weighing equipment to the Health Service and became a distributor for a German firm that is now a major competitor.

Twenty years on, the company decided to promote the Marsden name by having scales made under its own name by subcontractors.

But, Marsden’s big chance came at the turn of the century, when the EU unveiled plans for the ‘NAWI’ directive, setting standards for Non-Automatic Weighing Instruments.

NAWI categorises and classifies any weighing machine that needs some sort of intervention from an operator and its introduction had two implications.

Suddenly it was no longer possible for just anyone to supply the market and, at the same time, NAWI focused the minds of users on just what accuracy they wanted from their weighing equipment.

Now they had got a yard stick to measure scales by, Health Service customers decided they wanted something better than the accuracy acceptable on a market stall.

Fortunately, Marsden had its finger firmly on the Health Service’s pulse and had a range of just the scales they needed, made at its brand new manufacturing plant in Rotherham, when the directive took effect.

What made a company based in Henley-on-Thames choose Rotherham?

“We came here for the skills,” says managing director Richard Black.

“There’s no end of stock brokers in Henley, but a lack of people with welding and fabrication skills.”

Marsden started out making a small range of scales it had designed – to see if they worked – and rapidly decided it was on the right track.

After a year – and with help from the EU funded Objective 1 regeneration programme – the company had bought a brand new factory on the Centurion Business Park at Templeborough.

“When we set up here, 11 years ago, there were four people rattling around in this building. Now we are short of room and have a place in Sheffield where we keep some of our stock,” says Richard Black.

Although its head office is still in Henley, along with sales and administration, half of the company’s 40-strong staff are based in Rotherham, where the company’s engineering, fabrication and powder coating facilities are based, along with service engineers and technical backup.

Richard Black wouldn’t have it any other way, even though it means he has to make the round trip from Oxfordshire to South Yorkshire every week.

“We like doing business in Yorkshire,” he says.

“The infrastructure is very good. There are a lot of resources around the area. It’s just a matter of tapping in to them – and the more you tap into them, the more you find what there is out there. That’s a real upside of being based in this area.

“We have had considerable help from Rotherham Investment and Development Office, UK Trade and Investment, the Chambers of Commerce and Medilink. Sheffield Hallam University has been particularly helpful – and we have been able to recruit apprentices from the area.”

Marsden even gets its catalogues printed in the area and the photographs taken here, too – and, given that its catalogue has gone from 14 to 32 pages packed full of the company’s equipment and it is committed to further expansion, that is a growing business for its suppliers, too.