April 2021 marks the 40th Anniversary of Thorworld Industries, the leading UK-based designer and manufacturer of loading and unloading solutions and accessories. This significant milestone has been credited to the hard work and dedication of the Thorworld team, together with a willingness to adapt to new developments and advancements within the material handling industry.
John Meale, Managing Director of Thorworld Industries, explains how the company came into existence back in 1981:
“In the early-1980’s I was contacted by a family friend in Canada who wanted advice on setting up a UK arm of his Canadian operation, which manufactured dockplates and dockboards. Having managed manufacturing divisions of various companies during my early career, I understood how the company could work and its potential. After considering the options and visiting the Canadian operation – as well as having a number of discussions with my wife, Geraldine! – I decided to take on a 50 percent partnership and launch Thorweld Industries, as it was called then, in the UK. We unveiled the new company at the ‘International Materials Handling Exhibition’ at Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London in 1981.
“As the only two employees at the time, myself and my wife did everything, from the assembly of products and their distribution to the marketing, administration and reception duties. We started in a 1,000sq ft unit on an industrial business park in Chesterfield – and we continue to trade from the same business park today, albeit from slightly larger premises.”
In 1985, John identified a gap in the market and realised a need to expand his product range. His partner in Canada did not have this same need, so John bought the UK arm of the business outright, changed the company name to Thorworld Industries Ltd and began the next phase of his journey.
The company now operates from a 17,000sq foot manufacturing and office unit and has a further 20,000sq feet of outside storage space. Its comprehensive product offering ranges from dock levellers, dock seals, and alignment curbs to lightweight platforms, mobile ramps, traffic lights and dock bumpers. It has also built a reputation for excellence in the design and creation of bespoke loading solutions and special ramps for unique applications.
“Our ability to adapt and respond quickly to changes in the industry have been key to our longevity,” continues John. “We ensure we are aware of any new developments or trends within the materials handling, logistics and warehousing sectors, which has allowed us to remain one step ahead and provide solutions that enable our customers to keep pace.”
John was aware early on that keeping on top of industry developments was key to the success of Thorworld Industries – and one way to do this was to join the relevant trade organisations. In 1983, he joined ALEM, the Association of Loading and Elevating Equipment, becoming president a number of times in the subsequent years. Being a member of ALEM also allowed Thorworld to join the British Materials Handling Federation (BMHF), again an organisation of which John has been president.
During his time as president of the BMHF, John attended the European Federation of Materials Handling (FEM) as a board member representing the UK. In 2010 he was elected president of the FEM, which made Thorworld a major participator in the European materials handling industry. John remained president of the FEM Product Group Elevating Equipment until January 2021.
“Being an integral part of these European organisations has been vital to ensuring Thorworld stays at the forefront of the industry. It has also helped both myself and our team to develop an in-depth knowledge of the sector and what solutions are best for our customers and their operations.”
John also attributes the success of Thorworld to the team he has developed and the company’s ethos of nurturing staff and helping them achieve their aims through the relevant training and continued support.
“Our longest serving member of staff is Elizabeth Brown, who joined us over 36 years ago to control all ramp sales and hires. She continues to do this role today and we are eternally grateful for the time and hard work she has dedicated to Thorworld. Steven Revill, our Works Manager, joined us over 22 years ago as a Fabricator Welder Trainee apprentice. He became Works Manager in 2020 on the retirement of our long serving Manager Roger Smith, demonstrating the success of Thorworld’s approach to the continued development of its staff.
“We also took this approach when creating our management team and around 25 years ago I began a relationship with Loughborough University and agreed to take on one Engineering Graduate Trainee each year. Today, two of these graduates are still working for Thorworld – Mark James, Director of Administration, Quality & Safety, and Ian Langan, Technical & Engineering Director – and they are both now Directors and Shareholders.
“We currently have 29 employees, many of whom have been with us for a significant amount of time and I am extremely proud of our low turnover of staff, which has helped us create a well-established, harmonious and hardworking team,” adds John.
Thorworld continues to look to the future, and is once again demonstrating it can adapt to any circumstance with the creation of Thorworld Materials Handling Ltd. This company has been specifically created to meet the new requirements implemented by Brexit and enable Thorworld to continue to meet the needs of its customers in mainland Europe.
“It has been a tumultuous year since March 2020 and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Add to this the realisation of Brexit and it has meant uncertainty for many industries. We have been fortunate that the sectors we serve have continued operating, providing a frontline service to many. However, our ability to continue throughout these unprecedented months has been due to the commitment of our amazing staff and their ability to adjust to situations quickly and efficiently. I am confident that because of this, Thorworld Industries will continue to be just as successful for another 40 years.”
Further information about Thorworld Industries and its range of services and products, can be found at www.thorworld.co.uk or by calling 01246 260 981.