The History Of Autowrappers

Part 5

The Whiffler Road Factory, Auto Wrapper (Norwich) Ltd

The Tobenoil years 1966 to 1976

The Company was now part of the  TOBENOIL group, and by 1964 a larger premises was required due to the increasing demand for the machines, a site at Whiffler Road was found, plans were drawn up and planning permission was granted on the 14th of January 1965, at the time it was on the very outskirts of Norwich surrounded by open fields, but as Norwich grew so did the surrounding industry around the Autowrappers factory. 


A new era followed ......


Photo Ref: AW0048 Whiffler Road Factory Main office building ( 1967 )

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Photo Ref: AW0029 Whiffler Road Factory from above  (1967)

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And for comparison here is what the same area looks like today (2016)

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More views of the Whiffler Road factory 

Photo Courtesy of Richard Rush and Trevor Kirby

Photo Ref: AW0228                                                                            Photo Ref: AW0233

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And more views of the Whiffler Road factory 


Photo Ref: AW0225      Photo Courtesy of Richard Rush and Trevor Kirby                                                        

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As the industry around Norwich and the rest of the UK  grew, so did the demand for wrapping machines, this required a larger work force, after only 3 years at the new site, the factory was running at capacity, By 1968 it was decided to expand the factory area from 40,000 Sq Ft to 75,000 Sq Ft , with an aditional  3,300 Sq Ft added to accommodate extra office space 

The factory was self-sufficient with every component being made in the vast machine shops by highly skilled engineers, with the addition of paint shops and plating shops the whole manufacturing process was self-contained and efficiently run.


A new state of the art design and drawing office with was created and still not a computer in sight


Photo Ref: AW0227      Photo Courtesy of Richard Rush and Trevor Kirby    

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Individual components being made in the machine shop at Whiffler Road 


Photo Ref: AW0044 Whiffler Road Machine shop

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After each component is manufactured, it then passes through the inspection department that checks that it is dimensionally correct and meets the required tolerances. 


Photo Ref: AW0226    Photo Courtesy of Richard Rush and Trevor Kirby

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After the components are inspected some parts may be required to be plated to prevent corrosion, usually zinc or chrome plating was used. most of the plating equipment shown here at whiffler road plating shop was the original plating equipment first used in the Nissan Hut back in the late 40s ( see earlier history section )


Photo Ref: AW0223    Photo Courtesy of Richard Rush and Trevor Kirby

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Photo Ref: AW0046 The Whiffler Road Plating Shop

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Once the components are complete and ready, assembly begins on the assembly shop floor and the machines start to take shape. below is an early photo from whiffler road as most of the Roll wrappers were of the original "R" type.


Photo Ref: AW0232    Photo Courtesy of Richard Rush and Trevor Kirby

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Below is a later photo at Whiffler Rd and shows Rows of Super 2000 Roll Wrappers in various stages of construction. the R type machines were gradually phased out by the end of the 60s 


The following information was sent to us by Rod Horne 

In the photo below the man leaning into the machine was Frank Oakley. I worked for a couple of years with Frank as part of my training. At that time John Plumstead was the leading hand before becoming more involved with development. Frank and I got on well and my wife-to-be and I socialised with Frank and his wife Nancy. I saw Nancy in two photographs, AW0077 and AW0120. I believe Frank died in the late 60s but by then we had drifted apart and I learned of his death by chance.They came to our wedding. Also in the same picture is David Garnett. David and I were apprentices together although he was maybe a couple of years older. 

 

Photo Ref: AW0234    Photo Courtesy of Richard Rush and Trevor Kirby

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After construction each machine is individually tested to make sure that it meets the required performence level and customer quality expectations. The photo below shows Jack Robinson and Dennis Smith overseeing the testing of a Super 2000.


We were sent the following information by Rod Horne 

The man on the left was one Jack Robinson who was foreman of the R machine section during my time at AW. Jack was from the north of England, and had some quaint expressions one being “arris” for sharp edge so you would be told to get a file a remove the arrises from something. He once told a fitter, Eddie Trowse, that he should be behind a plough. Eddie, never at a loss for words said “… and you should be pulling it.”


Photo Ref: AW0231   Photo Courtesy of Richard Rush and Trevor Kirby with aditional info from Rod Horne

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After testing.....  the machines make thier way to the dispatch area where they are crated and loaded on trucks for dispatch to the customers.


Photo Ref: AW0246   Photo Courtesy of Richard Rush and Trevor Kirby

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The Rise of the Flow-Wrapper 

At this time Flow-Wrapping was the next big thing, more customers wanted this type of packaging, Autowrappers entry into the Flow-wrapping market in the early 60s had been sucessfull with the AT machine and the Flow-wrap market was growing rapidly, and due to this demand  Swiss packaging manufacturer SIG Pack ( Now owned by Bosch Packaging ) approached Autowrappers with a deal to manufacture thier range of HSU flow-wrappers at the Norwich Factory under licence. this agreement continued until the early 70s,  David Mortimer has told us that when he joined Autowrappers in 1968 they were still buiding the HSUs and the last HSU left the factory in 1971 and Auto Wrappers were still supplying parts for the HSUs into the early 80s. 


The main reason that the HSU was discontinued from manufacture at Whiffler Road, was that during this time the AT machine had been redeveloped into the Mk1 Versoflow machine and the Versoflow  was proving very popular with customers, and because of this, it started outselling the HSU machines, unfortunately SIG pack were not pleased that Autowrappers were selling more of the Versoflow machines than the HSUs and saw Autowrapprs as a main competitor so promptly withdrew the licence to manufacture.


Photo Ref: AW0553 the AT Machine                                                             Photo Ref: AW0607 the SIG HSU Machine ( made under licence ) 

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The New Versoflow Machine had replaced the AT machine and proved very popular with the customers at the time 

Photo Ref: AW0246

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The Reception Area at Whiffler Road ( pictured below ) although not considered modern by todays standards was the leading edge of design  in 1967. it was such an Icon that It even had its own feature in the local Eastern Evening News

Photo Ref: AW0047  The Whiffler Road Reception Area

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Photo Ref: AW0153 EEN Autowrappers reception feature  

( Photo Courtesy of Geoff King / Richard Bull )

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The design and development departments were expanding the range of machines being manufactured and also  developing packaging solutions in areas that had previously been left untouched by Autowrappers in the past. 

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And very soon, the takeover of Tobenoil by GEI International would allow the company to diversify into other areas.