Changing customer profiles with differing emphasis on purchasing requirements, increased competition from importers and the fluctuating exchange rate are all contributing factors affecting the manufacturing industry in the UK.

The important question is, do companies view this as a positive opportunity to review their total activities, structure and overall marketing objectives? Or, do they negatively bemoan the inconvenience of changing market influences and stick with the traditional route of seeing their customer base slowly erode away?

It pays for companies to review marketing plans on a regular basis to ensure that they are meeting their goals and objectives, not getting side-tracked on costly one-off projects, while, more importantly, meeting their customers’ requirements and providing the right product with comprehensive after-sales service.

The biggest difficulty in such a review is acknowledging that change is needed. Once that psychological hurdle has been cleared, a company can be repositioned to face the future through the implementation of professional management involvement and market research that analyses both internal and external opportunities.

However, nobody ever said this task would be without difficulty or would not involve some level of unpalatable decisive management action.

Back to its roots

The Blackburn-based Cherry Tree Machine Company, established in 1870, is proud of its history and accumulated wealth of laundry and textile processing experience, and is positively looking for growth and future developments.

As the remaining UK manufacturer of laundry machinery and specialised textile fashion fabric and dyeing machines, the company has undergone dramatic change.

Cherry Tree has now positioned itself to maintain and strengthen its engineering reputation. To this end, it has added software developments which will provide accurate management of information to achieve greater customer satisfaction.

The company’s new machine features include single-drive motors and electronic controls for greater efficiency.

Mr Kirk Forrest joined Cherry Tree as its new managing director towards the end of 1997. His appointment provided an ideal opportunity to look at the company with fresh eyes and a positive outlook.

The benefit of having modern manufacturing and prestigious new office premises—which are conveniently located adjacent to the new M65 motorway—makes Cherry Tree an attractive proposition for its customers.

Where better to start from than talking to customers—a simple philosophy, but one that is often overlooked by many companies involved in manufacturing. “Cherry Tree is determined to be customer-lead and meet market requirements, as opposed to being limited by old- fashioned engineering dogma of ‘this is what we make’,” says Mr Forrest.

This positive marketing approach is reflected throughout the Harbury Group, which incorporates six specialist engineering companies including Cherry Tree.

In a move to restructure the company to meet market demands and fluctuations in sales, Cherry Tree has recently taken the decision to reduce management and workforce numbers.

As part of a radical re-think of the company’s activities, Cherry Tree now intends to outsource and sub-contract its machining and fabrication requirements instead of manufacturing in-house.

“The cost savings brought about by recent redundancies will not only ensure survival of the UK’s only manufacturer of large-capacity industrial washing machines, it will also provide a healthy basis from which to concentrate marketing efforts in areas where Cherry Tree is renowned,” says Mr Forrest. “It will also enable the company to investigate the potential of controlled expansion by diversification.”

A head start In washer-extractors

Back in 1892, the first manually operated washer-extractor was built to combine a washing drum and mangle arrangement that allowed water to be returned back to the wash fluids.

An alliance in 1960 with American market leaders GA Braun Inc, transferred technology and allowed manufacture of Braun washer-extractors to be undertaken in the UK. This move saw hundreds of machines being built and supplied to commercial, hospital and hotel laundries throughout the world.

Cherry Tree is therefore putting to good use its many years of experience in engineering customised laundry machinery to meet individual companies’ specific processing requirements. From initial discussions with customers, Cherry Tree can design, build and install stand-alone washer-extractors and as required, will integrate units into fully automated systems.

Washer-extractors are a core product in boosting the company’s success.

Its range of washer-extractors have been adapted for special purposes, making them capable of handling stonewashing and fashion dyeing, as well as normal wash processing. The company’s machines are specially strengthened to withstand the rigours of long-term stonewash processing and include heavy duty cages and load lifters; shrouded bolts on the cage backplate and flanges to prevent stones and other debris from falling between the cage and the front panel of the machine.

Greater use of stainless steel is made for those machines designed to handle dyestuffs, along with extra hoppers.

The comprehensive range of washer-extractors available from Cherry Tree feature open pocket, tilt action and top side loading units for use with automated bag loading systems. There are over 23 barrier washer-extractors to choose from, with load capacities that range from 45 to 360 kg.

Over the years, Cherry Tree machines have progressively evolved from card controls to include sophisticated electronics which provide accuracy of wash programmes, economy of energy and supplies, remote operator control, diagnostic modem link facilities and management information systems to assist in optimising resources.

Cherry Tree products are manufactured in strict accordance with BS 5750/ ISO 9001 quality and CE safety standards.

From this nucleus of proven products, a more aggressive development programme is planned to include improved designs to provide greater flexibility in plant design, innovative technology, with additional optional features and control systems to enable laundries and textile processing operations to maximise output.

Installations worldwide are supported by international distributors, agents and trained service engineers, combining to provide qualified product expertise and proficient after-sales service.

Service with extra style

Customer care and support facilities is another area where Cherry Tree intends to invest extra time and effort, by offering contractual service arrangements for laundry plants, as well as full reconditioning service to give a new lease of life to customer’s machines. Complete strip-down and systematical rebuilding of machines can provide a cost-effective alternative solution for customers. Rather than purchasing a brand-new model, a re-conditioned unit can be provided with the same warranty period.

“The way forward in manufacturing is to identify your strengths and work closely with customers in a partnership, offering active participation in assisting their business to prosper within an ever-increasing and competitive environment,” says Mr Forrest.

“Diversification can be a way forward, providing it is controlled and does not detract from the core business of washer-extractors and servicing of an established customer base. To this end, Cherry Tree has been pruned for healthy growth in the future.”