For our first Made In Crewe feature we interviewed Ed Whitby from Whitby Morrison. Read on to find out more about this thriving manufacturing business – one that most of us will definitely have stood and looked up to their products with a smile on our face in our childhoods.
How/when did Whitby Morrison start?
EW “Whitby Morrison was founded in 1962 as Bryan Whitby Engineering – Bryan is my Grandad. He worked locally for several coach building firms and developed a reputation of being capable of completing the jobs others deemed impossible. This allowed him to progress on his own path.”
Why is the business located in Crewe?
EW “The surrounding areas of Crewe are where the family have been based for generations. Prior to the Second World War the family had agricultural jobs and were based in the more rural areas of the district. It was the war and search for work that drew the family into the town.”
Can you explain a little about the production process?
EW “The production process is a fascinating one, and unlike modern day car manufacturers where they are assembled – our Ice Cream Vans are built and engineered from scratch. The specification is agreed with the customer before any production takes place. The customer will choose a base chassis – usually a Mercedes Sprinter or Ford Transit chassis cab (we do build on other base vehicles for the international markets). This will be prepared in readiness for the mounting of the GRP bodywork. Once again this is a customer choice – we have a variety of models and styles to suit all tastes and business applications. Once these are together, the interior fit will commence.
All fridges and freezers are built from scratch on site – this allows us to have the tightest of control on quality as well as being able to produce the exact bespoke layout for the customer. These are then liquid foam insulated prior to installation within the Ice Cream Van. The interior will then be fitted out to the customer’s preference – from counterwork, storage cupboards and shelving to the latest LED lighting and inverter technology. No two layouts are the same. During this time the soft ice cream machine will also be fitted and connected to the revolutionary direct drive system – this was developed by Bryan Whitby in the 1960s and allows the vehicle engine to power the soft ice cream machine, eliminating the need for a generator. Quiet, efficient and good for the environment.
From here the vehicle will be taken to the preparation and paint department. Here the bodywork will be given the finest of attention to ensure a perfect finish as the different colours are hand sprayed. Once the paint process is completed the Ice Cream Van will move to the Vehicle Completion Department where the signwriting process will begin. This can involve anything from a day to a weeks’ work – again all depending on the customers preference. It is at this stage too that the vehicle will have all remaining components fitted, undergo stringent testing to satisfy ISO9001 and Type Approval requirements and valeted in readiness for collection by the customer. Of course before its finally handed over, it is road tested over different terrains and speeds, photographed and the ice cream machine thoroughly tested!
The actual physical build process typically takes around 4 weeks although the order book tends to generate a lead time between 10-14 weeks. Nearly all of the 52 members of staff will be involved with the manufacture of each vehicle, whether directly or indirectly. Take a look at some of the video’s of the productions process here.“
We know Whitby Morrison is a family business – can you tell us who works in the business now?
EW “We are a third generation family business. Today it is run by myself and my father, Stuart. My Grandad, Bryan Whitby still calls in most days and is always on hand to offer helpful advice. Bryan’s daughter Julie helps out in the office a few days a week. Stuart’s wife, Stephanie, oversees the payroll each week and was helped by, up until recently, Bryan’s wife Barbara. I am the eldest of four brothers and throughout our younger years, all of us have helped out in one way or another.”
Can you tell us about your role in the business?
EW “Primarily I manage the production element of the business. However we are currently in the middle of a 7 year plan which, should it come good, will see me take the business reins from my father, allowing him to take a back seat. In addition to the production i take responsibility for new business development, human resources, recruitment, IT, marketing – both micro and macro, media relations and charity work. Plus a few other bits and pieces…”
Do you have any local suppliers?
EW “With the specialised nature of our product we have small but very important selection of local suppliers. Predominantly these are engineering based but we do enlist the help of local services too in helping the day to day running of the business (IT services, and organisations like South Cheshire College etc).”
Do you shop/eat in Crewe? Either business or personal.
EW “Me personally – not that much – I tend to be at work! My wife and family do though.”
Whitby Morrison is certainly a vibrant Crewe business that exports products around the world. Employing 52 people in the town after 50 years in business it has definitely made a major contribution to the local area and putting Crewe on the global map with exports to over 60 countries around the world!
Thanks Ed for sparing some of your time to let us get to know Whitby Morrison a little better. I’m sure we’ll be in touch again to find out more about the business.