Robin Walker, Worcester’s MP and a member of the BIS Select Committee last Friday opened the new distribution centre for Worcester Bosch, the major Worcester employer that has grown over many decades from one man’s idea developed in his Worcester garage, when entrepreneur Cecil Duckworth developed a more efficient boiler than anyone had previously made, to be one of Worcester’s largest employers and supporters of apprenticeships.
The business grew from such humble beginnings to become one of Worcester’s top employers from the 1960s to the 1980s and then in 1983 ran into difficulties when a fire destroyed its Diglis factory. Robin’s late father, Peter Walker, who was Worcester’s MP at the time visited the burnt out factory and urged the workers there to keep faith and support their management team in rebuilding. He joked that it was the first formal closing of a factory that he had ever had to undertake as MP.
Just a few months later in 1984 he visited Diglis again to reopen the revitalised Worcester Engineering factory and brought Robin, his then five year old son with him. A black and white photograph was taken at the opening that showed them sitting on a forklift truck in front of a crowd of Worcester Engineering employees and a large Worcester branded lorry.
At Friday’s special event, the photograph, with Peter Walker sitting in the cab of a forklift truck and Robin sitting on the boxes of boilers it was lifting, was recreated for the opening of the new expansion. Robin took the place of his father in the driving seat and was joined by founding entrepreneur Cecil Duckworth, the current boss of Worcester Bosch, Carl Arntzen took the place of Robin on the front of the forklift.
Even more remarkably many of the people who took part in the photograph 31 years ago as factory employees of Worcester Engineering were onsite to take part in the photograph, some because they still work there and others who have retired in recent years, were invited back. Robin even met the secretary, Sarah Lawrence, who looked after him on the day who was Secretary to the then Finance Director, Nigel Collis and chatted to a number of the people who appeared in the original photograph including one gentleman who he had recently canvassed, who told him about the photo on his doorstep.
Following its recovery from the Diglis fire Worcester Engineering, then Worcester Heat Systems went on from strength to strength and eventually attracted investment from the German company Bosch. Cecil Duckworth went from managing and owning the firm to becoming its President and supporting local good causes such as the Duckworth Worcestershire Trust and WRFC, which he helped to transform into the Warriors and take into the Rugby Premiership. Worcester Bosch has become the single largest private sector employer in Worcester and its expansion onto the new Warndon site reflects its continuing commitment as a firm to the city of Worcester from which it takes its name.
Robin met with a number of apprentices during his visit to Worcester Bosch on Friday including Tristan Robinson, who had recently returned from a visit to Germany & Abbie Ormrod, who spoke at his apprentice roundtable in January and helped him to persuade more local firms to take on apprentices. The three Chief Executives who have led Worcester Bosch over the last thirty years, Cecil Duckworth, Richard Soper & Carl Arntzen, were all at the event. Each of them started their own career as an apprentice and all have been committed to the firm continuing to invest in apprenticeships.
Robin cut a ribbon surrounded by apprentices and the senior managers of this remarkable company that has come such a long way over the decades and declared the new distribution centre officially open saying:
“Whenever I see a Worcester Bosch lorry on the roads I feel a sense of pride in Worcester. I hope this distribution centre will send many more out into the country to carry Worcester’s name and fame far and wide.”
The £9 million landmark building reaffirms the leading boiler manufacturer’s commitment to the area and ensures it can now consolidate its two existing distribution facilities into one, highly-efficient location. The company’s finished boilers, heat pumps, cylinders, commercial products and accessories have already been moved from the previous warehouses to the new 6.7 acre site, which is able to hold more than 10,000 pallets at capacity. Internal sales teams and the logistics planning departments have also made the move to the new building. The site also features a 3-tier mezzanine and additional racking to house the spare parts pre-pack and despatch departments for greater efficiency. When fully operational it will allow for the despatch of 10,000 items per day.
Carl Arntzen, managing director of Worcester, Bosch Group said:
“We are thrilled to be officially unveiling our purpose built Bosch Distribution Centre. This new building supplements the huge investment we have undertaken at our head office and factory on Cotswold Way, and will ensure our business continues to produce and distribute the quality and innovative products for which Worcester is known, as effectively as possible.
“The move has involved a great deal of logistical planning to combine the two previous locations but we are already seeing the benefits. Not only has it made it easier in terms of storage and distribution space but the extra office facilities also give flexibility for future growth, as we continue to strengthen our position in the market.”
“My family and I have always had a close affinity with Worcester, Bosch Group. My father, Peter, who was MP for Worcester for 31 years, helped re-open the Diglis factory in 1983 following the devastating fire – the commitment of Worcester’s staff and management to getting the business going again then was key to their future success. I even made it into that photograph as a child so I am particularly delighted to be part of this new stage in Worcester’s future. This opening marks a big investment into the area as a whole and I am looking forward to seeing this move further develop and strengthen the company’s position as leader in the heating industry and an ambassador for Worcester.”
“It was incredible to be able to recreate the photo from my first visit all those years ago and it is a remarkable testament to Worcester Bosch’s commitment to its people that so many of those who took part in the photo in 1984 were still there today. It’s also great to see a business founded by an apprentice continuing to invest in apprenticeships today. I can’t remember too much from my first visit except for the excitement of being allowed to sit on the front of a forklift truck and the kindness of everyone who looked after me. It was wonderful to come back and take part in a celebration of one of Worcester’s great success stories.”
Notes to editors:
To find out more about Worcester, Bosch Group’s energy-efficient and renewable heating products visit www.worcester-bosch.co.uk
To see the original 1984 photograph and its place in the history of Worcester Bosch see: