William Say & Co. Ltd invests £850,000 futureproofing its London factory

William Say & Co. Ltd invests £850,000 futureproofing its London factory

  • Mar 05,2024

William Say & Co Ltd, the London canmaker, has recently invested over three quarters of a million pounds in its site, introducing new ultramodern technology as part of an extensive refurbishment of the factory’s essential equipment, some dating back to the early 1900s.  

New cutting line running one of its first production jobs after installation and testing

Stuart Wilkinson, Sales and Marketing Director at William Say & Co Ltd, comments:  

“This has been a landmark period for both William Say and its sister company, P Wilkinson Containers, one the UK’s leading packaging suppliers and stockists.   

“Not only have we produced commemorative tins for last year’s biggest event – the King’s coronation -we’ve simultaneously implemented a huge investment plan across our site – installing exciting new technology across our long-serving lines.”  

Both companies, fully owned by the Wilkinson family, share the Bermondsey-based site, where they have been located since the 1970s.  Four family generations have now worked for the business, including Stuart.  

Cutting-edge technology  

A key part of the refurb strategy was adding an innovative cutting line to the existing can making facilities. Costing over half a million, the ground breaking cutting machine, which has been in operation since March 2023, allows metal sheets to be cut in two different directions in one pass.   

This means the metal sheet flows in one direction, rather than turning for a second cut as is the case in standard cutting machines. This new machinery reduces tolerance levels and material wastage, as well as giving extra capacity and contingency to the existing machinery, which will remain in service.  

Refurbishing William Say’s power presses and body makers  

The new automatic stacker at the end of the cutting line

William Say has also refurbished the factory’s power presses, irreplaceable dependable machines with some dating from the mid-twentieth century. These make the lids and bottoms of William Say’s metal containers. The company has bought two new ones in conjunction with the refurbishment of the current machines.  

Similarly, the factory’s body maker machines, made by a UK manufacturer and longtime supplier to William Say, have also been renovated. This equipment turns a cut, flat body into a cylinder before the bottom of the tin is seamed on.   

Each body maker has been fully decommissioned one at a time and returned for deep maintenance where it has been stripped to its core and rebuilt with most of its moving parts replaced. Modern features have also been added including new sensors and switches to increase the accuracy of the production process.  

To avoid any downtime, William Say sourced two additional body makers whilst the others were sent for deep maintenance.  

Launching the hand-building workshop  

Farrow and Ball tins emerging from the 1st of two cuts (guillotine)

William Say has also rejuvenated its collection of hand-powered can making tools, dating from the early 1900s, to create a visitor workshop.  

These tools allow operators to build a can from scratch with machinery that adds a flange for seaming; adding a pre-curl; or a bead to a slip lid tin for example.  

These tools have been modified with enhanced safety features allowing less experienced personnel to create a usable prototype while learning about the can manufacturing process.  

Stuart Wilkinson said: 

“We’re thrilled to be able to welcome visitors to our new hand-crafted area, which is so reminiscent of our founder, William Say’s original 1930s workshop under the Crooked Billet Pub near Tower Bridge. This is an area for customers, old and new, as well as students to develop a practical understanding of how cans are made.” 

“I know William Say, who was quite the inventor, would be proud that machinery he knew and loved is still being looked after today,” adds Stuart.  

 

Appreciating the old and the new  

Farrow and Ball tins exiting the 2nd cut and entering the automatic stacker at the end of the line

“In the last few years, we’ve pioneered new technologies including digital printing which allows us to create intricate designs at a fast pace, and we have been long-time users of renewable energy to power our site as we look to ensure future sustainable manufacturing.  

“For customers, our 2023 / 2024 investment programme means we can continue to expand without compromising on flexibility.  

“We need a variety of technologies and equipment, and of course our power press stalwarts to enable us to offer these services and ensure we continue to manufacture for the next ninety years and beyond,” concludes Stuart.  

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