CHANGING TIMES AT THOMSON SAWMILLS

Nothing ever stands still at Thomson Sawmills in deepest Norfolk!

It’s a few years since I last paid a visit to Thomson Sawmills, based at Stratton Strawless near Norwich, and a lot has changed in the intervening period.

Their expansion in recent times is a perfect advert for what businesses in our industry can achieve with ambition, foresight and good planning. It’s a lesson in focused management and intelligent investment.

The addition of a second sawmill has seen their 100 acre site re-ordered and redesigned within its heavily wooded surroundings.

Brian Thomson, who founded the business in 1982 and remains MD, commented: “We are always looking to improve what we do. Whether that’s improved customer service, better management processes or significant investments in our facilities, Thomson Sawmills is always moving forward.”

Brian is one of six family members on the board at a business that currently employs 56. He’s joined by daughters Laura, who looks after sales and production, and Carly who oversees FSC and Health & Safety. Sons Jamie and Oliver focus their attentions on production in the mills and workshops around the site.

Laura took up the story: “Last year was very successful with  around 25% growth and we are on target to notch around 15 to 20% growth this year. Our biggest selling fencing products include lap and closeboard as well as gates and a wide range of garden landscaping features.

“All of our timber is sourced from UK forests, mainly around the East of England and the Midlands, and we treat green and brown on site here with Lonza being our treatment partner of choice.

“The vast bulk of our business is focused on trade partners across the UK although we do have a flourishing retail side and consider ourselves Norfolk’s largest fencing supplier.

“We have added significantly to the workforce in recent years with the construction of the new mill and continue to invest wisely. Later this year we will add another panel machine to our production capability after purchasing our first machine last year.

“We subcontract out our logistics and distribution and have recently added a second weighbridge to improve efficiency and reduce wait times for lorries,” added Laura.

As well as the new mill, weighbridge and panel machine investments, Thomson Sawmills has also developed its management systems and processes in a bid to improve efficiency.

Brian went on: “A constantly evolving approach to managing the business has allowed us to be agile and able to respond quickly to market place requirements and get rid of glitches in the system. We are

getting ever more streamlined and efficient as we grow as a business. “We are well aware of the threats that exist on the horizon, not least the uncertainty caused by our current trading status, but we feel confident that we can continue to develop a strong domestic presence both nationally and locally.”

Laura added: “Our marketing approach has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years and we now have a number of social media channels that we regularly update with product and company information. We also send out a monthly e-shot that contains offers and promotions. This is proving successful and we’ve recruited a staff member to look after this side of the business.

“We are also very immersed in and committed to the local community around here supporting a number of causes and charities including the local football team.

“All of our workforce come  from this side of Norwich and it’s important to have that visibility and engagement with the local communities around here.

“We rarely rest on our laurels here. We are constantly adapting to change and long may that continue. It seems to be working well right now!” concluded Laura.

Change is good as long as it is thoroughly embraced by everyone within an organisation. It appears to be full speed ahead for Thomson Sawmills!

www.thomsonsawmills.co.uk