Business has been brisk to say the least over the past twelve months for Bob Ball and Brett Smith of Warwickshire-based Southam Automation.

The same can be said for Tim Keeves, Manager of the Marton branch of Main Line Timber who has just taken delivery of one of their Panelmaster machines.

Since being featured in Fencing & Landscaping News last year Southam Automation has experienced a veritable boom in demand for and interest in their manufacturing innovation that is arguably the best machine available when it comes to automating production of feather edge fencing panels.

“We are just about to move into much larger premises nearby and will be recruiting new staff to cope with demand,” explained Brett who has sold over 240 Panelmasters in the past 25 years.

“The impact of the feature has been spectacular, and a continual stream of new orders from fencing manufacturers that are looking to find an edge over the competition in a new era of high demand,” he added.

Established in 1991 by Edward and Tim, Main Line Timber has steadily expanded from its base at Woodford Halse, near Daventry. The Marton branch opened its doors in 2011 and already boasts a turnover nudging £2 million.

Edward explained: “All credit to Tim and his team who have built this branch up from a standing start. We had no customers when we opened our doors but word has spread fast and we now have around a 60/40 split with retail and trade. A number of contractors use our products but domestic customers account for the lion’s share.

“Around 70% of our timber is homegrown with the remainder sourced from across Europe,” added Edward ,who has also masterminded a successful online sales platform at www.mainlinetimber.co.uk with an ever growing number of customers choosing to purchase through thewebsite.

Tim explained: “The Panelmaster will easily double our production capacity for the popular feather edge panels which account for the vast proportion of our panel sales. It will free up staff for other tasks.

“It’s been on our radar for a few years since we saw it in action at TimberTec, near Newbury,” added Tim.

Edward added: “We keep a very tight ship when it comes to costs here. I’ve done the sums on this and I believe we should see a return on investment within 18 months given I generally write off machinery after 5 years, but I believe the Panelmaster will deliver a longer productive lifecycle.

The growing trend through lockdown has been for homeowners improving their outdoor spaces with feather edge,waney edge and trellis fencing being amongst the biggest sellers. We don’t envisage this trend to change dramatically any time soon, hence the need to automate our production and improve efficiency.”

Brett commented: “We have some customers who have had our machines going for 20 years, so longevity isn’t an issue. The Panelmaster’s are true workhorses that not only increase productive capacity but also impact on health and safety with issues such as repetitive strain injury.

“There’s also an added incentive in that recent budgetary changes mean customers can effectively get a tax rebate from the government when they invest in new machinery,” added Brett.

The original Panelmaster only manufactured waney edge panels of all sizes and configurations at first, but after a few years was adapted by Brett and business partner Bob Bal to also make feather edge panels in the same way.

Brett also went on: “The Panelmaster really is a pioneering piece of technology and there’s nothing like it in terms of flexibility and production. We have had customers who have been producing up to 20,000 panels per year.

“Because all of the parts are purchased in the UK we don’t have the supply chain issues that affect other manufacturing businesses but this does vary a little with the effects of the Covid situation. That means we can focus on getting each and every machine we build to a very high standard of quality and reliability.

“We don’t adopt a hard sell approach and I would never sell a Panelmaster to a customer unless it fitted in with their needs and processes. Honesty is a critical factor when businesses are looking to make major investments like this and the personal approach before, during and after sales, goes a long way to garnering trust and establishing a reputation.

“It will undoubtedly help Tim and his team at Main Line Timber and we look forward to following their progress. They are the latest in a long line of customers who recognise the benefits of automated fence panel manufacturing,” concluded Brett.

The final word belonged to Tim: “The Panelmaster will help us immensely. It will ensure we stay one step ahead of the competition and on track for further growth.”

The Panelmasters, it seems, really do have the feather edge when it comes to automation.

Panelmaster sales 07902 789252 www.southamautomation.com

Main Line Timber (Marton branch) 01926 633739 www.mainlinetimber.co.uk

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