Blooming good Banbury opening for Stewart

By Barry Copping
Posted 13 September 2012

Stewart Group, which manufactures and distributes gardening products, catering supplies and homewares, has completed the development of its new facility at Banbury.

“Grow your own” specialist and gardening broadcaster Pippa Greenwood formally opened the plant by switching on a new Engel Victory 300 injection moulding machine on 11 September. The first products made were terracotta-finish plant pots.

The 16,500 sq meter site has a significantly larger footprint than Stewart’s old Croydon premises, which will be run down progressively. The new plant is designed to allow for process improvements and upgrades at every stage of production, warehousing and transportation.

A further two new Engel machines are in prospect. The injection moulding section will initially accommodate 20 machines, with scope for expansion to 40. Two rotational moulding machines have been installed, one digitally and the other manually controlled. A 35 metre Demag 8 tonne crane, claimed to be the largest installed in any UK factory for many years, will boost mould handling efficiency.

The entire production area has been floored with sealed epoxy to produce a clean manufacturing site, with the possibility of installing full cleanroom facilities for medical production later.

The main garden products warehouse comprises 21 aisles where picking is performed by new Person-Up Linde K and V trucks. Over 12,000 pallets can be stored at Banbury, a 50% increase over Croydon, with some 300 processed every day.

Group CEO Richard Butler told PRW: “It’s been an enjoyable challenge designing our new facility from scratch. While we honour our 67-year history at Croydon, the old premises had become a constraint to growth. We’re looking to double overall turnover in the next five years.

“The new garden products warehouse is probably the most sophisticated in the UK plastics industry, using ideas more common in the catalogue retailing and book distribution sectors. The warehouse will help our agile approach to distribution, with a particular emphasis on independent garden centres. Given the unpredictability of the UK climate, demand can be volatile.”

Greenwood, popular for her role as a panellist on Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time, is working with Stewart to help consumers improve their understanding of growing fruit and vegetables at home, and to support retailers in the sector.