Morris Lubricants is proud of its historic roots and excited by the future
As a company rich in history, there seems something very appealing about being employed by Morris Lubricants and not just working in the iconic buildings in the heart of Shrewsbury town centre.
Jan Gilbert, for example, spent over 43 years being office-based, processing orders from customers at the oil and lubricants manufacturer before retiring recently.
And Rob Woodcock has just retired after 38 years on the production line as a charge-hand at the historic business.
Such longevity of service suggests contentment in your work and it's something chairman Andrew Goddard – the fifth generation of his family to lead the firm – feels is at the heart of what has made the company such a success since its opening in 1869.
"The reason we are successful is the calibre of the people we have got working here," he says. "We are a team and one of the things we have been strong advocates of is appointing a number of graduates over the last five or ten years. Every single one of them has been a great success.
"So, we are not just reliant on the fantastic people who have been here 30 or 40 years but also local people of high calibre, coming through. I feel it's an environment that can be a really enjoyable place to work."
The company's history is vast. Company founder, James Kent Morris signed the lease on 7 Frankwell in 1869 and the first Morris shop, a grocery business and candle factory was born.
Eight years later, Mr J.K. Morris Senior started importing paraffin to burn in paraffin lamps, which were superseding tallow candles.
And in 1894, J.K. Morris Junior became Managing Director and ran the business with his brothers.
The business, by this time, consisted of groceries, confectionary, a bakery, wines and spirits, and a growing lubricant blending plant.
By 1911, lubricant manufacturing continued to expand, leading to a need for larger premises and a move from New Street to Rowleys House in Hill's Lane.
Four years later, the company's first major contract was secured to supply oil and greases to the Sentinel Waggon Works, Ditherington, Shrewsbury.
And by 1927, oil manufacturing moved to the recently purchased 'Corbett's Perseverance Iron Works' in Castle Foregate at a cost of £6,500. It's where the company remains today, at the heart of Shrewsbury.
Mr Goddard joined the company in 1996 as a fifth generation direct descendent of J.K. Morris Senior. He became Executive Chairman in 2018 before Brexit, a pandemic and a war in Ukraine.
"There are pressures to maintain the business for the next generation, of course, and you feel you have big shoes to fill from your ancestors, so to speak," he says. "You don't want to let anyone down whether that be existing staff or because the reputation of the company is paramount.
"But it's a responsibility and a role of which I am very proud of. It's an opportunity to see what can be achieved here and what this team can achieve to continually improve and take the business forward.
"That's the key driver we have here, to basically ensure this business is ready for whatever is thrown at it around the corner."
A great deal has been thrown at the Morris Lubricants team, of course, in recent times, like any other business.
"Like everyone we have had to face the challenges of Covid and Brexit and the war in Ukraine, each has massively impacted on us with the cost of raw materials and energy prices," Mr Goddard says.
"It's had a huge impact on us as a business and an industry. All three things coming one after the other has been a triple whammy but, at the end of the day, you have to take it in your stride and, as a business, we are well placed to do that.
"We have an extremely competent management team who are able to adapt what we do to suit the economic and market conditions."
And, despite many changes on the horizon for the industry, Mr Goddard is confident that the long-standing company will continue to succeed. The key to business is, of course, to adapt.
"It's an exciting time for the company and we have a lot of things going on," Mr Goddard added. "I don't think anything is easy in business at the moment due to economic reasons but, as a company, we have reasons to be optimistic about the future”.
"The business is doing really well, we are moving forward with new technologies and investing money in the production facilities here at Shrewsbury.
"We have a large capital project which is well under way at the moment to improve efficiencies within the factory.
"It's a multi-million pound investment that’s designed to future-proof us and preserve the long-term success of this company, trading in Shropshire."
Moving forward with new technologies is something that is always important.
"Who knows what the future of the lubricants industry is, in its present form?" adds Mr Goddard, "especially with emissions changes and the birth of the electric car and hydrogen vehicles.
"All these things are being talked about and it will impact the internal combustion engine as we know it.
"So, we have got to take the business forward in the best directions we possibly can. It's about adapting and embracing the technologies that are coming around and working with companies that are involved in that.
"From our perspective, people will say, 'what will you do when electric cars come about?' Well, electric cars need cooling fluid so we are adapting into these different markets.
"There is a groundswell of noise about the hydrogen engine and that's going require lubrication of some shape or form. Our teams are looking to see whether or not we should be pursuing expenditure and developing products for those different market places."
Whatever the future holds, Mr Goddard is confident that progress will be made from the very heart of Shrewsbury, where the business started all those years ago.
"I'm a proud Salopian and my family have been for over 150 years," he said. "The business is in the centre of a county town and we have been on this site for nearly 100 years now. That's not going to change any time soon."
It is, after all, a business proud of its roots, as much as the county is proud of the company's success and rich history.